Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Apple Tree Grafting

I wrote a post of grafting apple trees in 2014, and I thought I would revisit the topic hoping that some of you might have answers to a question I have.

Most of my graftings are done on a volunteer apple tree. There are lots of "wild" apple trees on the property and when the garden was made, one of these trees ended up in the middle of a bed.

We decided to keep it, although the apples were tough and not very tasty. I thought I would graft nicer varieties on it.

The oft grafted apple tree

Over the years, two or three different kinds of apple grafts have taken on this tree. This year I added two new varieties. Both are from "wild" apples trees (trees that have self seeded on the property).
These trees have all self hybridized. Some of the fruit is downright awful, most are very sour but a few varieties of fruit are quite tasty.

The grafts for these two new varieties were cut last autumn and spent the winter in a frost-free humid cellar. I made the grafts on some of the lowest branches of the volunteer tree in the garden. That way, if they take I can  let them grow and cut down some of the main members.

As you can see above, the branch that will receive the graft is split with a knife. The idea is to make a wedge at the end of the branch you are grafting on. The cambium (the internal bark) of both the graft and the branch it is grafted on have to be in contact as in the picture below.

The difficulty is to have them match perfectly. It looks like the graft above is OK, but only time will tell. It is a question of skill.

If you do it for a living, you no doubt acquire the necessary skill to insure that the vast majority of your grafts take. If, like me, you do a few grafts once a year or every second year, the success rate is not that great. Once the graft is in, I brush grafting wax all over the area where the two pieces are joined.

Below are two grafts I made in 2014. The sisal string wrapped around is to help hold the grafts in place.

Below is what it looks like two years later. The graft on the right did not take and fell off. The one on the left produced two members which are now quite strong.

Most of the grafting wax that protected the junction of the graft and tree has broken off as the tree has grown in those two years. In a few years it will be difficult to see where the graft is. There will only be a slight swelling where the junction is, as in the picture below.

As I said above, there is something I do not understand concerning these grafts.

My first grafts are now producing fruit - very large yellow apples. However, so far, they have not produced much.

Some apple trees are known to bear heavily one year and not much the following, but in the last three years, the grafted tree has given nice apples, but very few of them.

Just a few meters away, on the other side of the garden fence, is a wild apple tree that each year is loaded with beautiful red (but terribly sour) apples.  Perhaps the variety I grafted is simply not very productive (I no longer can check if the "mother" tree produces well,  because it was growing very close to the public road, and it has been cut it down by the municipality).

Any idea why the grafted branches would not produce much fruit?


  1. I have never attempted grafting on my fruit trees but am impressed by your attempts and success.

    1. I am afraid I have more failures than successes when it comes to grafting.

  2. I think variety has a lot to do with it. How they are pruned would also play into it as well. We have six trees and some produce well while others are poor producers. They are all over twelve years old, all get pruned the same.

    1. Variety must make a lot of difference. It does produce but a lot.

  3. I'm impressed with your grafting. I suspect that it might just be early days - apples can take a while to get into their stride. Usually if a tree isn't producing well after a few years my guess would be that it might not have a great pollination partner. It's a bit tricky know which pollination group it belongs to if you don't know the variety, but since you are getting some fruit, there is some pollination happening. Are you able to send an apple to an expert - or take one to an apple day? I once took one apple from each tree in an orchard and the experts identified them all except one which they took away and came up with an identification later. The experts saved me a whole load of research time!

  4. I've never tried grating. It must be very satisfying.

  5. Very impressive! I've never tried grafting, but my great-grandfather was a pro and hybridized a rose that's still shared among the family. It seems a tree would be even more challenging. I think that's wonderful that you have fruit on trees that you grafted yourself! Success!

  6. Hi Alain, We could discus this problem when I visit the Bruce. Bill

  7. Sour apples would probably make tasty pie or apple sauce.

  8. Hello Alain, I've not seen grafts this way, I've seen them where both parts are cut into opposite wedges that fit together and are held in contact by string, tape glue. Is this method more reliable?


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