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Easy Fruit Tree Grafting Workshop and Discussion

 
M.K. Dorje Jr.
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I've been grafting fruit trees for several years now by using a Omega grafting tool made by a company in Italy. I've had an excellent success rate with apples and pears and I've increased the number of trees in my main food forest/orchard using the easy methods shown in the following video from North Carolina Community Colleges:



 
M.K. Dorje Jr.
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Location: Orgyen, zone 8
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This method of using a grafting tool can also be used to "top work" old, non-productive fruit trees in your yard or even in a local park (guerilla grafting). For example, a yummy apple variety could be grafted onto an elderly flowering crabapple that does not bear edible fruit. Several varieties can be grafted onto a single tree.

Of course everyone has their own style of grafting. I prefer to use rubber splicing tape (found at a local hardware store) instead of rubber band strips and I prefer Doc Farwell's tree healing paint instead of a tar-based product.


The grafting tool shown in the video and Doc Farwell's tree healing paint can be purchased from Raintree Nursery in Washington state (raintreenursery.com). The grafting tool costs about $75 but it will last a lifetime and could be used to start a lot of fruit trees. They also carry lots of rootstock trees and they host a grafting workshop every year. In fact, attending a local grafting workshop at a local community college is the best way to learn how to graft like the pros. In Eugene, Oregon, there is a Spring Propagation Fair at Lane Community College around the third Sunday in March every year. Nick Bottner, who has one of the world's largest collections of apples, donates the scions of many rare and unusual fruit varieties for the event. There are lots of cool people there who are into permaculture and they also give away plants and veggie seeds, too.
Experts are at the fair who can also graft new trees for a minimal fee.

I'd like to hear from other people on this website about their experiences with grafting, especially about what works for them.
 
M.K. Dorje Jr.
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Location: Orgyen, zone 8
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I guess some people who are good with a knife just have the knack for grafting without having to use expensive tools! But for clumsy dorks like myself, a grafting tool insures success about 90% of the time, at least with apples and pears. Michael, I'd certainly like to hear a little more about your techniques, especially for Japanese plums, apricots and other Prunus species, as I'd like to graft some pluots, Japanese plums and apricots onto some older apricot and almond trees in my main orchard/food forest. Do you use whip-and-tongue bench grafts on dormant seedlings, or chip budding during the summer, or what??

Anyone else here have any grafting success stories?
 
Michael Qulek
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The single most important thing I think for a successful graft is to have green cambium pressing hard against green cambium. As you slice through the branch at an angle you see a green rime of cambial tissue on the inside surface of the bark. In the center of that is the more whitish in color wood. When you make your cuts, you want your whip grafts to be more or less the same size, so the green layer of the scion will be pressing up against the green layer of the rootstock. You then wrap the two together as tight as you can so there is no air-gap between the two. Even if the scion gets bend over at a rankish angle, the green on green contact is the single most important thing. Cheap electrical tape tends to unwind, so what I typically do is two layers, in opposing directions. That is, if the first layer goes up up the graft clockwise, the second layer will go down the graft counter-clockwise. Doing it this way, I got 80$ success on the very first time I tried grafting.

I've gotten the best success whip grafting apples, pears, and some Japanese plums, whereas peaches and necturines seem to prefer bud grafting.
 
Wayne Mackenzie
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Location: Sunizona Az., USA @ 4,400' Zone 8a
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Does that tool work good on trees with real hard wood like Jujubes? I think I want one.
 
Bill Erickson
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Thanks for the tip on this thing. Just ordered (backordered until 3/10) one up from Garret Wade tools. I've had marginal success with grafting in the past because of not getting the scion and the root stock aligned properly. I prefer to use wax for a sealant, but I've used tar based stuff in the past when I lived in Coastal North Carolina. All six (I think) of my grafts did well there, but my success rate here in Montana has been one out of a bunch. I've had some volunteer root stock growing for quite a while and I really need to get something grafted onto it this year. After this year, I'll just have to let it become trees. Garret Wade also had the one to do larger size scion to root stock cuts. Like up to 1 3/4 inch large. Maybe I don't have to let them become something else.
 
