Fruit Trees Grafting, Techniques, Methods, Ideas

Introduction to Grafting fruit trees

Grafting is the common way of propagating a fruit tree. A branch, which will replicate the fruit exactly, is taken from the mother tree and stored in a cool and moist place until spring. This is called the scion wood. In spring, the scion is combined (Grafted) to the roots of another plant, known as the rootstock. Both bring attributes to the tree. The rootstock determines the height, branching angles, disease-resistance and speed at which the new plant will bear fruit. The scion dictates the characteristics of the fruit.

A step by step guide to Grafting of fruit trees

Grafting is the act of placing a portion of one plant into or on a stem, root, or branch of another in this way a union will be formed and the partners will continue to grow. The part of the combination that provides the root is called the stock, and the added piece is called the scion. When more than two parts are involved, the middle piece is known as the interstock. When the scion having a single bud, the process is called budding. Grafting and budding are the most commonly used vegetative propagation methods. Grafting techniques are frequently used by fruit growers to top work new varieties or strains of fruit onto established trees bearing misnamed or obsolete varieties and to repair injury or damage caused by mice, deer, rabbits, or mechanical means. Commercial nursery workers propagate new fruit trees, and producing a tree ready for planting takes many years.

A guide to Grafting of fruit trees.
guide to Grafting of fruit trees.

Grafting different fruit trees

Grafting technique as a means of propagating fruit trees dates back several thousand years or more. Grafting is used for two main reasons: most fruit trees don’t come true to seed and cuttings don’t root easily. The technique of Grafting is used to join a piece of vegetative wood (the scion) from a tree we wish to propagate to a rootstock.

The fruiting trees for Grafting are Mango, Guava, Chikoo, Apple, Citrus, Peach, Cherry, Pecan, and Avocado

Advantages of Grafting fruit trees

  • Growth Speed – It is quicker than growing a whole new plant, saving even more time, as well as money and also space.
  • Change in the quality of fruit – Grafting lets you change the fruits variety or other crops you’re growing. Also helps in improving its fruit quality.
  • Repair – Grafting lets you repair damage to existing trees.
  • Pollination – Some fruit trees need to cross-pollinate with another fruit tree or they won’t be productive.
  • Grafted trees produce fruit quicker. A tree grown from seed may take 8 to 10 years to fruit, but a Grafted tree will only take 2 to 4 years.
  • A tree grown from seed can produce poor-tasting fruit. Grafting is done to improve the size and taste of the fruit.
  • A fruit tree grown from seed may not produce fruit the same as the tree the seed came from. But a Grafted tree will be just as good as the tree the cutting came from.
  • A Grafted tree will continue to give the same quality fruit for several years.
  • The time required for a seedling to flower and fruit can be greatly reduced by grafting it onto a mature tree.
  • Growth habit, flowering color, and fruit size, color and quality are also more uniform in Grafted trees than in seed grown trees.

Grafting techniques of fruit trees

Tree grafting technique is the most common method used for Grafting trees, particularly for fruit trees. Though, there are various Grafting techniques. Each type of Grafting is used to accomplish various needs for Grafting plants and trees. For instance, stem and root Grafting are techniques preferred for small plants.

Cleft Grafting – Cleft Grafting technique is commonly used to change the variety of a tree or add a new variety onto an existing tree. It is accomplished in late winter and involves inserting the desired plant branches into a cleft made in a limb or rootstock of another plant. One of the most popular and simplest forms of Grafting, cleft grafting is a method for top working both fruiting and flowering trees (apples, pears, cherries, and peaches) to change varieties. Cleft Grafting technique is also used to propagate varieties of camellias that are difficult to root. This type of Grafting is usually done during the winter and early spring while both rootstock and scion are still dormant. Cleft Grafting technique may be performed on main stems or lateral or scaffold branches.

Bridge Grafting – Bridge Grafting technique is used to repair damaged trees.  It is done by adding new branches into the injured part of the tree and then letting the tree heal around them.

Bark Grafting – Bark Grafting technique is used primarily to top work fruiting and flowering trees. In contrast to the cleft Grafting technique, this technique can be applied to the rootstock of larger diameter and is done during early spring when the bark slips easily from the wood but before major sap flow. The rootstock is detached with a sharp saw, leaving a clean-cut as with cleft Grafting.

Bud Grafting – Bud Grafting technique is a relatively easy technique that transplants a leaf bud from one tree to another.  Although it may seem like an intimidating and technical process, it is quite simple and needs only a few common tools. The rest of this article goes into the specifics of bud Grafting and its benefits. Budding uses a single bud as the scion instead of a stick. It is the Grafting method of choice for cherry, apricot, plum, and peach trees, and can be used for pear and apple trees. Budding is done later than other types of Grafting, in the summer. This is when the bark slips easily and there are well-grown buds to use in the Grafting. 

Tongue and whip Grafting – Tongue and whip Grafting is completed in late winter and fuses a branch from one desired variety onto a rootstock or existing branch of the same diameter.  Most commonly done as a ‘bench Graft’ completed indoors instead of in the field. The whip graft is generally used on small pear and apple trees. The diameter of both the scion and the rootstock must be about the same size, not more than 1/2 inch in diameter.

The Side Graft – The side Graft technique is commonly used for trees that are too big for the whip Graft but not big enough for the cleft graft. The scion is added to the side of the rootstock, and then the rootstock above the Graft is cut off when the scion starts growing.

Materials and tools are needed for fruit tree grafting

Grafting tape – Grafting tape is a special tape with a cloth backing that decomposes before girdling can occur. Tapes may be used for binding Grafts where there is insufficient natural pressure. Rubber Electrician’s tape is the best material that will bind and protect Graft unions.

