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Grafting fruit trees

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Steve Maskery

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I've never been a gardener. Sure, I like to see a nice garden, and indeed, I once had a nice garden, but someone else did the hard work, the grafting, ha-ha.

I have quite a reasonable area of garden to look after, even with a couple of good-sized outhouses, and, having got my house into something resembling a home, I'm starting to look outside.

About a year ago my mate Charlie persuaded me to cover the entire area in tarpaulins to keep the weeds down. Last week we lifted them a bit and carved out a new pathway, edging it with slates courtesy of Ray (you remember Ray, surely),
So it currently looks like this:
path.jpeg

It starts at the BL corner and wends its way to the workshop door. I plan to put down membrane and then lay gravel or some such.

I've had to remove my herb garden, which was at the front at the edge of the patio-cum-car-park, but the plants themselves are safe (just outside that picture, to the right), and I intend to put everything back just as soon as the garden wall (at the front in that picture) is completed.

Once upon a time, I bought a pear in Morrison's. It was just one pear, I needed it for a recipe. When I got to the checkout, I discovered that that one single pear cost 96p. For one. Had I known that I would not have bought it, but by then I was at the checkout and it was too embarrassing to kick up a fuss.

However, it was the most delicious pear that I have ever eaten. It was a Red Williams. So I want to grow Red Williams. It's in the same group as Conference.
I also want to grow my trees as cordons, as the idea of getting up ladders as I get older gets less and less appealing.

Unfortunately, all the Red Williams I can find are grown onto Quince A rootstock, which is semi-vigorous. I really would prefer Quince C, which is dwarfing (mature height 2.4m).

So this is my Cunning Plan:

Set up a 3-wire cordon down the RH side of the garden. 6m long or thereabouts. I have today taken delivery of a duo pear tree, Conference and Concorde, both of which will pollinate Red Williams.
pear.jpg


My plan is to get another tree for the Red Williams and plant both these trees along the cordon.

Still with me? Thank you.

Now it seems to me that I have some options.
1. Forget the Quince C root stock and put up with a larger tree.

2. Wait until January or so and buy a Quince C rootstock and do my own grafting.

3. Buy a https://www.keepers-nursery.co.uk/fruit ... nce/vranja and do my own grafting.

I can buy Red Williams scions right now, but can I graft them now? My very limited understanding is that grafting would be better done in early spring, when the sap is rising.

Can I buy these scions now and store them damp in the fringe until April, or should I do the graft now and hope that they survive the winter?

If you get the impression I've never done this before, then you might possibly be right. But I am surprised by how excited I am about this.
 

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jimmy_s

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Steve

My understanding is that as you say ideally graft in spring.

I have some M116 apple rootstock and am planning to graft some apple scions up.
 

Steve Maskery

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Thank you Jimmy
So are you taking the scions now and storing them, or taking them in the spring and grafting them immediately? The problem is that the scions on offer are available now.
 

jimmy_s

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Hi Steve,

I'm taking them in the spring as I have a couple of apple trees that are needing to be removed. One is on M25 rootstock and is going to get too big and the other got its trunk seriously damaged by a bloody deer that got in and ate loads of stuff - including a not very prickly holly tree I bought, it was completely defoliated and died. I am going to graft 2 of each and see how I get on. My understanding is that you can cut the scions now and store them in the fridge. Doing final prep in the spring. I was looking at whip and tongue grafting.
 

Steve Maskery

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jimmy_s":jybh03ii said:
Hi Steve,

I'm taking them in the spring as I have a couple of apple trees that are needing to be removed. .....
I was looking at whip and tongue grafting.
I'm already a YT expert on bud grafting, now I have more to investigate :) Thank you very much.
S
 

jimmy_s

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Whip and tounge looks easy enough - kind of like a scarf joint with a cut made in the middle of each face. Straightforward bit of green woodworking I recon.

My sister managed to do it so it so It can't be that hard (I hope).
 

novocaine

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ignore the graft.
plant the red William
cordon and prune accordingly. it will take a bit more upkeep but you stand a greater chance of decent fruit yield than with a dwarf as you are limiting it's growth which should in theory encourage fruiting.