M.K. Dorje Jr.
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Wayne Mackenzie wrote:Does that tool work good on trees with real hard wood like Jujubes? I think I want one.


Wayne, I have zero experience with jujubes, but since their wood is three times harder than apples, it might be really difficult to use a grafting tool on them. The Omega grafting tool certainly works well for apples, pears and other members of the Rose Family.

According to Shengrui Yao of New Mexico State University, jujubes can be grafted with a sharp knife using a whip graft during the dormant or the growing season. This method works best when the diameter of the rootstock and the scion are similar. Bark grafts can be done during the growing season when the rootsock is quite a bit thicker than the scion. She has a guide on how to graft jujubes on the master gardeners website for New Mexico State University, as well as a link to a youtube video that shows exactly how to graft jujubes with a sharp knife:

http://www.mastergardeners.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h/H335/welcome.html

I hope this info helps. Just be careful with that sharp knife!
 
M.K. Dorje Jr.
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Bill Erickson wrote:Thanks for the tip on this thing. Just ordered (backordered until 3/10) one up from Garret Wade tools. I've had marginal success with grafting in the past because of not getting the scion and the root stock aligned properly. I prefer to use wax for a sealant, but I've used tar based stuff in the past when I lived in Coastal North Carolina. All six (I think) of my grafts did well there, but my success rate here in Montana has been one out of a bunch. I've had some volunteer root stock growing for quite a while and I really need to get something grafted onto it this year. After this year, I'll just have to let it become trees. Garret Wade also had the one to do larger size scion to root stock cuts. Like up to 1 3/4 inch large. Maybe I don't have to let them become something else.


Bill, I hope you can have better success with a grafting tool. I prefer Doc Farwell's Tree Healing Paint for sealant because I don't like tar-based products or having to heat the wax, either. The diluted paint can also be used to coat scions so that they don't break dormancy too early. If you have dormant rootstocks with a thick diameter and some dormant scions with a slender diameter, you might want to try cleft grafting. This is how apples and pears are often grafted onto old crabapples or flowering pear trees, respectively. Many other types of fruit can be grafted with this method without a fancy tool. I'm going to try this method this year in order to graft some heirloom apples onto a crabapple down near the barn. Here's a video link about cleft grafting (similar to bark grafting or rind grafting):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRBTdMbUV_A

 
Bill Erickson
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M.K. Dorje Jr. wrote:
Bill Erickson wrote:Thanks for the tip on this thing. Just ordered (backordered until 3/10) one up from Garret Wade tools. I've had marginal success with grafting in the past because of not getting the scion and the root stock aligned properly. I prefer to use wax for a sealant, but I've used tar based stuff in the past when I lived in Coastal North Carolina. All six (I think) of my grafts did well there, but my success rate here in Montana has been one out of a bunch. I've had some volunteer root stock growing for quite a while and I really need to get something grafted onto it this year. After this year, I'll just have to let it become trees. Garret Wade also had the one to do larger size scion to root stock cuts. Like up to 1 3/4 inch large. Maybe I don't have to let them become something else.


Bill, I hope you can have better success with a grafting tool. I prefer Doc Farwell's Tree Healing Paint for sealant because I don't like tar-based products or having to heat the wax, either. The diluted paint can also be used to coat scions so that they don't break dormancy too early. If you have dormant rootstocks with a thick diameter and some dormant scions with a slender diameter, you might want to try cleft grafting. This is how apples and pears are often grafted onto old crabapples or flowering pear trees, respectively. Many other types of fruit can be grafted with this method without a fancy tool. I'm going to try this method this year in order to graft some heirloom apples onto a crabapple down near the barn. Here's a video link about cleft grafting (similar to bark grafting or rind grafting):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRBTdMbUV_A



M.K., Thanks for that video. That looks to be within my skill set. I have used Doc Farwell's here in Montana. When my former sheep got at my mini-orchard, they went after the bark like it was candy. I caught them in time but they did some ugly damage. The local nursery guy was like you and abhorred tar based sealants, gave me quite the stinkeye when I spoke about it and recommended the Doc's instead. I took him up on his advice (he's been doing this successfully in a commercial situation since I was a kid here many years ago) and liberally sealed all the chewed off areas. The trees survived and have even put out fruit more than a couple of years since. Stuff worked awesome and there's only a few scars to show the past damage. Need to get back at with the stuff again until the wound is fully scarred over on the worst of them. The new growth releases the stuff nicely.

