Do you know how to bud-graft?

Have you tried, but had mixed success? It’s not hard, but has lots of aspects to it, and is one of those skills (like pruning) that needs practice to cement the theory.

If you haven’t heard of it before, budding is the type of grafting you do in summer, and it’s pretty easy.

It’s as simple as taking a single bud from the desired variety and inserting it under the bark in the graft recipient tree, or rootstock.

There’s two different techniques—T-budding, and chip budding.

Putting bud-grafting into practice

We love it when people who have been to our workshops get back to us to let us know how they went, like this note from a budding fruit grower who came to one of our workshops.

Just writing to say how thrilled I am to be gazing in wonder and, I must say, anticipation at my very own young nectarines!! These be the first fruits of your terrific budding workshop!

Judy
Judy's budding success!
Judy’s budding success of adding a new variety to her nectarine tree

It’s interesting that Judy sent us a photo of her nectarine tree. Even though budding can be used for all fruit trees, it is the only type of grafting we recommend for peaches and nectarines, as they tend to be very ‘gummy’.

That means that the more traditional winter grafting techniques are less likely to work. The big cuts that are neeeded for winter grafting stimulate the trees to respond with a lot of sap, which prevents the graft from ‘taking’.

Who invented grafting?

Grafting is literally thousands of years old. It was known to be used by the Chinese before 2000 BC.  

It’s one of the basic life skills that underpin our food security. Grafting turns a rootstock or seedling (which may not have good fruit on it) into a known “variety” that will bear reliable, high-quality fruit. It’s also how heritage varieties have been preserved and passed from generation to generation for hundreds of years.

Unfortunately it’s almost a lost art. Hardly anyone knows how to do it any more, but we’re on a mission to change that.

This summer, we want to teach as many people as possible how to bud-graft. If you know how to graft, and you know how to grow your own fruit trees from seed or cutting (which is also easy) then you have the skills at your fingertips to create an endless supply of fruit trees for free for yourself, your family and friends.

It can even be the basis of a small business. 

So, here’s the 4 basic steps for budding:

  1. Collect a piece of scion wood (grafting wood) from the variety you want to introduce into your garden;
  2. Cut a single bud from the piece of scion wood;
  3. Insert the bud either into a “T” shaped cut in the bark or into a chip-shaped site, depending on which technique you’re using;
  4. Tape it up to seal it while the graft heals.
Our WWOOFer Norma taping up one of her bud grafts
Our WWOOFer Norma taping up one of her bud grafts

Is any preparation needed?

If you’re intending to transform an entire tree to a new variety, then the answer is yes, probably. You need to do some preparation work in early spring.

Remove most of the limbs from the tree and the tree will respond by growing a forest of new shoots to replace the limbs that have been removed.

When it comes to budding time, select the shoots that are in the right place to create replacement limbs and bud-graft onto them. Remove all the other shoots.

Budding success!

How should you get started?

We love passing these skills on to a whole new generation of food growers.

We’re very proud to announce that we’ve just updated our short course called Grafting Technique #4: Summer Grafting (Budding).

What’s new?

We’ve added a whole new technique, called Chip Budding. There’s quite a narrow window to do bud-grafting during late summer (February is usually the best time for us to do our budding in central Victoria). But the new technique we’re now teaching extends the window for another few weeks.

This is great news for gardeners who are busy (and have you ever met a gardener who’s not?). It’s just too easy for the window to come and go before you realise that the time for budding is NOW…oops.

Once you understand the theory, then comes the practice!

We really recommend doing some bud-grafting every year, to maintain and improve your skills. The other thing we recommend is teaching someone else how to do it, because explaining a technique is one of the best ways to really cement your understanding.

Judy was kind enough to attribute her success to our workshop, but in fact, it’s actually her commitment to putting it into action that produced her success. We’ll give her the last word:

My good fortune is a result of your good teaching..clear, thorough, hands on..with plenty of practicing..can’t B faulted!! I’m about to do a lot more budding..being February!..Thanks heaps for a terrific course.”

Judy

Thanks Judy, and happy bud-grafting!