How to Graft Trees Correctly and Efficiently

Grafting is a horticultural technique used to join parts from two plants so they grow as a single plant. It’s commonly used in fruit tree propagation to combine the best characteristics of the rootstock and the scion. Here’s a detailed guide on how to graft trees correctly and efficiently, including the method of grafting under the bark.

grafting a apple tree

1. Choosing the Right Time for Grafting:

  • The best time to graft is typically in late winter or early spring before the sap starts to flow (bud break). This timing allows the graft to heal and grow during the growing season.

2. Selecting Scion and Rootstock:

  • Scion: Choose a scion from a healthy, disease-free tree that is one year old. The scion should have 2-3 buds.
  • Rootstock: The rootstock should be compatible with the scion, healthy, and well-established. The size of the rootstock can vary depending on the grafting method used.

3. Common Grafting Techniques:

  • Whip Grafting: Best for rootstocks and scions of similar size. Make matching diagonal cuts on both scion and rootstock and join them so that the cambium layers (green layer under the bark) meet.
  • Cleft Grafting: Ideal for larger rootstocks. Make a vertical cut in the rootstock and insert a scion with a wedge-shaped end into the slit.
  • Bud Grafting (Budding): Involves inserting a bud into a cut in the rootstock. This method is common in summer when buds are mature.

4. Grafting Under the Bark:

  • Ideal for: Large rootstocks and during times when the bark separates easily from the wood (in spring).
  • Process: Make a T-shaped cut in the bark of the rootstock. Carefully peel back the flaps of bark and insert the scion (which should have a few buds and a small piece of wood attached). Secure the scion in place, ensuring it’s in contact with the cambium layer of the rootstock.

5. Aftercare of Grafts:

  • Seal the graft with grafting wax or tape to prevent drying out.
  • Provide adequate water and avoid fertilizing until the graft has fully taken.
  • Monitor the graft for signs of growth or failure, adjusting care as needed.
seal the graft with tape

6. Tips for Success:

  • Sanitize all tools before grafting to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Make clean, precise cuts to ensure good contact between the cambium layers.
  • Label grafted plants for future reference.
  • Patience is key. Some grafts can take time to establish.

Grafting can be a rewarding process, allowing gardeners and orchardists to create unique combinations of fruit trees or to repair damaged trees. Each method has its own set of advantages, and understanding these can help in choosing the most suitable technique for your specific needs. With practice and care, grafting can lead to successful and productive growth in your garden or orchard.

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