Right now I have some scald to deal with that I'm finally paying attention again, so looking for something that is as effective as fruit tree oil or the like to get it under control. I'm not sure of the "friendliness" of some of my past methods like tree oil and lime/sulfur mixes for handling these things. No real compost pile to speak of, so not sure what to do for some of the foliar sprays I've seen referred to on here. I'll figure it out, I am sure. I listen, do and observe all the time. Any advice will be appreciated there, or I probably should start a new thread with that question.
 
M.K. Dorje Jr.
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Location: Orgyen, zone 8
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Bill Erickson wrote:
M.K. Dorje Jr. wrote:
Bill Erickson wrote:Thanks for the tip on this thing. Just ordered (backordered until 3/10) one up from Garret Wade tools. I've had marginal success with grafting in the past because of not getting the scion and the root stock aligned properly. I prefer to use wax for a sealant, but I've used tar based stuff in the past when I lived in Coastal North Carolina. All six (I think) of my grafts did well there, but my success rate here in Montana has been one out of a bunch. I've had some volunteer root stock growing for quite a while and I really need to get something grafted onto it this year. After this year, I'll just have to let it become trees. Garret Wade also had the one to do larger size scion to root stock cuts. Like up to 1 3/4 inch large. Maybe I don't have to let them become something else.


Bill, I hope you can have better success with a grafting tool. I prefer Doc Farwell's Tree Healing Paint for sealant because I don't like tar-based products or having to heat the wax, either. The diluted paint can also be used to coat scions so that they don't break dormancy too early. If you have dormant rootstocks with a thick diameter and some dormant scions with a slender diameter, you might want to try cleft grafting. This is how apples and pears are often grafted onto old crabapples or flowering pear trees, respectively. Many other types of fruit can be grafted with this method without a fancy tool. I'm going to try this method this year in order to graft some heirloom apples onto a crabapple down near the barn. Here's a video link about cleft grafting (similar to bark grafting or rind grafting):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRBTdMbUV_A



M.K., Thanks for that video. That looks to be within my skill set. I have used Doc Farwell's here in Montana. When my former sheep got at my mini-orchard, they went after the bark like it was candy. I caught them in time but they did some ugly damage. The local nursery guy was like you and abhorred tar based sealants, gave me quite the stinkeye when I spoke about it and recommended the Doc's instead. I took him up on his advice (he's been doing this successfully in a commercial situation since I was a kid here many years ago) and liberally sealed all the chewed off areas. The trees survived and have even put out fruit more than a couple of years since. Stuff worked awesome and there's only a few scars to show the past damage. Need to get back at with the stuff again until the wound is fully scarred over on the worst of them. The new growth releases the stuff nicely.

Right now I have some scald to deal with that I'm finally paying attention again, so looking for something that is as effective as fruit tree oil or the like to get it under control. I'm not sure of the "friendliness" of some of my past methods like tree oil and lime/sulfur mixes for handling these things. No real compost pile to speak of, so not sure what to do for some of the foliar sprays I've seen referred to on here. I'll figure it out, I am sure. I listen, do and observe all the time. Any advice will be appreciated there, or I probably should start a new thread with that question.


Bill, are you sure you don't mean "scab" instead of "scald"? (I asked you this first because lime sulfur spray or compost spray is often recommended for scab problems in apples and pears.) "Scald" can refer to a number of disorders in apples and pears that can result in discolored fruit. Here's a link about scald from Washington State:

http://postharvest.tfrec.wsu.edu/pgDisplay.php?article=N6I2C

I just wanted to be sure about which problem you have before I give out advice from Michael Phillips (my trusted Apple Grower guru!)....
 
