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thoughts on grafting

 
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People tell me that grafting is difficult.  They a very low success rate is common - like less than fifty per cent.  I haven't noticed either of these things when I graft.  So I've been wondering what am I doing differently?

One thing I noticed is the roots have a lot of influence on the graft.  If I graft onto a tree in a pot, then I have a low success rate.  If I graft onto a tree that has been transplanted within the last 12 months, the success rate is quite low too.  

But if I have a tree I planted a few years ago and ignored, then the root system is very strong.  The graft takes 90 to 100% of the time.  The older the tree, the larger the root system, the higher the success rate and the faster the graft grows.  The best grafts we've done here on the farm have been on a 40-year-old plum tree that the logger cut down (because it looks just like a douglas fir?  at least that was his excuse).  We took the branches he cut down and grafted them onto the stump.  Five years later, the tree was larger than was at 40 years old.  

I'm also a big fan of discovering what kind of fruit a tree produces before I graft on to it.  Just in case it is some sort of amazing deliciousness.  

That's my theory - get the plant in place and the roots well established first - then graft.  

well, my theory of the moment.  Things may change with experience.  But it's given me some ideas on experiments I can conduct.  
 
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My own results mirror yours R, I like to use a well established root stock.
The only time I graft to containerized rootstock is when doing bud grafts, but then I also make sure the soil in the container has mycorrhizae working with the root system before I do the bud grafts.
My feeling is that if there is adequate sap flow, the graft will take easily, if there isn't enough sap flow, the graft will probably fail.

(most people will buy their root stock and graft fairly quickly, that is probably why they don't have high success rates)
The commercial tree nursery I worked at always had rows of in the ground rootstock that were being planted, two years later those would be grafted to, but the top wasn't cut off until that fall, I think that was the main reason most of our grafts took.

Redhawk
 
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This is really interesting. I'm hoping to graft some apple trees this next year. Do the two of you think it would be better to plant the rootstocks and let them grow for a few years first? I'm going to be grafting apples onto pacific crabapple to increase the wetness tolerance.
 
r ranson
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do you have enough that you can experiment?  Do half as you plan, and plant the other half and wait a year.  
 
James Landreth
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I can experiment, for sure. I'm doing about twenty or twenty five of them
 
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My experience is the cultivar selection. My easy grafts are on apple to apple and pear to pear. These are seedlings I've grown and grafted later on. I left an original branch from the bottom just in case I may hit a chance seedling with a nice fruit.

I grafted a cherry bud on a wild plum. This has grown really large but broken at a hail storm.

Guerilla grafts I made are growing stronger than the other grafts as there is a wild established root system on those root stocks. I might even get some pears from these soon. This proves OP's theory. As there is an already established root system, scions are getting much more nutrients and growing vigorously.

The seedlings on larger pots are growing better too. Actually if I had the space, I would like to dig a trench and grow the seedlings there.

Out of 40-50 grafts I made so far, only 2-3 failed but these are mostly apple, pear, plum graft. I would say they are easy.

Peach, apricot grafts never worked for me.

This winter, I will be doing more grafts as I have 2 years old seedlings.

 
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This is quite typical. After practice, you should get at least 80% take on your apples and pears.  There are many details, r, and it sounds like you are paying attention to them.

Peaches and nectarines (Stone fruits in general) are trees that have very thin skin, so they are normally bud grafted in the summer.

I and many others will graft a tree but leave a branch of a seedling to see how it turns out. It takes many years longer to find out, and you usually don't get something as good, in my experience.  But it's part of the adventure.

Grafting is particularly helpful for people with limited space: you can get 5- 10 varieties for each of your trees. They pollinate each other, and spread the season out and the diversity of flavors.  It's also quite useful for people who are on the older side, which in my experience, is most property owners, with the current housing price escalation.  Contrary to popular belief, you can move your grafted trees when you move. It's easier if they are dwarf trees, and you are moving in the Spring or the Fall.

John S
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My grafting experiment began this march.  Apple scions onto 3/16-1/4" seedlings in 2 gallon pots.  whip and tongue with a knife.  The 3/16 size was hard to work with, but was mostly successful at just below 90%.    The next batch was on two top worked  8yr old box store trees that never produced well   41 rind  or bark grafts  with 8 failures.   Three of the failures were due to my rookie knife skills coupled with poor placement. two were possibly due to suspect scions.   in any case 80%. The grafts that "took" on these top worked branches showed by far the most vigorous growth of all the grafts, including the diameter and the vigor of the shoots. I have learned that 4-5 " shoots may seem viable, but they are being nourished from the scion only (and eventually fail), and not through the graft. When they grow to about 6" and beyond they are then usually successful grafts.  A few weeks into the experiment I then purchased some Antonovka rootstock (75) about 1/4 " diameter to take advantage of the 17 varieties of scion wood gifted to me.  I'm still clearing the land for my future orchard site, so these were grafted and potted in two batches in 2 gallon pots  The first 30  had three failures  so 90%.  The next 35 had one failure. 5 of these were not grafted but left to produce variety #18 (antonovka). looks like 96%  on the second 30 grafts. The second 30 were dusted  on the bare roots with a Mychorrizal (4 type) formula.  These were clearly the most vigorous of the potted grafts, so I would definitely dust all bare rootstocks in the future.  On the Antonovka grafts I found and used a 15.00 grafting tool using modified (U) cut.   The grafting tools I had found on various sites were priced from 70-150.00 for what seemed to be the same tool as what was purchased. It produced clean cuts , had three cutter types, and has now produced 70+ grafts, and could be rotated to a second cutting edge on each blade, or resharpened when that became necessary.  found on T mart site. I was willing to spend .20 per graft for the 15.00 cutter  but the 2.00 per graft for the 150.00 unit was not in my budget. Having said that, the results have been so encouraging, and the process enjoyable that I can see this becoming a possible revenue source as my skills develop. This inexpensive (cheap) tool could easily produce hundreds of grafts lowering the cost per graft to pennies.   If the neem oil continues to repel the hungry aphids drinking from all the new and tender leaves, there may be a picture of an orchard to post in a few years.  Thank you shout out to the many who share their experiences and expertise on this site.
 
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