[nafex] Don't pull out unwanted apple varieties

Bernie Nikolai Nikolai at v-wave.com
Wed May 30 00:48:13 EDT 2001

        Many fellow NAFEXers have a few varieties in their orchards they
just don't like or want.  Usually we just pull out the trees and replant
with the varieties we want.  However the last few years I've been
experimenting and I think I have a better solution.  If the tree is of
relatively small caliper, under 2 inches in diameter down to about 1/2 inch
in diameter, just cut off the entire tree at, or almost at ground level.
Then place 2 or 3 bark grafts on the small stump with the new variety
wanted.  What happens is the grafts take very well, and using the existing
power of the established roots, produce a tree that often gives apples in
only 3 years.  I came across this after about 20 trees were severely girdled
by voles 4 winters ago.  Rather than pull them out, I just cut them off at
ground level under the damage and put in bark grafts.  I let all the grafted
whips grow the first year, and at green tip the second year, cut off all
whips except the one I chose as the "new" tree.
        I just returned from my orchard this evening and have 7 for 7 takes
using this technique from earlier this spring, with the grafts growing well.
On other trees that I bench grafted and then planted, well, not a single
graft has taken so far.  This technique is especially usefull in an
experimental orchard like mine.  Many of the varieties I'm testing are only
available as scionwood, so its a way to get a nice, healthy tree producing
apples in only 3 years in a zone 3/2 climate.  I also topworked a few trees
to compare the results.  They are also producing this year.  However there
is no advantage to topworking in terms of getting fruit sooner, and its a
lot easier to put a couple of bark grafts on a small stump than it is to
regraft several branches of an existing tree.  This technique DOESN'T work
well on larger trees (much over 2 inches in diameter).  My guess is
"decapitating" them and putting on bark grafts is too stressfull, and the
larger trees often die, or at least don't set the grafts but rather send out
what seems like a million root shoots.
Bernie Nikolai
Edmonton, Alberta (full bloom or just past on the apples and saskatoons now)


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