Home ||  Art  |  Books   Boats  | Garden | Orchard | Homestead Sewing  |  Music  |  EventsBlog  ||  Contact 




Other berries






The ManyTracks Orchard



Add Variety to Your Orchard, and Fun to Your Experience

grafted pear seedling

Four decades of Growing Good Food in the Northwoods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Down to Earth Information, Experiences, Thought



Orchard - Grafts Popped! - June 16, 2017

grafted scion growthThe most exciting point in grafting, to me, is that moment when one finally sees growth in a scion's bud(s), and you know there's a very good chance that your graft was successful. Many amateur grafters admit they check their grafts often (weekly? daily? hourly?!) for that little bit of green emerging from a bud that holds such wonderful promise. It could be a week, or two, or four, sometimes longer before that magical event occurs but it is a great cause for celebration, even if (and probably best if) only the birds and bees see the jump and shout of joy that happens upon that discovery. It has been three weeks since we grafted and 2/3 of our grafts show green growth now, from a little bit to significant leafing. Some others are close (buds swelling), others are holding out, not committing to growth yet. But there is still time. Our unusual (very unusual!) hot (to us) (days near 80) first half of June, with PLENTY of rain, making everything grow with unbounded enthusiasm has likely helped our scions grow faster than usual. Later I'll start dreaming of the fruit that these little trees will someday produce, but for now it is enough that they have decided to grow.

In the photo above it is the part above the wrap that is the scion growing (a Patten pear). The growth below the wrap is the rootstock growth. Those shoots will be pruned off later when I'm sure the scion is firmly attached and growing as part of the rootstock.

ORCHARD - Grafts Done! - May 26, 2017

Patton pear graftThe weather came through with temps in the 60's and a mostly sunny day for our Grafting Day. We had 26 grafts to do, the most we've ever done in one year -- apples, plums, pears, cherries -- and it went well. Steve does the knife work (all whip and tongue grafts except for a few very thin scions where there simply wasn't enough wood so we did a simple splice graft). Then I do my best to hold them carefully in place while wrapping first with a slightly stretchy Parafilm tape, then with regular rubber electrical splicing tape. The W&T technique really helps hold the two pieces together with the thin layers of cambium lined up (scion with the rootstock) while wrapping. The tape keeps the two firmly together until the graft calluses, fusing the scion to the rootstock on its way to being a new tree. I realize you need a good imagination to see how I could be excited about the stick in the photo! But that is a Patten pear scion (just a piece of last years growth cut from a Patten tree) grafted to a Ussuriensis pear (very hardy) rootstock. Some time in the future we will be eating tasty pears from a full size tree that started as this little stick. I have an old photo of a Patten Pear growing at the Chatham Experiment station in 1945 (back when they had an experimental orchard). Patten is a cross from the Univ. Minnesota introduced in 1922. 

If you look closely in the photo above you can see the scion piece looks a little odd. One trick towards successful grafting is to keep the scion from drying out before the graft calluses (and is then attached, connected and growing on the rootstock's root system). We don't have the problem with that here that they do in drier and windier areas, and didn't cover our scions (except for the top cut tip) the first five years of grafting and we've had very good success rates. But I want to give our grafts the best chance so at the recommendation of more experienced grafters I decided to cover the scions. Last year I wrapped the scions in Parafilm as we grafted. That worked well but was a little chancy as it's easy to wiggle the scion out of alignment (though we had excellent success rates last year, too). This year (2017) I decided to try the "wax" method (see below). I like it!


waxing scionsThis year (2017) I decided to try dipping the scions in melted wax before grafting as recommended by a number of folks on the Growing Fruit forum. I found a wide mouth plastic insulated 'thermos' at the thrift store, shaved maybe an inch of beeswax and old candle wax into it, filled it with boiling hot water and organized my scions on the table. It was fun and reminded me of early years when we used to make dozens of dipped candles for our use (I still have dozens of dipped candles! Now we have dozens of LED lights all over the house!).