At least this in the advice I got from the folks at our local walled garden/ orchard (seriously, the vast majority of it is apples and pears with only a ring border for everything else, they do a nice brew though). we have an apple, can't remember what it is that we've done this with, it's just getting to the point were we can start controlling it's growth along the wires and encouraging outward growth.

the pear tree (conference) was planted before we got there, it's massive and most of the pear goes to waste as you can't pick half of them or they succumb to windfall. the ones I do get though make a rather lovely perry and a pear and cinnamon jam that is great at Christmas (and rather nice in a gravy but don't tell the wife). I intend to build a pagoda next to the tree at some point (We have a deck there from the PO) and encourage the tree over that so I can get to the pears.

good luck from a rather poor gardener to one I hope becomes good. :D
 

lurker

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Duo trees sound a good idea but in reality do not do well.
Agree with NovocIne on how to proceed.

Wait a few months and buy a decent sized tree fron a good nursery.

Would you like a yellow plum?
I have some that need to come out this winter.
 

Tris

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Forget cordons and grow an espalier. I've trained loads of pears this way, you can get 4 levels on a 6ft fence and 60 or so fruit per panel.
Bud grafting is easiest but check rootstock compatibility as some pear varieties won't suit quince C and have to be double worked, adding years to the process.
If you graft your own it will take about 5 years to fruiting but is very satisfying.
HTH
Tris
(forgot to say put your bud sticks in a ziploc bag in the bottom of the fridge and graft in March, they'll be fine.)
 

novocaine

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ahhhhh, thats the term they used, not a cordon but an espalier, see, told you I wan't a gardener. :)
 

Steve Maskery

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Tris":2jvtxu7a said:
Forget cordons and grow an espalier.
Yes, I meant espalier. Horizontally. As you can see, I am new to this!
Tris":2jvtxu7a said:
(forgot to say put your bud sticks in a ziploc bag in the bottom of the fridge and graft in March, they'll be fine.)
OK, thanks. I do realise it will all take a few years, and I'm not as young as I was, but I do like the idea of doing it.
 

Steve Maskery

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lurker":2wofqnym said:
Duo trees sound a good idea but in reality do not do well.
Don't tell me that, I've just bought it!
lurker":2wofqnym said:
Agree with NovocIne on how to proceed.
Wait a few months and buy a decent sized tree from a good nursery.
lurker":2wofqnym said:
Would you like a yellow plum?
Ooh yes please. I shall have to rearrange my landscape plans, but yes please. How big is it likely to get?
 

Tris

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Steve,
Just had time to take a quick look at the links you put up and wonder if buying scion material from a seller in Portugal will prove a problem. You could try contacting nurseries who graft their own trees and ask if they'd sell you some bud sticks.
The nursery you linked to for rootstock is usually excellent, I'd be inclined to plant now unless you have really clay soil, so the rootstock gets chance to settle in. Plan on putting 2 buds per rootstock if it's your first go.
A copy of 'The Grafters Handbook' would be well worth getting hold of too.
Tris
 

Steve Maskery

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I have ordered the scions, just now this minute! Not much to lose unless The B word mucks things up.
The rootstock is not available until January and I haven't found any anywhere else that sells it, so now I'm thinking more about buying a quince and doing it that way. If it doesn't work I can always just replace it with "proper" tree.
 

MusicMan

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I've done quite a lot of grafting, after attending a one-day course at a local garden restoration project (Hill Close Gardens in Warwick). Mostly apples, but the principles are the same. Originally to preserve a splendid apple tree that had to be removed and I thought might be unique. The grafting was successful and when I had the fruit identified it turned out to be Cox's! Still a fine apple.

Grafting at this time of year won't work, as the sap needs to be rising, as mentioned. In principle yes, you keep scions in the fridge till March then graft. I think it can help a bit to buy rootstock earlier so that they are a bit established when you do the grafting, but the grafting process is significantly fiddlier when you have a pot to manipulate attached to one end.

I haven't had a lot of success with storing scions even in the fridge. If the skin/bark goes wrinkled in storage then they won't work. I am usually multiplying my own stock, so I take the scion in March just when buds show, then graft immediately.

