Ignorant grafting questions

ltiltonSeptember 3, 2012

So I got three grafts growing on my Keiffer pear tree. What now? I'm thinking I should cut back the rest of the branches beyond the point where the grafts are growing.

Assuming that the scion wood came from bearing trees, should I expect them to flower next spring? To fruit? If they set fruits, should I allow them to grow, or would this be too much weight too soon on the graft union? These were cleft grafts.

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Congratulations on your grafts!

Not quite sure what you mean by "cut back the rest of the branches". Pictures would help. You should eliminate competition with the graft, yes, but don't hew the entire tree back to the length of the grafts. Cut off any branches that form on the branch to which the graft is made.

In the spring you'll want to head back all the lateral scaffolds to encourage vigorous growth on the wood that will eventually form fruit spurs. Head them back to a well-placed bud while maintaining a good shape to the tree. But this pruning is almost entirely in the new growth- you usually won't want to go back into two and three year old wood.

Don't let the scions fruit next spring- they aren't likely to, but it does happen sometimes if you happened to graft on a fruit spur. The job of maturing the fruit will overtax and stunt the graft. Not so much a matter or weight as it is of starvation!

I may be missing the point here and I welcome correction and comments, but that's the way I'd approach it anyhow.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 10:13PM
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Thanks, that was informative. I'm sure I did a lot of stuff wrong as this was my first attempt at field grafting.

When would it be reasonable to expect the scions to fruit - and to allow them to fruit?

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 11:01PM
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alan haigh

When I'm basically replacing scaffolds with another variety I use the previous variety to help me train the new branch- especially when a graft has been placed on a water sprout on the interior of said original scaffold.

I actually usually let the graft grow upright for 2 years before using the part of the branch outside the graft to anchor the graft to a more horizontal position and then I gradually remove wood of the original branch as the graft spreads out and replaces it by growing over it. I also summer prune the original branch of all vigorous wood from the first season until its removal to assure greater vigor of the graft.

The graft will grow more quickly while growing upright but should be pulled to a more horizontal position before it becomes too stiff to bend.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 6:41AM
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A single scion may two or three more years to spur up and start to bear, and with some pear varieties it can take five or more years!

After your scion reaches a reasonable length (maybe this coming spring if things go well) head it back to force growth along its length. Encourage lateral shoots off of it and manage these as pencils. The pencils will eventually become your fruit bearing wood and can be cut back as they become too old, making room for new pencils. Vigorous shoots that want to go up, down, or back into the tree should be removed at once, and the laterals will do well as competition is removed.

But the scion can be allowed to fruit before it forms pencils- just not this coming year and probably not the next. Not likely that it would on a pear anyhow, but could happen.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 6:53AM
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OK, so my plan to cut back the Keiffer branches this fall to the point of the graft would be premature.

This discussion makes me wonder why there's an emphasis on taking scions from bearing trees only. I had assumed it was to ensure earlier fruiting.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 11:05AM
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alan haigh

I disagree with the idea of cutting back growth to accelerate maturity. In my opinion, one begins spur pruning after bearing begins for renewal and the cycling out of old spurs. The graft on a bearing pear tree should only take 3 years to completely spur up without any heading back- at least that is my experience. The general rule- the less pruning the earlier to maturity.

Pruning doesn't accelerate bearing (except perhaps when removing entire branches in a young tree)- spreading branches to a more horizontal position does.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 11:38AM
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I always appreciate HMan's expertise. It's hard for me to imagine knowing more than a small fraction of what he has in his experience.

Alan, would you say then that it's better to not remove wayward growth from a developing scion? Is it better to let it do what it will so as to build the overall branch?

Thanks for your responses.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 5:50PM
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My thought is not to head back the grafted branch but the Keiffer branch onto which it is grafted. I hope eventually to replace the Keiffer branches with other varieties. My thought is that cutting back the Keiffer branch to the point of the graft would strengthen the grafted wood.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 6:02PM
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alan haigh

I wouldn't remove wayward growth beyond pinching during summer to steer it towards being central leader. The idea is for it to increase in diameter as quickly as possible as I see it. Once the graft dominates the branch more aggressive pruning can be pursued.

Enough pinching and such aggressive pruning won't be necessary. The pinching would be to slow lateral branches so the center of the graft dominates. In other words, encouraging the domination of the central leader of the new branch.

Heading back the Kiefer branch is fine but it may stimulate vegetative growth that should be pinched off several times during the growing season to keep sap flowing primarily to the graft.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 6:15PM
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Great question, I've been wondering the same. Thanks for asking and to those who answered. Finally tried bud and t grafting. It seems like magic - well, we'll see anyway.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 6:52PM
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Another question. Of my three living pear grafts, one seems doubtful. The scion leafed out but stopped after three leaves. They're all three still there.

What are the chances that such a marginal graft will still be alive and growing next year?

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 7:46PM
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I don't know why this happens but it happens to me a lot. In my experience the chances of survival are nearly 100%, but I don't know why those scions don't push out better. They generally seem to get established and eventually take off, so I leave them on. But they take a year to catch up.

Should it turn out to be a spur, and blossom next spring, don't let it. Pinch off the bud as soon as possible and encourage growth in the branch. As Hman puts it, encourage the domination of the central leader of the new branch.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 8:28PM
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Thanks. That's encouraging news. The graft is a Comice and I want it to grow.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 8:59PM
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