It didn't take long before I had a table covered with well waxed little sticks of wood; all labeled and ready to go back into their triple plastic bags and back in the root cellar until time to graft. The little colored clips on the scions in the photo are quilting/sewing/craft clips to attach the labels. It's too easy to get the scions mixed up! They worked well and were easy to remove and re-attach as we grafted pieces of the scions in the field.

I liked the wax method. It was easy, spread out the work a little, and didn't interfere with the grafting. The buds pop right through the Parafilm or wax when they start growing. Grafting is a lot of faith, quite a bit of skill, and a whole lot of magic!

SCIONS! - February 25, 2018

It's quite a ways off before I'll be working in the orchard but the planning and dreaming is rampant during these snowy months. I walk around the orchard quite often, admiring the hardy trees and seedlings, imagining harvests to come. But a highlight this time of year is when ordered scions arrive to be grafted onto waiting trees and seedlings later in May. Finally, something concrete to do! Well, there really isn't much to do with them but I make the most of what there is. To many they are just small cuttings off a tree (which they are) but a whole new world of yet untasted fruit is hidden in those little sticks. Most (all?) of the varieties we're grafting I've never eaten, going by others' experiences and recommendations in choosing. We don't have a lot of grafting to do this year but I've made some trades with folks in other parts of the country, what I have for what they have, so small envelopes of small sticks arrive now and then (I'll be cutting and sending mine soon).

long scionsThis year I ordered some scions of varieties I couldn't find elsewhere from the US National Plant Germplasm System. It's an incredible resource, underfunded and understaffed with very dedicated people who cut and send out hundreds of cuttings from their vast collections of trees for those who want to trial (or breed) different varieties. For me, it's finding apple and pear varieties that will grow well in this area but aren't common here (often from Canada). And they are very generous with the amount of wood they send. Most sources send one or two 6" pieces (which actually is plenty) but not these folks. They want to make sure you have what you need. And they are excellent cuttings.

labeled scionsScions have to be cut when the tree is dormant and kept in that state until ready to graft. But one doesn't graft until trees start to grow in the spring. So you keep them well wrapped (so they don't dry out) and cool until then. Sometimes all I do is triple wrap them in plastic bags and store in the root cellar. But this year I decided to wax them now before storing. This keeps the scion from drying both now and after they're grafted. Plus it's fun. So today was the day to sort, admire, cut to length, wax, label and carefully wrap and store all the sticks I have so far. Since I had so much extra wood I also prepared pieces of each variety and potted them to try rooting them to grow on their own roots (instead of grafting). It's rare to be successful at this but that's all the more reason to try! So the main waxed scions are securely stored in the root cellar and a collection of adventurous cuttings are warmly hanging out and hopefully thinking of rooting in pots by the woodstove. A good day for all.


Back to top

To comment
, ask questions, or just say Hi - click here  Contact Us. We enjoy hearing from our online friends and visitors!

Enjoy these articles? Feel free to leave a tip!  All donations go toward providing live music for non-profit events, activities, and audiences.   You can donate to ManyTracks using: Credit Cards logos.     Thank You!! We do appreciate it.

* Should you want to use all or part of one of our articles in a non-profit publication, website or blog we simply ask that you give proper credit and link (such as "article by Sue Robishaw/Steve Schmeck from www.ManyTracks.com"), and we'd enjoy knowing where it is used. Thanks!

       We always appreciate links to our site www.ManyTracks.com from appropriate sites, and we thank you for recommending us!

Have you read  "Frost Dancing - Tips from a Northern Gardener" ? A fun short read.

or "Homesteading Adventures"    Creating our backwoods homestead--the first 20 years.

and "Growing Berries for Food and Fun"   A journey you can use in your own garden.

updated 01/16/2017

     Home ||  Art  |  Books   Boats  | Garden | Orchard | Homestead Sewing  |  Music  |  EventsBlog  ||  Contact