Want to see a couple of practical ways you can use grafting to create, save or improve fruit trees?

It’s such a cool way of getting functional fruit trees in your garden for free that we recommend everyone learn it, but sometimes you have to “see it to do it”, so here’s some practical examples.

The photo above shows Pa (Katie’s dad) teaching Katie and Sas how to do a technique called “root grafting” at the kitchen table. This is a very cool way of growing new trees from a piece of root. If you’re planting new trees, it’s easy to harvest a piece of the roots, and then graft your scion directly onto it and ‘voila’ – a whole new tree.

The actual grafting technique for this little trick is called “whip tongue”, and the next photo is a beautiful example of a healed graft that shows the whips and tongues on both scion and rootstock really clearly.

Grafting success!
Grafting success!

You can graft at this time of year (late winter/early spring) as long as two conditions are met:

  • you stored some scion wood in advance (that’s what we call the wood from the new variety that you want to graft onto your tree) – it needs to have been collected while the tree it came from was still dormant;
  • the tree you’re grafting onto has started to show some spring activity like growing flowers, leaves or shoots.

The photo above is a Tilton apricot that was grafted on to a plum rootstock.

In fact, the tree was planted as an apricot tree in our orchard a couple of years ago, but then met with misadventure (broken by a passing kangaroo!), so the top of the tree was broken off.

But the rootstock (which was a plum) survived, and put out a new shoot that we were able to graft onto, as you can see in the photo.

You can see there is good contact between the cambium layers of both the rootstock and the scion (that’s the layer just under the bark). That’s where the new tissue that has bound the two pieces of wood permanently together started growing, they must be touching each other.

Another way to save or repurpose a tree is to regraft the whole tree to a new variety. Here’s one we prepared earlier:

A mature fruit tree that has been grafted over to a new variety
A mature fruit tree that has been grafted over to a new variety

This is a great way of turning a useless tree (e.g. a variety you don’t like, or a tree that produces inedible or dull fruit, like a cherryplum) into a useful and productive tree that will add to your food security by growing fruit you want to eat.

You can supercharge the process by grafting a different variety onto each limb, and turn one tree into 5 or 6 varieties without the expense, bother or space issues of planting and looking after more trees!

Grafting seems very difficult – until you do it. Yes, there are lots of different skills involved, and you need to get comfortable using a knife, and you’ll probably have all sorts of failures along the way – but don’t let that put you off!

The sooner you get started (and we’ve put our Grafting Bundle (i.e. collection of all 5 of our grafting courses) on 50% discount until September 30 to help you get on the way), the sooner you can start practicing!