Creating Fruit Trees by Grafting

We are in the finest season to create trees-asexually- by “grafting”. By cutting living tissue from one like plant and connecting this piece of plant to another-even as small as a few cells-one is changing the genetic type from one to another. I have 300 apple varieties, some passed down through grafting for over 500 years. Of course you can grow an apple from a seed- and every seedling is DIFFERENT. You will never get a Honeycrisp apple from a Honeycrisp seed, just like people, each seed is DIFFERENT. Imagine if everyone planted an apple seed how many apple varieties we would have. In fact, in the day when cider was the “water” of choice, when over 150 gallons were consumed per person per year, apple seeds were planted aplenty. Once we had over 14000 named varieties. Today that’s been whittled down to a mere 7-8000 varieties.

Varieties are created by connecting a top piece to a bottom piece, typically named “scion” or “scionwood” to “rootstock” or “stock”. Sharp knives are used; a binder is used; and matching pieces to compatible pieces is the simple technique, along with placement, scion quality, rootstock readiness (timing), and aftercare. It’s typical that newbies to grafting can perform at a 95% “take”.  Now, on another note….

With Apple Breeding-using specific parents and crossing male and female floral parts (pollen to stigma) one can guide the traits of the next generation of fruit and all the heritage of generations passed are also passed on. I can appreciate this work as a novice plant breeder as it’s very time consuming and takes years and years to ‘formulate’ an apple to your desire-Say breeding for keeping quality, or sour/sweetness or disease resistance, aroma, crunchiness, skin color, shape, size etc., you get the idea, it typically takes 3 to 5 years to fruit a tree> so each generation…yeah, a long time. Anyway, time to get started. Just sow your favorite fruit, make note of the variety-that helps for future generations and wait a few years to taste what you made! Now back to grafting…

There are numerous techniques to accomplish GRAFTING. This weekend-and the following third Saturday Skipley Farm will hold a grafting party to make dozens of newer as well as heritage apple varieties. You may pay for 10 trees and make a short hedge-say 20-30 feet or make 10 larger trees for a small orchard that grows bigger and stronger, or you can just watch the technique and go home with rootstock and scionwood for making your own trees on your own time. And finally I encourage you all to go out and practice “gorilla grafting” and change-over that ornamental cherry in your backyard to a fruiting cherry or change-over that street tree ‘Bradford’ Pear to a fruiting pear, or a crabapple to a …Honeycrisp or Zabergau Reinette, or, take a look at some of my favorites in this link where I have an embedded EXCEL file with apples growing on the farm and choose some scionwood to make a 50 way apple tree out of the big old apple tree at grandma’s house. Finally, bring an apple stick from a favorite tree and make some more of that favorite- collect last-years’ growth only-as all it takes is two buds, pencil thick.

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