Knife – A good quality knife, having a sharp edge, is important to good Grafting. Although budding knives and special Grafting are desirable, you can use almost any pocket knife. Keep material to sharpen the knife handy.

Masking tapes and plastic electrical are also used. Plastic tape may be a problem because it lasts too long and may compress the growth of the Graft. If you used these taps, choose a brand that is elastic and will stick well to itself. Do not stretch this tape tightly or it may crack or weather. Masking tape is well suitable where little pressure is required, as in the whip Graft.

Asphalt water emulsion – It is commonly used as a protective coating on Graft unions and It is of pasty consistency and can be applied with a brush. It is preferable, though, to smear it on thicker with a small paddle.

Budding strips – Budding strips are elastic bands. They appear like a wide rubber band that has been cut open.

Grafting tool-Grafting tool is a specially designed tool that has been developed for Grafting. Grafting tool is the most common one is used for cleft Grafting. If this tool is absent, use a heavy knife and a fairly wide wedge at least 2 inches long for cleft Grafting. Use a hammer or mallet to pound the Grafting tool or heavy knife into the stub.

Step by step process to Grafting fruit trees

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 The process to Grafting fruit trees.
The process to Grafting fruit trees.

Grafting is a procedure where you take a piece of an existing tree and attach it to receptive rootstock and they form a new tree. You might refer to it as “tree surgery.” It may sound complicated but it is quite simple and rewarding. Adding Grafted fruit trees to your property will not have an instant impact but can improve wildlife feeding options for many years to come.

Step 1) Necessary Tools

Having the right tools will ensure greater success with your Grafts.  The best way to get rootstock that is well suited for your region is to contact your local extension agent.

To make clean cuts you will need a sharp pair of pruning shears to remove the scion. A razor-sharp knife that can trim the scion and rootstock is essential. Crafting knives such as the Exacto Knife can be used as well. Grafting tape and Grafting sealant will aid in keeping the pieces together as they join. 

Step 2) Choosing the Right Trees to Graft

Choosing the right trees to Graft is one of the easiest steps. Think back to previous years when you were driving around and you noticed deer in your neighbor’s yard enjoying the falling apples. It’s obvious the particular variety of trees is well suited for your region and if it is Grafted successfully then the deer will be drawn to your property as well.

To extend the benefits of your trees for wildlife food you should also consider Grafting trees that will bear fruit during different months of the year. For example, you can Graft early June apples, which will drop their fruit in mid-summer, and then Graft other hardy varieties that will begin dropping their fruit in late August, September, and October.

Step 3) Time to Graft

For Grafting the fruit trees, late winter into early summer is the best time. Much will be based on the type of Grafting you are doing. You want to have your rootstock and collect your scion before the sap rises and buds begin to emerge. To pick the best scion you will want to avoid collecting water sprouts that grow from the base of the tree, but instead, you must collect hardy pieces from the branches that have 4 to 6 buds and are 10 to 12 inches long. The scion must be also as close to the same diameter as the rootstock as possible. As you collect your scion, make clean cuts with your pruning shears and place the pieces in a bucket of water to prevent them from drying out. Keep the water handy throughout the Grafting process.

The outer layer of the scion and rootstock are referred to as the cambium layer. This layer is where the water and nutrients are fed throughout the tree and that is where the actual union will occur. The cambium layer of each piece needs to touch as closely as possible for successful Grafting. This is true for either method of Grafting – for successful Grafting to take place, the vascular cambium tissues of the stock and scion must be placed in contact with each other.

Step 4) Protecting Your Grafts                                                             

After you have invested your time and energy into getting a successful Graft, you must protect it from damage for the first few years. The union where the Graft has occurred is quite delicate and if it is disturbed it can lead to failure and death of the new tree. Protective tree tubes work great for this. Otherwise, driving a stake next to your Grafts and loosely tying them to it can keep the union strong through windy conditions. For added protection, you may also build a wire cage to surround the tree, like the ones that you use in your tomato garden. By doing this, will protect the tender branches from browsing wildlife.

Step 5) Keep in mind that your Grafted trees will not have an instant impact on your hunting plot, but instead, they are for long-range consideration. Grafting fruit trees is one of the only food plot enhancements you can make that can truly last a lifetime. Don’t be expecting fruit anytime soon, however. A Grafted dwarf fruit tree will not likely produce fruit for 5 to 7 years. Semi-dwarf trees can take 7 to 9 years to produce fruit.

Care needed after Grafting fruit trees

  • The Grafted seedlings require fencing against livestock, and should not be touched.
  • They must be protected from strong sun, hail, wind, and heavy rain. Make a 50cm high thatch to place over them, and the nursery must be in a sheltered site.
  • The seedlings require regular watering to maintain the soil moist.
  • After four months, when the scion has sprouted well, the plastic can be carefully removed.

Reasons for Graft failure

There are several reasons for Graft failure. These are the most common are;

  • The main symptom of Graft failure is a smooth, clean breaking off of a tree at the Graft union. This may occur one, two, or several years after the Graft is made. Other symptoms of Graft failure contain general ill health of the tree or shoot dieback.
  • Foliage may yellow in late summer, followed by the early leaf drop.
  • Vegetative growth of scion and rootstock may begin or end at different times. There is often a distinct difference in the growth rate between rootstock and scion.
  • Overgrowth may happen above, at, or below the Graft union, and results in a visible difference in the trunk diameters. Suckers can develop from the rootstock. While trees can survive with one or more of these symptoms, a combination of many symptoms may result in the premature death of the tree.
  • Weakened trees may have to be removed. The stock and the scion were not compatible.
  • Grafting was done at the wrong time of the year. Either the scion or the rootstock was not healthy.

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