Apple trees do not grow true from seeds. Just like people, they take genes from both parents and create a new apple. It may have characteristics of one or both or may end up being something completely different, like your blonde haired sibling in the family. To reproduce an apple that you like, you have to graft wood or buds from the tree with the desired apple to another tree, referred to as the rootstock. There are a number of graft types or styles. Some are better than others depending on the situation. If you are top working a tree where you use the roots and trunk but replace the top branches with a new variety, you will be mating smaller pieces of wood to much larger branches. This is different from joining too similar sized branches. I have also found that the age of the tree impacts how you can approach grafting. I am still learning my grafting skills but I have found that it is difficult to create T-bud grafts on older trunks. I often have to chip graft to them because the bark is extremely difficult to loosen.
This post isn’t intended to be a guide for grafting. What I really wanted to share was the concept of spring and fall grafting and even maybe summer time grafting. I am finding that there are two good times to graft. In the spring you take dormant wood from last year’s growth, called scion, and graft or splice that into newly awakened rootstock. The rootstock will heal around the graft, usually 2-3 weeks, and start feeding the scion wood making the buds contained on it grow and form the new tree. The other ideal time is in the fall. Even before the leafs start to change, you can trim some of the current years growth and use the buds, located just above the leaf stem, to graft onto rootstock. This allows the graft to heal around a healthy bud. Trimming the rootstock to just above this bud in the spring should make the new bud sprout and become your desired tree.
I have personally found grafting to be a amazing aspect of apple and fruit trees. In my learning, I accidentally broke off a wonderfully growing graft of a Belle de Boskoop apple. Even in the middle of summer, I was able to graft a tip of this onto a rootstock and this spring, I now have a shoot coming up from a little branch I salvaged. It wasn’t the ideal time but given the situation, I didn’t have anything to lose. Now that wonderful looking Belle de Boskoop scion graft has another opportunity. Hopefully, I’ve learned how to avoid breaking it again!
If you want to learn more about grafting, I suggest searching on Stephen Hayes Grafting Videos in YouTube. I find his videos very helpful. Here is one on chip bud grafting.
Don’t miss any future answers to Cider Questions. Follow me and you will get a link to my latest article delivered to your inbox. It’s that easy!