The time for budding fruit trees in the nursery comes around so quickly.
Amidst the busyness of summer harvest time, we somehow find time to kneel among our beautiful seedling rootstock nursery and imagine the varieties they will one day be.
Budding fruit trees is a little bit Frankenstein, a little bit God as described in this blog. It’s the way we change the destiny of these wee trees and transform them into the varieties of juicy, tasty fruit we want them to be. But that’s how it works.
If we let the trees that we’ve grown from seed or cutting grow to maturity, sure they will bear fruit. But the fruit will likely be small, not very tasty, or both!
In the case of citrus and plum seedlings, they will most likely be extremely spiky too!
Transforming trees with budding
That’s where summer budding comes in. By budding, we can add one or more known varieties of fruit cultivar to the seedling rootstock.
That’s where the Frankenstein thing comes in. You have to have a surgeon’s precision (and ideally over 50 years’ experience like Merv) to cut the fine incisions in the bark of the rootstock trunk just big enough for the bud to slide in and get taped on.
By this time of year, the seedlings are about the thickness of your index finger. Once the sap starts to flow and join the new bud onto the original rootstock tree then we have success.
But if our cuts are a bit outta whack, the bud’s a bit big or dry, or the season too late, then we have to wait again until spring to try again with a different grafting technique.
Choosing the right time for summer grafting
February is the ideal time for budding fruit trees in the nursery (or your garden). The rootstock trees are as big as they’re going to get (more or less) and the sap is still flowing. Happy unions between bud and tree can happen.
Once the trees start to slow down for autumn and their winter hibernation, then the bark won’t ‘lift’ anymore to receive a bud. All is not lost even then, because we just switch to the chip budding technique.
Abut this time of year we start our summer budding on the peaches. With freshly sharpened knives in hand, we bud a couple of hundred trees of all sorts of varieties of peach and nectarine.
The rootstock trees were grown from seed that we saved out of last year’s bottling adventures. If the buds are successful, the trees should be ready to plant by next winter.
It’s not the most glamorous or elegant activity, spending hours on your elbows and knees carefully slicing open small trees.
But it is so incredibly interesting to see how the trees grow and learn about all the different varieties and experiment with different techniques, such as multi-buds on single trees.
If we’re creating monsters, at least they’re edible monsters!!!
Grafting is a practical skill that every fruit grower needs if they want to grow their own trees or make their fruit trees more useful.
Apple trees grow easily from seed, but the seedling trees may not grow good apples unless they’re grafted with a known variety.
Did you know you can grow a whole new fruit tree from a piece of root, using a simple technique called root grafting?