[NAFEX] Cold Peaches/Grafting

Dave Griffin griffingardens at earthlink.net
Mon Dec 5 16:39:33 EST 2005

Carl's experience mirrors mine for grafting peaches in a cold climate with the keys being warm temperatures and growing rootstocks. Spring comes a little later here than at Carl's and I don't start until mid to late May at the earliest when daytime temps begin to be reliably above 70 F and nights above 50 F. Nights below 50 F seem to put growth on hold regardless of daytime high temps. I do best after budbreak when the new growth is becoming vigorous. Part of the reason for waiting is that earlier we can have very low humidity and lots of drying wind which is a problem for new grafts and buds that might dry out and die before a good vascular connection can be made with the rootstock. Around June first the grass is growing and trees are leafed out so the humidity is higher. We plant tomatoes at this time because all danger of frost is past which can be almost as hard on a young peach as it is on a tomato plant. Of course, if your rootstocks are mobile in pots like Carl's all this can be controlled and so you can bud earlier.
  I don't do whip and tongue grafts anymore. There is something about cutting off the top off peach tree in spring that reminds me of when I see a roadkilled pheasant at that time of year - here the beautiful bird has heroically beaten the odds and won the formidable struggle against winter's predation in inadequate cover, snow, and cold only to lose a confrontation with a Ford pickup just as things are about to dramatically improve. As is the case with the decapitated peach rootstock, this is a serious setback to its health and well being. While the peach may be the more likely of the two to recover in time, disrupting growth in this way at the time of grafting has not been conducive to success. I do spring chip budding now in spite of the caution against it for the north that is standard in all the grafting instructions I have read. The argument says that there is not enough time for the new growth to harden off in the north. Hooey! There may be less growth compared to that of a rootstock with a dormant bud from the previous summer, but hardening off of the new growth - growth that will be at the least 3 months old at the end of the season - has never been a problem for me. Even the odd bud that has made only a few inches of growth hardens off just fine and is much more likely to survive its first winter than a dormant summer bud (placed in August here) because it has a much better vascular connection when winter arrives. Come spring I find that many of my summer buds are healed in completely but the bud has died and/or dropped off from what I presume to be dehydration. Success rates for both ways of doing it are vastly improved if the stock is protected over the first winter in some way. I like healing it into the ground at an angle and mulching over the tops. Good rodent protection must be provided, of course.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: Eileen Beckwith 
To: Nafex
Sent: 12/5/05 12:39:32 AM 
Subject: [NAFEX] Cold Peaches/Grafting

I was able to graft peaches successfully only after changing my methods to make it possible to 
keep the grafted stocks in a much warmer environment than needed for most other tree fruits.  
Peaches appear to require considerably more heat during the callusing process than most other 
fruit trees(apples, pears, etc.). Almost all of the grafts that took well were whip grafts made on 
smaller 1 and 2 year old potted seedlings. Being in pots made it easy to keep the grafted stocks in 
a warm place during the healing period (70 degrees or warmer).  Most of these grafts were done 
in early-mid May, several weeks after the normal time for grafting other fruit trees in our area. Having 
completely dormant and healthy scions appeared to be much more important with peach grafts than
with apples and pears. Stocks with leaf buds just starting to open seemed to have the best takes.   

Even after keeping the grafted stocks in a warm place the overall success rate was only about 30 to 40%
as compared to a 70 to 80 percent take on apples and pears. Success rate on grafts made on outdoor
stocks was less than 10% due to the difficulty in keeping the grafts warm enough during variable spring

Most peach trees sold by nurseries are propagated by summer-fall budding because the higher temperatures
present at this time facilitate much faster callusing and healing in of the buds resulting in a very high
percentage of takes compared to any other grafting methods.

Carl Beckwith
Pierre, South Dakota
Zone 5a/4b (depending on which way the wind blows)
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