After attending the California Rare Fruit Growers Association's scion exchange in January, I was excited to try grafting. In early February we covered grafting and budding in the propagation class I'm taking at Merritt College and in the lab there I tried doing a whip-and-tongue graft of a plum onto a peach rootstock. That plant is still in the greenhouse on campus and I haven't checked yet to see how it's doing. But after that class, I felt ready to try grafting on my own and on February 17 I grafted two Fuji scions onto apple rootstocks. Here's how it went.
Here are the supplies I worked with: leather-palmed gloves (we used kevlar butcher's gloves in class and I would recommend getting those); a sharp utility knife; pruning shears; scissors; alcohol for cleaning the blades; parafilm for wrapping the graft; saran wrap for covering the graft (next time I do this, I'll use the press-and-seal kind of wrap); a brown paper bag for covering the entire plant; and green garden tape for securing the paper bag. In the future, I would also try using grafting wax to seal the grafts--apparently this really increases the success rate.
I started with two apple rootstocks, about the size of a pencil in diameter:
I got two kinds of apple scions at the scion exchange--Early Fuji (the two long, narrow sticks) and Fuji (the smaller, shorter stick). It's important that the scion and the rootstock be the same diameter at the location of the graft.
I cut the rootstock off in between nodes a few inches above the ground with the pruning shears. Using the utility knife, I made a diagonal cut on the rootstock and then made a downward slice about one-third of the way in at the top of the diagonal cut. I made matching cuts on the scion and fit the two pieces together:
Here is a closer look at the graft, and as you can see, it's not a very good fit. It's really a challenge to get the rootstock and scion cuts to match perfectly and it must take a lot of practice. I was worried that this graft wouldn't take, but it did seem that much of the cambium layers were lining up so I figured I'd hope for the best.
The next step is wrapping the graft in parafilm. Parafilm is a very stretchy plastic-like film used in labs. It helps to seal the graft up tight so the scion doesn't dry out, but it also allows for buds to break through the parafilm, which eventually deteriorates and falls off. I also trimmed the top of the scion and wrapped that in parafilm as well.
If I were using grafting wax, I'd have covered the graft and the top cut with that, but instead I wrapped it in saran wrap to keep moisture from getting to the cut wood.
Following all that, I covered the entire plant with a brown paper bag and put the pot in my carport, out of direct sunlight. I kept the plant lightly watered and after a couple weeks I took the paper bag off. Today I moved the plants out into the sunlight and removed the saran wrap. Here's what I saw:
The bud below the graft is from the rootstock and will need to be trimmed off, but the leaf buds at the top show that the scion is clearly alive and it appears the graft has taken. The other apple that I grafted hasn't budded so far, so I can't tell if that's just slow or if that graft failed.
As challenging and frustrating as it can be to make good matching cuts for grafting, I really enjoyed doing this and hope to do more of it. It's another example of how even far-less-than-perfect attempts in the garden can yield surprisingly good results.