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Grafting is an increasingly popular hobby for the general gardener. Who’d have thought it was easy enough for even beginners? Check for local nurseries doing workshops on grafting or simply try your hand after reading informational brochures or books on the subject. There is little “magic” involved, other than timing… it really pays to have fully dormant scion wood (the part you graft to another piece) and actively growing rootstock (the part you put something onto).
The way to accomplish that is to cut scions in January or February (which conveniently coincides with the best time to prune fruit trees in Northern climates). Dip them in a sterilizing solution of 1 tablespoon bleach per gallon of water. This will kill any pathogens lurking on your scions. Shake them off, label them clearly (masking tape works fine) and then put them in a plastic bag with a “barely damp” paper towel to maintain moisture without promoting fungus. Put the plastic bag in the bottom drawer of your fridge and wait until March or April, just as buds are starting to break on trees.
Select rootstock that is compatible with your scions: apples will graft onto apples, crabapple, or quince rootstock, but not on a pear. Pears will also successfully graft onto quince and pear rootstock. Plums work on plum or prune rootstock but not cherry, etc. The rootstock and scion should be near the same diameter and age. 1/4 inch diameter is a good rule of thumb. That's about the thickness of a pencil. You can use wood up to the size of a finger. One-year-old wood gives the best rate of success in grafting, but two-year-old growth will work also.It's just a bit less successful.
Make a flat, angled cut on the top of your rootstock and a matching angled cut on the bottom of the scion-wood. Split the scion and rootstock vertically, cutting about 2/3 up the angled cut on each piece. This creates an opening on each piece you can wedge together. It helps “clamp” the two together pieces and hold them in place. Fit the two cuts together, assuring the clamps hold the pieces together. It helps to angle the scion …just a bit, to assure contact between the cambiums of the two pieces. Cambium is the actively growing layer between the bark and the inner wood.
Once the scion is snugged down on the rootstock, tightly the two together with a length of rubber band or grafting tape. Then snip the scion to just three buds above the graft union and dab a bit of outdoor carpenter’s glue on the cut to prevent it from drying out and dying back.
Plant the rootstock in a pot or in the garden for a season or two and watch in anticipation to see if the graft was successful. It’s a fairly easy process, but it does take some finesse to succeed with any regularity. Very few hobbies make you feel so close to your fruit trees as grafting them yourself.