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How to start grafting

In CategoryTim Whitcombe
ByGardenAdvice Tim Whitcombe

Grafting in the garden

Do you also grow your own vegetables in your garden? Grafting can be used as an effective technique for growing this produce too — find out why this is the case by reading this guide and learn the process for doing so with advice from the Royal Horticultural Society

When you’re eager to save space in your small garden, grafting your plants can be the ideal solution for you.

Grafting: what is it?

Grafting, or what sometimes is referred to as graftage, is something that is becoming more common for those with smaller gardens. Grafting in the world of horticulture refers to a practice whereby either a bud, scion or a shoot of a plant is inserted into a groove, slit or the like in a stem or stock of another plant, so that it can continue to grow.

There are some trees that can be grafted, such as ornamental, shrubs and fruit trees. Click here to find out more about why you should grow grafted plants and keep on reading to find guides explaining how to graft fruit trees, ornamental trees and shrubs…

Grafting ornamental trees and shrubs

You could face some issues when it comes to grafting trees and ornamental shrubs as it can be a struggle to undertake other means such as cultivars or cuttings. Grafting ornamental trees and shrubs also means plants, which grow weakly via their own root systems, can be strengthened and a larger flowering plant can be produced in a shorter timescale.

A technique that is commonly used for shrubs and ornamental trees is splice grafting. This technique is usually started in the early weeks of Spring ahead of the sap beginning to rise. However, it can also be pursued in the autumn months.

To start this, you need to cut the scion wood (located above the bud) into lengths of 15-25cm. The rootstock should also be cut down to around 7.5cm, before a downward nick of around 3cm is made below the top of the rootstock.

Next, begin at the top of the rootstock and make a downward sloping cut to meet the initial cut. Remove the slither of wood that is the result of this step. The scion wood should then be taken and a cut made along one side that is the same length as the cut that has already been made on the rootstock.

Now turn your attention to the base of the scion wood, by making a short-angled cut and fitting the base into the rootstock — the cambiums (which is the green layer found just underneath the bark) should meet during this process.

Finally, wrap the graft in some sort of tape to keep it in the correct position – use grafting wax to close any open surfaces. You should expect to see new growth from the graft around six to eight weeks after the procedure has been completed.

Grafting fruit trees

Dobies of Devon, specialists in garden plants and seeds stockist, give the lowdown on grafting fruit trees:

Fruit trees are another type of tree that is often grafted. They may become too vigorous if left to grow on their own root system. The technique also means a fruiting plan can be produced in a quicker period of time, while it allows a weak-growing cultivar to be invigorated too.

Another type of grafting that is often used is whip and tongue. This way of grafting is the recommended method when looking at fruit trees, with this often carried out during the month of March or into the early weeks of April, so long as rootstocks have been planted at least 12 months beforehand. However, there are some steps to take ahead of March arriving. Healthy and vigorous shoots from the scion tree should be selected either in December or January, with a 23cm length removed by cutting just above a bud on the tree. Five to six scions should then be bundled together and heeled into a site that is well-drained and sheltered, with between 5 and 7.5cm left showing above the soil to keep them moist yet dormant.

The top of a rootstock should be cut off at around 15-30cm above ground level – remember to trim the side shoots. This usually happens around February, ahead of bud break.

Now, you need to make a cut that is in an upward-sloping direction on one side that is 3.5cm. This also needs to exit half way through the stem, before making a downward cut that is one-third of the way down the exposed face that is the result of the first cut. This particular cut needs to be 0.5cm deep so to form the ‘tongue’.

It’s now time to focus on the scion. This should be around three to four buds long — and make a flat sloping cut that is 5cm long and positioned just behind a bud. By making an upward cut that is 5mm deep, the corresponding ‘tongue’ will be established.

After this process, the last thing that you need to do is bring the two ‘tongues’ together. They need to interlock and work to match the two cambiums together, binding everything together using either grafting tape or raffia.

 

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