When to graft apples

nc_orchard(7a)March 14, 2011

This will be my first year attempting to graft apple trees. I've studied up on the various methods and found a lot of useful information on this forum. However, I haven't been able to find any information on the appropriate time to graft. I collected my scion wood last month and have properly stored it. I have two apple trees I plan on grafting onto using whip and tongue and cleft grafts. One tree is at about 1/2" green tip and the other is at the green tip stage. Is now the time to graft to both trees? Is there an optimum time to graft to ensure the best probability of success.

Thanks in advance for any advice.

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You should be good to go any time now, but I like to let the leaves get a little more open. You've got a decent window of opportunity- a few weeks, anyway.

It's nice to see the host really ready to supply nutrients and moisture to the scion. Early grafting usually works, but can be set back by a cold snap. Later grafting usually works, but doesn't give the scion as much time to become established.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 10:24PM
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It is common where I live, to graft when the leaves are the size of mouse ears.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 3:25AM
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alan haigh

I actually get my best results in southeastern NY when I graft just at first signs of coming out of dormancy- silver tip. That way grafts are well established before the leaf hoppers set in. This is for apples and pears.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 6:00AM
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I was originally told "squirrel's ears" but I guess I could go with mouse just as well ...


    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 9:08AM
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alan haigh

The reason I found out early works well is that I've had clients to prune that were far away and also wanted me to do some grafts. I ended up doing both at the same time, some times when the trees were a week from even showing signs of growth. These early grafts have done better every time than grafts done a couple weeks later.

The closer the grafts leaf out to the rest of the tree the more growth they get during the tree's surge. Growth after the surge is much slower. This has been my experience comparatively and I wonder about others on this forum.

Frost isn't likely to be a problem because once the tree begins to leaf out it rarely gets cold enough to damage leaf buds or small leaves. Flower buds are more delicate.

I used to think that the grafts healed from cells generated by the tree and the idea was for the graft to leaf out after enough of this healing took place to support growth with adequate water. Therefore you'd want the tree well ahead of the graft. Now I think that the cells are generated from the graft itself- at least some of them and that everything happens as the graft starts to grow.

But this is just speculation- anyone got any research on it?

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 5:21PM
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What about bench grafting onto rootstock? It's nowhere near time to plant anything yet in our area -- ground is still frozen. Should I wait to graft until the ground is ready for planting so I can plant immediately after grafting, or is it OK to graft now and hold the plants in dormancy until the ground is ready?

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 8:22PM
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It's my understanding that bench grafting onto rootstock is commonly done during dormancy, and the pieces then held under refrigeration until planting. But I don't know and haven't tried it.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 9:41PM
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Do you wrap the scions after grafting? I am testing doing grafts in dormancy and after dormancy breaks. I hope later grafts work, I will not get apple scions from maple valley orchards in WI until April.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 10:41PM
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Would you recommend the same timing for Plums, Cherries, and Grapes?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 1:34PM
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alan haigh

I have lousy results grafting plums and have heard it's best to wait for warm weather, but others on this forum should be able to offer better guidance on this than me. Post the question and I think the concensus will be to wait until a stretch of warm weather (in the '70's) is in the forecast after trees start to grow.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 6:30PM
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