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Are these suckers from the root stock or the scion?

 
Mike Jay
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I don't know much about grafting but I'd like to get into it.  Before I prune these suckers off of the base of my apple, I'm wondering if they are the scion or the root stock? 

IF it's from the root stock, if I let one grow into a branch, could I start root stock from a cutting of it in future years? 

Or should I prune it off and get it started now for a grafting operation next year once it has good roots established? 

Sorry for the noobie questions.
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Roberto pokachinni
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It's pretty likely that the scion is farther up than where those are coming out. You generally want to do your graft a bit off the ground so that it doesn't end up being buried in mulch and then suckering out.  You want your root stock to be the only stock rooting.  Look for a slight irregularity in trunk shape as you go up from the ground.  It may be (in the second photo) where there is a branch that was pruned.  Not sure.  My experience is limited.  
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks Roberto!  There is another 2-3" branch I pruned off this winter that is 90 degrees to the right of that small pruning you can see about 2' off the ground.  So that may account for the irregularity as well.

So there's a good chance this new wood is from the root stock.  Nifty...  I'm not sure the species but it is a semi-dwarf so that should work for me.

Should I let it grow for another year or prune it off and try to root it this spring?
 
Roberto pokachinni
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you want the diameter of the rootstock to be small so that it matches the diameter of the scion wood.  The cambium match is super important to the best quality graft.

...small rootstock = get it this year. 
 
Mike Jay
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Ok, so I should prune them all off and they'll be the root stock for a number of new apple trees.  I don't have any scion wood from trees I'm interested in at this point.  Should I just pot each one up or put it in its future location and spend the next 12 months looking for scion wood so I can graft them next spring?
 
Roberto pokachinni
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You could definitely do that.  That would be a very effective use of them, if you can get them rooting up nice in pots.   Then transplant them out to your locations that seem to be saying "apple" to you.  

You could also trim them off, and forget about them, chop and drop, and they will make some more in the coming years sprouting up out of the same area when you do have some scion wood. 

I would do the former.  It's a good opportunity. 

 
 
Mike Jay
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Awesome!  I think I have about 4 whips there that I could put to use.  Should I just prune and plant the four or should I cut them into smaller lengths and get 8 out of them?  I'm not sure if the tip or the base is better/stronger and more likely to survive the re-rooting process.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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You might want to get some rooting hormone from a nursery or good plant department at a large shop.   You can make some from chopping up willow shoots in water.   But I hear that the powdered hormone works a lot better. 

I don't know about taking several root cuttings off of each one.  I have no experience with that.  I would imagine the bottom end would be better.  One thing to consider is that up is always up on a plant.  So don't flip your bits once you get them off the tree.  Mark them, or cut them specifically so you know.

Another way to do it is air layering
 
John Saltveit
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The tree is probably too old to be able to tell where the graft union was.

Most apples will not grow from cuttings. Difficult, but not completely impossible. Not worth it in my book.
I would chop them and start anew.
JohN S
PDX OR
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks John, I have low expectations but I figure it's a good excuse to buy some rooting powder. 
 
Jesse D Henderson
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Mike Jay wrote:I don't know much about grafting but I'd like to get into it.  Before I prune these suckers off of the base of my apple, I'm wondering if they are the scion or the root stock? 

IF it's from the root stock, if I let one grow into a branch, could I start root stock from a cutting of it in future years? 

Or should I prune it off and get it started now for a grafting operation next year once it has good roots established? 

Sorry for the noobie questions.


Yes, try it! Another thing to look for when determining scion vs. rootstock is the growing habit. Those look like pretty aggressive suckers, so it's probably root stock. I tried doing this last year but I exposed my cutting to too much sun and it failed. Second on the rooting powder.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Mike, I don't see the original graft union in your photos, so I can't say either way on those sucker branches. If they form above the original graft they are scion stock, if they are below it then they are root stock, stock.
Either way turning them into new trees is going to be a good thing. The best method for apple trees is air layering.

Redhawk
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks Bryant for seconding Roberto's suggestion of air layering.  So if that's really the better way, I should wait until it warms up a bit and put air layering clumps on each of those suckers.  Then when they develop roots, prune them off and plant them.  Then maybe next year graft on the scion wood? 

I'm getting my rooting powder today and I haven't pruned them off yet (phew).
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Yes, that is what I would do. make 4 to five slits for new root growth, dust with rooting hormone and wrap with sphagnum moss, wet and wrap with plastic.
Should see roots coming through in about 6 weeks. I like to let roots develop enough that I see lots of them poking through the sphagnum.

Redhawk
 
Mike Jay
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Awesome, thanks!  I'll do some research first but the link Roberto included suggested removing all the bark from a 1.5" stretch of the sucker.  It sounds like you do multiple slits instead.  Are your slits circumferential or lengthwise?  If they are circumferential, do they go all the way around (girdling)?  Do you wrap the whole thing with tinfoil to reduce sun scald?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I make vertical slits (v shaped) these are usually around 3 inches long (7.5cm) I like to make odd number slits for roots so the tree has a nice symmetry so I use five usually, equally spaced around, if it is a small scion, then three works for me just as well.
To prevent sun scald I prefer to use a brown paper outer cover (over the clear plastic) foil tends to adsorb to much heat and I don't want cooked roots.

I never use circumference cuts. You want some of the cambium intact and slits are easy way to make sure you have nourishment going to the branch while the roots form.

If you have a good nursery that you use, ask them if you can buy some of their 6% rooting hormone, the retail stuff is only 3%, the commercial hormone works better, on a larger variety of plant stock and you will find it lasts a long time when stored in a glass jar with an airtight lid.

Redhawk
 
David Maxwell
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Oh my.  I can add to this, but do not want anybody to take offense.  As several people have commented, this is not an area in which people have a lot of experience.  (I have been growing (and grafting) apples for almost 50 years). 
My best guess is that the graft union is the slightly sloping ridge in the bark just above the root sprouts.  I agree that the sprouts are from the rootstock.
Now, how to make new rootstocks?  Cutting the sprouts off and sticking them into soil, peat moss or anything else will not work.  It does work for willow.  But Malus, no.

The conventional way of propagating rootstocks is by a process called stooling.  What you do is to plant a root of the desired type, (there are hundreds of rootstocks, with specific qualities).  You then let this grow in a "stool bed" for  a couple of seasons, then cut the tree off at ground level. The root will respond by sending up a number of sprouts.  You then pile sawdust around the bases of these sprouts and leave them, again, for 1-2 seasons.  At this time, you will find that the sprouts themselves have created roots which are throughout the sawdust.  Simply burrow down to where the sprouts are coming off the origina root, cut then free, and voila, a bunch of young apple tree roots all with their own new roots, ready to graft.

Will air layering work?  Maybe.  It does work on many plants, some a lot better than others.  It works like a charm on figs.  It did not work at all last year om heartnuts, (a type of walnut).  I have never tried it on apple.

Any other ways?  Yes, root grafting works. (Indeed this is probably the best way to get some of the more difficult-to-stool rootstocks, like Ottawa-3).  Here you need pieces of any apple root.  You graft a piece of dormant wood (a scion from your root sprout) onto the piece of root, then bury the graft and most of the scion in a nursery bed.  The bit of root you grafted on will keep the scion alive while it grows its own roots, (by a process basically the same as the stool bed).
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks David!  If I get some of them to air layer, I may use one as a stool sample.  Sounds a bit like an ordeal for that poor stool tree but I did see a youtube video where they showed exactly what you're describing.
 
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