Grafting Apple Trees

Grafting apple trees is an important way to reproduce trees that won't grow true from seed. Grafting involves taking stems from one tree and attaching it to the trunk or branches of another. The transplanted stem will become part of the "stock" tree and continue to grow as normal.

Grafting Apple Trees For Future Growth

The process of grafting apple trees has a number of benefits, including reproduction of hybrid stock, accelerated growth of pollinated apple trees and the ability to combine different apple type on a single tree. If you are interested in grafting apple trees, here are some tips to get you started:

  • When to start collecting. Once your apple tree has gone dormant (typically in early winter), you can begin to select grafting stock-often called "scions." Scions are healthy stems about one foot long and no wider than ½" in diameter. Once you've selected the desired number of scions, cut them cleanly from the tree with a sharp knife. Tie the scions together and store them in damp sawdust, moss or wrapped in plastic. Keep the scions over the winter in a cool damp place
  • Beginning your graft. The best time to begin grafting is in the spring, when the flower buds on the host tree (called the understock) are about to open. To begin, cut off a branch of the understock tree that closely matches the diameter of one of your scions. Leave a stub at least one foot long on the understock branch.
  • A more perfect union. Next, at the cut end of the scion, cut the branch at an angle creating a sloped end about 1-1/2" long. Try to make a smooth, accurate cut-a single stroke is often best. On the understock branch, cut a matching slope along the end of the branch stub. These two cuts will form the union between scion and understock.
  • Getting together. Match the scion with the understock, making sure that at least one side of the scion lines up, and is in contact with, the inner back of the understock branch. Bind the two branches together with electricians tape so that the scion is firmly attached to the understock.
  • Sealing up. Cover the bound area with an asphalt and water tree-sealing compound. Although a wound sealer will work, look for material created specifically for grafting. Use a thick coat and make sure the area is completely covered.
  • Post op. Once the scion shows signs of growth, you can remove the binding and allow the branch to grow as normal. Don't leave the binding in place indefinitely, as it may inhibit the healthy growth of the grafted branch.
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