I’m Excited To Try This New Tool For Grafting Trees

Grafting apple trees has always been a skill I’d like to learn. Thanks to a new collection of grafting tools and supplies, I'm ready to give it a go.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson

Grafting apple trees has always been in the back of my mind as a skill I’d like to learn. I even gave it a try with some bud grafts on an apple tree a few years back. But I wasn’t equipped with the right tools. The buds didn’t survive.

But 2022 is going to be different. This is the year I’m going to conquer grafting apple trees once and for all. This time around, I’m heading into the project with a clear goal and a suitable array of tools and supplies.

Surely this is a recipe for success?

The Details of My Farm

Let me fill you in on the details. On my farm, there are a couple of very old apple trees that might be pushing 100 years old. The farm itself was settled more than a century ago. So if the apple orchard was an early planting, ages of ~100 years would make sense.

There used to be two other old apple trees. A storm felled one, however, and the passing of time claimed another, leaving two stalwarts behind. Of the surviving pair, one is a Duchess of Oldenburg still producing apples despite the fact its crown is gradually dying back. The other has a massive trunk but only one surviving branch.

It hasn’t produced apples in many years. I’m afraid it’s close to fading away.

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Read more: Have old trees that need to be rejuvenated? Here’s how to prune them to encourage new growth!

Why Do I Want to Graft?

I’ve always been interested in preserving the genetics of these old trees by means of grafting. If I can take viable scion shoots from the old trees and graft them onto new rootstock, I can create genetic clones that will carry on the legacies of the farm’s original apple trees.

To me, that’s a very exciting thought.

In mid-December, a massive thunderstorm with strong winds blew down a bevy of conifers across my farm. But I was relieved to find the elderly apple trees survived. Since they escaped this close call, I’m determined to propagate successful clones in 2022.

This is where my new grafting tools and supplies come into play.

Read more: Make sure you have the right tool for the job at hand!

My Arsenal of Tools

Leading the way is a specialized hand tool designed for making perfect grafting cuts. Interchangeable blades allow the tool to slice through apple tree shoots exactly as needed to create four different types of grafts—primarily different variations of whip and tongue grafts, but also bud grafts.

This is a big positive. Successful whip and tongue grafts require the cambium layers of the scion and stock to line up perfectly, which means the two cuts must match each other as closely as possible.

This can be tricky to achieve with pruning shears and a knife. So I’m optimistic my new four-way grafting tool will deliver the precision needed for successful grafts.

But the grafting tool is only part of the equation. I also have grafting wax (to seal the cuts and prevent them from drying out), grafting tape (to hold everything in place while the bonding between cambium layers takes place) and a book about grafting (to learn the techniques in greater detail).

I’ve long been a proponent of having the right tool for every job. So I’m excited to tackle propagating new versions of old apple trees with my new grafting supplies. Wish me luck!

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