Grafting

Notes from session with John Pinniger from the Heritage Fruits Society.

We learnt two types of graft – the whip and tongue and the cleft graft. Whip and tongue is usually used when the rootstock (what you are grafting to) and the scion (what you are grafting with) are of a similar size. The cleft graft is used when the scion wood is too small to work a whip and tongue cut, or where the size of the rootstock is a lot larger than the scion (eg if you are chopping a tree back and ‘re-working’ from the trunk).

Because apples and other fruit don’t grow ‘true to type’ if grown from seed, we grow from cuttings, or graft scion onto rootstock. Grafting is a way to ensure we get the best of both worlds/ trees – a productive, tasty, fruit with excellent qualities, growing on a vigorous, disease resistant structure.

Apples and pears are easier to graft than stonefruit. You need to take extra care with stonefruit to keep cut surfaces moist (a spray bottle) and only have one bud on the scion. You can leave 3-5 buds on apple or pear scion.

Sticky, stretchy Buddy Tape is a great invention for grafting!

The apical bud – at the top of the branch – produces hormone to suppress branch buds from growing. Cutting this bud will stimulate leaf and branch bud growth (think espaliering), so don’t leave on when you graft …

Check about xmas time to see if your graft has ‘taken’.

The scion and rootstock will be ‘ready’ for grafting at different times. You need to cut your scion when you prune, or in July and store in frig (in plastic bag with a few drops of water) and wait til the rootstock is just starting to come out of dormancy in August, September. This will mean a better flow of nutrients, water and sugars from the rootstock up into the scion and hopefully a more successful graft result.

Make sure you use scion with leaf buds and not flower buds – you want to end up with branches growing from the graft, not flowers!

The most critical thing is to make sure you match up the cambium of both of the cut surfaces. This is where cell division is centred and the food and water flow up and down the tree happens.

Take care with the knife, especially when making the reverse cut; wiggle rather than slice (and have band aids nearby)

Have some methylated spirits on hand to clean your knife between grafts and ensure good plant hygiene.

Make sure you label everything well.

Whip and Tongue Graft

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Cleft Graft

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