[NAFEX] Any opinions on my grafting problem?

David Ulmer davidu9999 at covad.net
Sat May 7 10:47:45 EDT 2005

I'm getting in a little late on the thread, but here are a few 
thoughts.  I have taught grafting to our Redwood Empire Chapter of 
CRFG for several years and give grafting demonstrations at our scion 
exchange each January that attracts 2 or 3 hundred folks. Seems that 
after a while everyone who grafts a lot develops his/her own style.  
This will be old stuff to most of you, but maybe someone will profit.

The principals to remember are:
1.	Good carpentry is most important.  That means a sharp knife is 
essential, straight cuts necessary and good cambial contact 
2.	Good rootstocks of the proper size and in the case of Prunus, 
waking up (buds starting to swell).  Nuts and persimmon graft best 
when growing and the bark slipping for a bark graft.
3.	Dormant scion wood that has been properly stored.  I too keep my 
wood in a small refer set at about freezing and keep the scions in Zip 
Loc Freezer bags with just a trace of moisture.  If you see 
condensation in the bag, that's enough.  I've seen buds rot with too 
much moisture and I've had scions dry out if I forgot to check 
occasionally.  Prunus, especially Asian plums, will start pushing no 
matter what temperature you keep them, so it's hard to graft them late 
in the season.
4.	Proper graft for the size of the scion/rootstock you have.  If the 
wood is the same size, the whip and tongue is best but the carpentry 
is the most difficult.  If you learn how to do it well, you get a 
graft that is smooth, straight and almost invisible after a year or 
so. The cleft graft is the easiest to learn and will work if the scion 
is the same size as the rootstock or if the rootstock is larger (don't 
use a scion that is larger than your rootstock).  For the latter, 
align one side.  You may need to recess the scion if the rootstock 
bark is thicker.  These two grafts are considered dormant grafts and 
don't work well if the rootstock is in active growth, but as I said 
earlier, Prunus should be waking up.
5.	Seal the graft so no cut surfaces can dry out and secure the scion 
to the rootstock so the two are closely approximated.  Here is where 
there is diversity and each develops a unique style.  I was taught by 
T.O. Warren, the grafting guru for NAFEX for many years.  T.O. hated 
grafting wax and so do I.  He taught me to use masking tape, which I 
later changed to 3M-freezer tape when I can find it.  Wrap the graft 
tightly.  I then wrap parafilm over the tape and wrap the cut end of 
the scion with parafilm also.  Sometimes, if I'm unhappy with my 
carpentry, I'll wrap a budding rubber over the parafilm.  On top of 
the parafilm is best so it will degrade in the sun.  I have used 
plastic tape in the past as I thought I could get more pressure on the 
union, but that needs to be cut later to avoid girdling.	  I usually 
have too much to do and forget that step so it's safer for me to go 
the masking tape route, which does not have to be removed.	
6.	After the grafting what to do?  Malus and Pyrus callous at a much 
lower temperature than most Prunus.  Plums seem to require less heat 
also.  So this is how I do it.  For apricots and peaches the rootstock 
has been previously stored at a temperature that will allow the buds 
to start forcing. I bench graft, pot in a 5-gallon pot and bring 
inside the house for two weeks.  Try to time this so the outside 
temperatures are above freezing when the grafts go back outside.  You 
could also place the grafts in sawdust, vermiculite or soil that is 
heated.  Leave the top of the scion out of the heated material.  That 
works great, but I don't presently have that option. Apples, pears and 
plums are grafted onto dormant rootstock and potted into 5-gallon 
pots, placed in a site protected form wind and with a southern 
exposure.  Since our temperatures rarely get into the 20's, this works 
great.  I always plan to plant the trees in late June or July as the 
roots fill the container.  I have great sandy loam soil and a good 
drip irrigation system so the trees usually don't know they have been 

So how does this work?  If I miss an apple, pear or plum graft, I 
really wonder what did I do wrong. I get 80 to 90% apricot and about 
50-60% peach.  Peaches do much better budded in the summer, but it's 
more difficult to coordinate bud wood collecting with so much else to 

Soaking scions is not necessary.  Don't leave your scions in the sun.  
I lay a damp towel over the scions I'm working with, keep the ones I'm 
going to use later in a small, insulated drink container, work on the 
rootstock first and don't waste time. 

Lucky is right, Bark grafting is great!  Learn how to do it.  Best 
graft for pecans, persimmon, and walnuts. A Goggle search will get you 

Hope this helps someone.
David Ulmer
Sebastopol, CA
USDA zone 8-9
Cool Summers
David Ulmer, davidu9999 at covad.net on 5/7/2005

On Tue, 3 May 2005 20:53:33 -0700 (PDT), John Smith wrote:
> This year I moved several hundred miles and brought
> along several pear, apple, and peach seedlings and
> dwarfing rootstocks I had growing in my garden and
> stored in a cooler bare-root over the past winter.
> This spring, I pulled them out for a couple days,
> placing them in a box of moist vermiculite until they
> began to break dormancy.  I grafted about 10 of each
> fruit type, mostly using a cleft graft,
> whip-and-tongue on a few.  A few scions I placed in a
> glass of water while preparing the rootstock, mostly I
> just worked quick so the scion wouldn't dry out.  Used
> a cloth grafting tape, wrapped very tightly, since
> scionwood was thinner than the rootstock in every
> case, just matched up the cambium on one side.  I
> coated the graft site and the scion (except buds) with
> wax from a toilet bowl gasket.  I then carefully
> buried the whole thing in the mosit vermiculite and
> held at about 70 degrees for 2 weeks, then planted in
> my new garden.  After a few weeks, it looks like 100%
> of the pears have taken, some have a couple inches
> growth already.  Looks like about 90% on the apples,
> and 0% on the peaches. I know peaches are supposed to
> be more difficult, anyone have any ideas on what i
> could do differently next time?  Looks like I may need
> to stick to summer budding on those, but it's harder
> to get good fresh bud wood at that time...
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