I started by using the whip and tongue method, and got about 50% success. I have now changed to the split and V method and get near 100%. In this you taper the rootstock side to a flat-sided V, then simply make a split in the scion side and push the V into it, then bind with paraffin tape and string. The string should come off after a couple of months or the graft will be distorted.

The real key is to get good cambium-to-cambium contact. (the thin layer just below the bark, where the tree actually grows). With the split/V method this means that the scion and stock need to be the same diameter. You do have a bit more flexibility with the whip and tongue method.

Get the paraffin tape to bind the scions and rootstocks together. I'll dig out a link if it's not obvious.

I do prefer espaliers to cordons. And yes, be patient. After about six years I am now getting good crops, and you do get some to taste beforehand.

+1 for The Grafter's Handbook.

Keith
 

Steve Maskery

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Well I've been and gone and done it.

I bought a quince "Serbian Gold" a few weeks ago and planted it in the garden. It has taken nicely and has new growth on it. Today I took the Red Williams* scions from the chiller. They look all right, still dormant, not got rusty or mouldy or anything.

I used the cleft and v-shaped thingy method, cutting my scions to a flat axe-head shape and opening up a cleft in the tree itself. Then I bound it with tape. It's like thin sellotape but not sticky.

tied graft.jpg


I tried to seal it with melted paraffin wax, but it would not stick so I used Black Bison instead, which seemed to go on beautifully. Then I trimmed all three grafts back to 3 buds and job done.

finished graft.jpg


Whether it has been successfully or not remains to be seen, but I do hope so.

I have 4 scions left over. I have no idea how long they will keep in the fridge, but I hope to be able to use them if I discover that these have not taken. I should think that, at this time of year, a successful graft should start to show signs of life fairly quickly. A month? Would I be right?

I also have a few Quince scions from the pruning, if anyone wants them. I don't know if they will root or to what you would graft them, but if anyone wants them, they are FTAGH. Drop me a line. They are 6 - 8" long:

quince scions.jpg


So, so far this year I have planted a 3-way apple tree, a duo pear tree, a quince which is now quince/pear and lurker's yellow plum. I still have a cherry tree to plant, but the ground is not ready for it yet. It should be quite an orchard when it's done.

*I say Red Williams because that is what they were advertised as, though the package was labelled only Pera Williams, so I won't actually know if they are the red sport until they fruit, by which time it might be a bit late to complain if they are not...
 

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MusicMan

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That looks a good job, Steve. I've always had best success with the notch-and-axehead method. The most critical thin is to align the cambium layers.

Assuming you are using Parafilm (paraffin tape) to bind it, you shouldn't need any further sealant. Just bind it well and press it down to stick to itself. However, I usually bind the joint with garden twine to keep it all in good contact. No need to go mad, just secure it.

Yes you should see growth starting within a month at this time. You also have a decision to make about when to remove the binding. This should be when cambium growth has securely joined the two bits. Trouble is you can't see this with the binding on, and can't test it or it breaks. I usually check after two months and if the growth is strong, take it off then. Certainly should come off after three months or the binding will constrict the cambium growth excessively.

I have usually been saving or multiplying trees that I already had, so I took them straight off one tree onto another. The one time I tried chilling scions cut earlier was a failure. You could see that the bark (hence cambium) had shrivelled somewhat, and none of those took at all. If yours sprout leaves they are ok.

Quince scions need quince rootstocks, none of which i have. Shame.
Keith
 

marcros

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There is a society up here called the northern fruit group. Looks an interesting group which I keep meaning to join. £10 a year and worth a look.
 

Steve Maskery

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MusicMan":2youfai8 said:
Quince scions need quince rootstocks, none of which i have. Shame.
Keith
If I dip these in some hormone rooting powder, with they take and become rootstocks themselves?
 

MusicMan

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Steve Maskery":4z2gzc5y said:
MusicMan":4z2gzc5y said:
Quince scions need quince rootstocks, none of which i have. Shame.
Keith
If I dip these in some hormone rooting powder, with they take and become rootstocks themselves?
Worth a try, though there are several types (different vigours) of quince rootstocks and I have no idea how to tell which you'll get!
 

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