Give Grafting a Go
Have you ever tried to start an apple tree from seed? If so, and you were successful, you will know that the apples that come from that tree are not the same as the ones that seed came from. The apples that we get from grocery stores and farmers’ markets have all come from a particular rootstock that governs the size of the tree and how it handles drought, heat stress, pests, and disease.
Most apple trees need cross pollination; that is, they need another apple tree to bloom at the same time so they can be pollinated. Self-pollination occurs in some apple species (Golden Delicious and Granny Smith, for example) but the vast majority rely on bees to travel from tree to tree spreading that DNA-harbouring pollen between flowers on different trees.
What is Grafting?
Simply put, grafting is taking a part of one tree and “sewing” it to another. There are many benefits to this process, one stems (no pun intended) from my comment earlier about starting an apple tree from seed. Grafting allows you to reproduce the fruit’s characteristics; it allows you to keep producing the same fruit from a new tree if the old one has stopped producing enough; and it allows you to use a root system that is well established and adapted to the soil and climate.
This will be a two-part blog so understanding the terminology now will help you better understand next week when we get into the real deal.
Budding: a simple grafting style where one bud is inserted into a stock
Cambium: the actively growing part of the trunk and each stem; located beneath the bark on top of the wood
Cultivar: the type of tree; variety; an example would be MacIntosh or Red Delicious.
Rootstock: the root system that will determine the tree’s growing habits and abilities to withstand pests, disease, and tough conditions
Scion: last year’s growth which is removed from the tree with the intention of attaching it to another tree
Stock/Understock: the part of the new tree where the scion is inserted
Topworking: the process of grafting that involves removal of branches and unnecessary growth on an established tree and grafting the scion(s) to it
Union: the join made where the scion is attached to the stock
That should give you a good start. Come back next week when I’ll discuss the art of topworking, attaching multiple stems from one (or many) trees to an older, established tree.