Victor Johanson
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M.K. Dorje Jr. wrote:

Bill, are you sure you don't mean "scab" instead of "scald"? (I asked you this first because lime sulfur spray or compost spray is often recommended for scab problems in apples and pears.) "Scald" can refer to a number of disorders in apples and pears that can result in discolored fruit. Here's a link about scald from Washington State:

http://postharvest.tfrec.wsu.edu/pgDisplay.php?article=N6I2C

I just wanted to be sure about which problem you have before I give out advice from Michael Phillips (my trusted Apple Grower guru!)....


I'd think sunscald--we see that a lot up here. But as far as painting tree wounds, that practice has been pretty well debunked. Trees don't "heal." They seal off and compartmentalize the damage; sealants don't help and often harm. Shigo has been spreading this gospel for a long time, but the misconception still exists:

http://archive.lib.msu.edu/tic/mitgc/article/1986106.pdf
 
M.K. Dorje Jr.
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Victor, thank you for the article. I had read years ago that the use of tree paint on tree wounds doesn't work that well for some people, so then I started using biodymamic tree paste on tree wounds instead. The recipe is a a mixture of fine bentonite clay, fresh cow manure and sand, "mucked in water to equal proportion", in the words of Michael Phillips. This stuff works for me. I only use Doc Farwell's paint for grafting purposes, although a lot of people still like it for sealing wounds- "whatever works best is what works best for you". (I hope that last part makes sense!) By the way, Doc Farwell's can also be used for sealing over mushroom log dowel holes.
 
Bill Erickson
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I'm thinking I have a little of the scald, avery minimal amount but what I'm dealing with is scab. so let loose with the advice.

Victor, I've heard the same thing about bark damage, but I did it anyway and it helped with protecting the damaged bark, or at least sealing it back to the xylum enough to recuperate the cambium. Given that, I'll just leave them alone for now, but I gotta kill this fungus on them.
 
Victor Johanson
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M.K. Dorje Jr. wrote:Victor, thank you for the article. I had read years ago that the use of tree paint on tree wounds doesn't work that well for some people, so then I started using biodymamic tree paste on tree wounds instead. The recipe is a a mixture of fine bentonite clay, fresh cow manure and sand, "mucked in water to equal proportion", in the words of Michael Phillips. This stuff works for me. I only use Doc Farwell's paint for grafting purposes, although a lot of people still like it for sealing wounds- "whatever works best is what works best for you". (I hope that last part makes sense!) By the way, Doc Farwell's can also be used for sealing over mushroom log dowel holes.


Tree paste is another matter. In fact, Shigo himself recommends wrapping with wet moss to help with rodent girdling. But it's been well established that painting tree wounds is ineffective and may be counterproductive.
 
M.K. Dorje Jr.
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Bill, according to Michael Phillips, author of The Apple Grower, apple scab is caused by a fungus called Venturia inaequalis. The easiest way to control scab is to plant pear and apple trees that are resistant to this disease. (Most of my trees are resistant, so I have very little problem at my farm in Oregon.) However, since you already have a bunch of trees with the problem, then some sort of action will be needed to get some healthy-looking apples and pears.

Conventional "wisdom" states that scab must be controlled with numerous sulfur or fungicide sprays throughout the spring and summer- every time the weather stays warm and wet. However, the holistic approach is to strengthen the health of the tree by feeding the trees a balanced diet. Making and spreading compost is crucial to tree health. In permaculture, fresh hardwood ("ramial") chips can be used as a mulch, too. My trees love ramial wood chip mulch. If your fruit trees are in the shade of bigger trees like Doug-firs, remove the big shade trees. Michael Phillips also recommends mowing the grass in late spring and early summer.

In one study in Oregon, spreading lime on the fallen leaves after harvest reduced pear scab inoculum by 50-90%. A foliar source of nitrogen (such as fish emulsion) sprayed on the foliage right after harvest reduced
scab inoculum by 50-70% as well. You can also rake up the limed leaves in the fall and compost them in a pile with animal manure, straw and earthworms, then spread it the next spring. . Biodymamic growers like to spray horsetail or nettle tea on their trees. Compost spray and seaweed spray are good, too. For more info, check out "The Apple Grower" by Michael Phillips, he also has some good videos on youtube. I hope this helps!

Anyone else out there into grafting?
 
Bill Erickson
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Thanks, that helps me tremendously. I'll give those options a shot and see what happens.
 
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