Every year, we graft apple trees. The reason for this is to change/add/increase a variety to our apple repetoire. Grafting is a quicker way to get apples into production than planting baby trees. This year we are grafting around 2000 apple trees. Esopus Spitzenberg will be grafted onto Jonagolds and Empire apples will be grafted onto Braeburns. Never fear, we still have other Jonagoldand Braeburn apples that we’ll bring to market.
Below is a tutorial on how we graft.
The trees we’ll be grafting onto have already been cut off to about five feet during the winter. Steve then let’s the chainsaw rip and chops off the top 16-18″ of the tree. This is a little shocking to watch.
These little sticks are called “scion wood” and were collected in late February from Esopus Spitzenberg trees that we have in the orchard. The scion wood is cut into a thin wedge which will be inserted between the bark and the cambian layer of the tree. It helps to wear a purple shirt.
Steve then takes a very sharp knife and cuts the bark to the cambian layer. The bark merely slips back and the scion wood wedge is inserted between the bark and heartwood. The cells from the existing tree will then knit with the cells of this little “branch” and it will start to grow. It is a simple yet fascinating process.Here are two little pieces of scion wood. In 3-4 years, they will produce Esopus Spitzenberg apples.Dessication is the biggest threat to scion wood taking hold and growing. We want to minimize any air that can get into the cambian layer. If a piece of scion dries out, it will die and there goes your future apple-producing branch. We wrap the bark and scion wood with electrical tape.Then, we insert grafting wax and press it into any holes that may let air reach the scion wood.We paint the tops of the scion wood and the top of the stump with latex paint. Any color will do.
Then we wait for a year.
This is a successful graft done last May. Four pieces of scion wood were introduced into this Breaburn tree. Now there are eight branches and leaves are budding out on this tree. In a couple of weeks, we’ll take these branches and braid them together for strength.
This tree was grafted about six years ago. You can see how the braided branches have grown together. This tree was a Golden Supreme tree and now produces Honeycrisp apples. Yum!
Grafting is kind of like surgery. Without the scrubs or anesthesia. It’s much cheaper, too. And the view is better. Plus, how many surgeons get to eat the fruits of their labor?