Tree Grafting 

In our last post of this series we explored the benefits of grafting and were hopefully able to inspire you to try it out.  In this article we’re going to dive a little deeper into the actual process of grafting.

There are multiple ways you can go about grafting and some of these processes will have more or less successful outcomes depending on what you desire from it.  For example, you might use the process of T-Budding for the intended purpose of growing multiple species on the same tree while you would probably want to Cleft or Whip Graft for the physical attributes of the rootstock.  This would allow you to grow a more desirable tomato flavor on a hardier tomato’s roots which has better genetics to fight off bacteria and root specific diseases.  In this article we are just going to explore the method known as Cleft Grafting mentioned above.

Some Terminology

For the sake of those new to grafting we are going to cover a few terms here.  First a scion; A scion is a branch cutting from a healthy origin tree that has the intended purpose of being transplanted onto another plant.  This origin tree is mostly commonly known as a cultivator and the suitable growing tree (or plant) of which you intend to graft onto is known as the rootstock.  Okay, awesome, back to grafting.

What Is Required

Cleft Grafting is a pretty straight forward and common form of grafting with similar outcomes to bark grafting and requires the same 2 parts as all other grafting processes.  In order to perform a successful graft one must first have a healthy, disease-free scion and an equally healthy rootstock.  The best time to perform a graft is in early spring before the bark of the rootstock begins to slip or easily peel as well as so that the exposed portion of the plant doesn’t dry up too quick and prevent the graft from taking.

Your scion should be approximately a foot long and contain three to five buds while your rootstock should be smooth with vertical branches 1-2 inches in diameter.  Now you’re ready to begin!

Doing The Work

First things first you must amputate your rootstock.  You heard me correctly.  Choose a point below a blemish free-free and clean portion of the branch and lob it off perpendicular to the branch.  Be careful to make sure that the cut you’ve made is clean and that you don’t tear or split the branch or bark.

Next you will want to cut the branch straight down the center with a hatchet (specialized tools do exist for this otherwise and are available online and presumably at your local gardening store).  Your cut should be about 6 inches deep.

From here you will prepare the scions for the graft.  Remove the tips at the base of the cutting then beginning just below the bottom bud, make a sloping cut down either side that makes the base come to a tip.

Insert the scions into the rootstock using a screwdriver or chisel to hold open your rootstock incision making sure to line up the green of your scion to the outside green of your rootstock (not the bark).  After this step no cut on the scion should be visible above the top of the rootstock.

The last and possibly most important step is to be sure that you seal the graft and rootstock.  Grafting wax, asphalt water emulsion, beeswax and special grafting tape are all viable options for this step and are again available online or in local retail stores.  This will help prevent drying and germs.  From here we recommend checking back later every few days to be sure the seal has stayed and that the entire surface is sealed.  In this time also remove any growth below the graft to give your scions the best chance of survival.  And there you have it!  A Cleft Grafting.  Good luck and send us photos of any new or old experiences you’ve had with grafting!

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