Grafting Apples to Crabapples

In Spring 2012, just prior to a 5 month drought with only 0.5" of water, I decided to take advantage of some of the crabapples I had planted several years before, converting them to 'large fruit' trees. This was designed to be a small scale graft testing effort. I tested 6 different grafting techniques to see which performed best. The assumption was, if God grants us 2013, we will graft the rest of the trees and maybe import a couple hundred more trees and scion wood. Plus, most people are more than happy to give up a few bushel of crabapples lying about in their driveway!! :-) By contrast, I had spent about 20$/tree to bring in some 4 yr old Jonagold trees from the east coast, all died from fire blight, in fact the entire nursery was lost as a result. But here most of the local trees have some resistance even to cedar apple rust and since I also have cedar trees on the farm, finding resistant varieties is a must. After looking over several neighbor's orchards, some good quality resistant scions were found. Thanks here are given to the Wilcoxin family for the original scion wood from one of their farms. The drought has also been a sort of good fortune since it revealed some wonderful drought resistant trees in the area, full of fruit this fall. Here are some of 2012's results. This is not a scientific study, just some fun observations. PS..Practice is needed to prevent thumb damage. My uncle, Dr. Edward Burns, Texas A&M Professor Emeritus in Horticulture, taught me how to T graft peach trees over 50 years ago. But there are a thousand amateur and professional ideas on Youtube and at Amazon just waiting to be explored.

Things I learned about apple grafting....

1. Grafting onto oak trees doesn't work. The trees
    should be identified in the fall when apples are 
    usually the last to lose their leaves. Since
    the branch is sacrificed, it is not good to 
    misidentify the tree. :-(
2. Use short fresh scions 1 to 2 inches maximum!
3. A straight split or V graft generally doesn't work.
4. Shade and moisture count, exposure to direct light 
    and lack of moisture are fatal!
5. Long scions don't work.
6. T-grafts and side grafts beat out V or split grafts
7. All exposed ends should be tarred
8. A spiral wrapped scion graft beats a vertical, 
   more surface area.
9. If it looks like a bird perch, it's a bird perch,
 i.e. it's a goner! birds love knocking off grafts, 
 may even be a hobby.
10. Keep scions in water not more than 1 hour old.
11. Avoid deer paths and rabbit hides, grafts 
   are an expensive veggie salad.
12. Later in the season is better, early in March is
   generally too early, wait almost until bud burst.


..........What you need in your grafting bucket....

1. Spray bottle with sterile water-keep graft surface moist if 
2. Scissors-to cut tape and cut off existing leaves if needed
3. Semicircular type pruning sheers
4. knife with blunt end if possible like used in chip carving
5. Tree Wound, grafting sealer/tar-Teghtmeyers Ace Hardware
	Contech Enterprises
	115-19 Dallas Road
	Victoria, BC, Canada, VBV 5A6
6. Hammer and flat chisel-to do split stem graft and to cut 
      into tough stock like grape vines.
7. Marking tape-to mark limbs, vines, or trees to be worked
8. Flat Screw driver-to dab tar in hard get places and to open 
     tar container
9. Vinyl Grafting tape or parafilm -from or similar
10. Scotch tape-because things happen that need a little adhesive
11. Paper towels-clean up tar and provide moisture bed for scions
12. Hefty jumbo 2.5 gallon plastic bag with water and paper towels 
      to keep scions moist and for refrigerator storage.  Scions 
      normally can be harvested and refrigerated for several weeks 
      before use, so they say.  This has not worked for me.  It is 
      supposed to help so that buds don't burst before adequate 
      water supply (sap) is available, remember this is injured 
      tissue in the process of healing.
13. Alcohol swabs-to kill bacteria on your tools.

The Look of Success..............

The Look of Failure........

Save those seeds. For the brave, grow your own apple trees: Go down to Walmart and buy a covered garden flat with 72 compressed peat pellets and 4 large clear plastic tubs with lids, enough to fill one large window (8$ & reusable). You will also need 3 more flats without pellets. Next, go to Ace hardware and buy potting soil & cow poo and 72 of their largest peat pots 18/tub. About December, put about 100 apple seeds in a plastic container between layers of paper towel and set in fridge, not freezer). Keep an eye out, most will germinate in about 1-1.5 months. Transfer to peat pellets for two weeks. Transfer peat pellets to peat pots nestled in potting poo soil and leave until end of frost (May 5 around here), transfer to garden. Keep clear of weeds for 2-3 years (I know, big pain, should hoe every 10 days, yeah, uh, sure, I care). Find a variety or two of apples that you like and matures before frost in your garden zone preferably owned by a very, very friendly neighbor. Next, go to Youtube and learn how to cut limbs off your neighbor’s apple tree and graft good apples onto your new baby tree stock. Cut V into top or side with sharp knife, then match cambium layers, wrap and pray, do in February or March before breaking dormancy. Color code by success rate. Repeat until all trees are grafted. You can save a step by putting covered flat with seeds and cow poo directly in refrigerator. .. Now you’re farming, savin’ the ‘verse!!!

Oops, I left out a step. When setting up the tubs, the peat pots are set in flats for watering and then placed on the lid, not the bottom of the plastic tub. This gives enough vertical space above the soil to accommodate a small tree, hence the large, not small, plastic tub!! The tub then becomes a small greenhouse, a little too moist for apples, so you’ll lose a few to fungus, but with care you will salvage about 60 trees. (insert smiley face here)
If the seeds are hundreds to a flat, and a greenhouse is available, the number of trees can be much higher. If you eat an apple a day you get about 40 seeds a week. If you use crabapples or fetch the tailings from a cider mill, the sky is the limit!!