How to Graft Apple Trees

Written by stevie kremer
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A Macintosh apple seed can grow into an apple tree, but it will not produce Macintosh apples. Fruit trees cannot reproduce in "true" form from seeds. They can be reproduced only by grafting. A graft is a technique in which a part of a stem that includes leaf buds of the desired tree is inserted into another tree. The other tree acts as the host and provides nutrients to the stem section of the desired tree. Only the grafted stem will produce the desired apples. Several grafts can be made to one "understock" or host tree, so that in time, one branch may produce Macintosh apples, another branch may grow Jonathans, and another may produce Granny Smiths. To graft one type of apple tree onto another is not rocket science, but can be a little tricky.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Apple tree
  • Dormant scion
  • Grafting knife
  • Grafting tape or electrician's tape
  • Asphalt water emulsion compound
  • Palette knife

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  1. 1

    Cut two or three sections of a stem from last year's growth of the apple type that you desire to graft. The stems should be no more than 0.5 inch in diameter. Do this at the end of Winter, while the trees are still dormant. Tie the stems (called "scions") together and place them moist sawdust or moss and keep them in a cool, dark place until spring.

  2. 2

    Prepare to make the graft in April, just as the buds are beginning to open on the host tree. Choose a branch on the host tree (called the "understock") that when cut off, leaves a stub that is about 12 inches long and is of the same diameter as the scion you wish to graft.

  3. 3

    Use the grafting knife to slice the end of the understock stub at a slant of about 1.5 inches long. Work slowly to ensure that the cut is straight and not wobbly. Using the grafting knife, make a similar slanting cut on one end of the scion. Take your time so that the angle you cut on the scion matches the angle you made on the understock stub.

  4. 4

    Carefully match the two cut ends together; wrap them together firmly with electrician's tape.

  5. 5

    Use a palette knife to cover the whole taped area and any cracks that might be visible between the two slanted, cut surfaces with the asphalt water emulsion compound. The asphalt compound will protect the graft by keeping water (and resulting rot) out and nutrients in.

Tips and warnings

  • Ensure the scions are dormant and that they are kept moist, not wet, until it is time to graft them.
  • Be careful with the sharp grafting knife when cutting the angles on the understock and the scion.

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