Grafting is a fascinating aspect of growing fruit trees. Apples, for example, do not grow true to type. This means that if you plant an apple seed from a honeycrisp apple, the tree that grows will not produce honeycrisp apples. The only way to get a tree that will grow honeycrisp apples is to take a little bit of wood, or “scion”, from an existing honeycrisp tree and graft it onto an existing tree. You can also graft multiple types of apple on one tree, which is handy if you have limited space.
I thought it would be a good idea to learn how to graft. There are lots of different types of apples that grow in the Edmonton area that we would like to try to make cider out of. Not all of these varieties are easy to find. In some cases the only way to grow them is to get some of the wood from an existing tree and graft it yourself.
A Chance to Learn Grafting
Lucky for me there was a course offered at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden on grafting! I signed up to see if it this was something I might be able to do myself.
The course was so informative. We started talking about the theory of grafting, the reasons it works and the reasons it may not work. We had a chance to look at some examples of grafts that worked well, and some that weren’t very successful.
Most of the people attending the class were interested in working with fruit trees. It worked out perfectly because we talked a lot about apples and related fruits. We also learned a bit about some other really interesting applications of grafting; the instructor said he had grafted watermelons on certain squash roots to help them grow better in cooler climates!
Time to Practice Grafting Techniques
With all the theory in hand we had a chance to actually try it ourselves! First we tried a few different types of budding, which is basically just attaching one bud on to the growing tree. It turns out that making the cuts smoothly and at the right depth is a lot harder than it looked! The instructor assured us that we just needed to practice more and sharpen our knives.
We then tried some grafting, where you attach an actual piece of stick. Again, the hardest part was getting the nice clean cuts at the right angle. My little practice stick isn’t going to do much as it was just random sample material, but it was still fun to make. I’ll definitely be sharpening my knife and practicing a bit more before I try to pull this off on an actual tree!