grafting practice?

lsohDecember 12, 2012

I have a small unwanted tree. It's 3' to 4' tall. Looks like an oak to me, but I really don't know. I'm going to cut it down. But it occurs to me, maybe I could use it to try some grafting techniques. The purpose would be soley educational. I would still remove the tree in the end. Can I graft parts of this tree to other parts of this tree? If so, when would I do it? Any suggestions?


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Best time to graft oaks is in spring, just as the leaves are beginning to unfurl. Scionwood(the piece you're grafting onto the rootstock) needs to have been collected while dormant and held under refrigeration - in a ziploc bag with moist(not wet) paper towel until time to graft.
A simple bark graft works great.
In general, you need to stay in the same section - members of the white oak group graft onto other members of the white oak group, red/black oaks onto red/black understock.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 11:57PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

though an acorn is a fruit ...

i dont know why this question is here in this forum .. perhaps simply because you like the peeps.. and that is good enough ...

you can only graft certain oaks.. to certain oaks.. so you arent going to be grafting fruit onto an oak ...

so you would first have to ID your oak .. and that gets real tricky.. as you will have to wait until it leafs out.. tying in with the fact that very young oaks.. sometimes do not have true leaves ...

and then ID any other oak to see if there is viability ..

grafting is done on dormant trees .. with dormant scion ... in the oak world anyway ... timing is critical .. one usually does not graft scion with leaves on it.. so when lucky says 'spring' that isnt to definitive ...

also .. grafting is usually done on about .. 3 year old stock.. or when your seedling was about a foot to 18 inches tall .. yes i know fruit peeps do it other ways ... but when you expand past the fruits.. it isnt as simple as the fruit nuts make it seem ...

and none of this is meant to override anything a fruit pro wants to say ...

i am just figuring that you really dont want to kill a weed tree.. and are thinking about going mad scientist on it ... which is fine with me.. i just dont understand.. from what you wrote.. what your goal is .. oak to oak ... or what .. and defining your goal.. is the best place to start ...

now.. if your ID'd oak.. would accept quercus robur ... then it would be cool if you could graft something like the one at the link .. now that would be something ..

my best suggestion.. would be to dig and pot it ... in late winter.. ID it next summer.. and then figure of what can be done with it next fall/winter ... the peeps in the tree forum could help you with that ...

or bonsai it ... thats a different version of mad scientist.. lol ...


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 7:30AM
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Thank you luck_p. I'll check out bark grafting.

Thank you ken. But apparently I wasn't clear in my first post. Maybe my use of the word "grafting" is incorrect? I am *not* going to save this tree. I'm considering attempting to use it as a learning opportunity before I remove it. I'm new at growing fruit. Grafting may or may not be in my future. I'd like to learn how to graft a branch of one variety onto a tree of another variety, so that an apple tree might produce two varieties of apples for example. (Again, maybe the word grafting isn't right here?). I'd rather not experiment on my few fruit trees. I happen to have a small unwanted volunteer tree, probably an oak. For purposes of learning to graft, can I remove branches of THIS tree and graft them elsewhere onto THIS tree? If so, I am looking for suggestions on techniques to try. This tree will be removed either way. If I can use it to attempt to learn some grafting methods, I would keep it long enough to see if the grafts were successful or not. But then I would still remove the tree. I'm just checking to see if I can take advantage of the tree before I remove it.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 9:48AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


I'm going to probably give you a different perspective on grafting from what you've ever heard/thought.

I'm not an expert grafter/nurseryman and my advice does not go beyond fruit trees. That said, I feel comfortable grafting stone or pome fruits and have had good success with both.

When I desired to start grafting, I wanted to do it right. I talked with a professional nurseryman about it, bought a book, asked lots of questions on a fruit forum, and even had an experienced Nafexer (Bob Purvis) out to my house to show me how to graft.

The end of it all is lots of people talk about technique (i.e. having the knife super sharp, making only one pass with the knife to shape the whip, spraying the graft with copper, ect.) I once read some people can't be taught to graft. In my opinion, it's all pretty much baloney.

There are a few simple critical things to remember about grafting and beyond that, anyone can do it, I daresay without any practice.

-Collect and store the scionwood as Lucky mentioned above. Make sure the scionwood has not broken bud or is not moldy when you take it out of the refrigerator.

-Graft at the correct temperature. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT CRITERIA for a successful graft. It's my opinion (and experience) most new grafters fail for this reason. They are excited and want to graft too early in the season. Temperature is more critical for some types of fruit than others. Peaches are one of the most temperature sensitive. During callusing, the highs for the day need to ideally be between 80-90F. I've experienced this in the past, but this summer really drove it home to me. I budded about 20 peach trees too early in the summer and the temperatures immediately spiked to above 100F. Every single one of the grafts cooked. Not a one took. I also budded about 10 peach grafts too late in the season. The highs only got to about 75F. It was too cool for callusing and it looks like most (if not all) of those grafts are failures. However, I budded another 20 peach grafts at the right time of the season when temps were between 80 and 90F for the high. 17 of those callused in properly and look to be viable buds. Other fruit trees will callus at cooler temperatures, but the point is temperature is much more important than technique.

-Whatever graft you choose to do (cleft, bark, whip) make sure a good portion of the cambiums line up. I try to work quickly so the cambium tissue doesn't turn brown during the process.

-Wrap the graft with something to hold it in place while it calluses(grafting rubbers, tape, ect.) After trying lots of different things, I happen to like rubber electrical tape (rubber not vinyl) for this step. I cut strips longways so they are only about 3/8" wide. I pre-stretch the rubber tape and wrap the graft. The tape sticks to itself (very friendly to use) but doesn't rip the bark off when it's removed.

-Lastly, seal the graft to protect it from dessication. I use Parafilm. Lucky has recommended it for a long time and I finally broke down and bought a roll. I'm glad I made the investment. Lovely stuff. Pre-stretch it and wrap your grafts in a couple layers and they will be protected from drying out, while still being allowed to "breathe". I keep my Parafilm roll in the freezer so it doesn't get old.

Remember nut trees are harder to graft than pomes and stone fruits, so if you fail on your oak, that doesn't mean you'll fail on other fruits.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 10:41AM
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I've grafted lots of oaks - various selections of members of the white oak group, onto bur oak understocks. Most of the white oak group is pretty compatible with one another, though some issues arise within the red/black group - there are some problems with peroxidase enzyme incompatibilities, etc.
In my experience, oaks are not significantly more difficult to graft, with good success rates, than most of the pomefruits like apple/pears - and I've had better success with oaks than with stonefruits. Timing may be a bit more critical than with apples/pears - it's really important to graft your dormant-collected oak scions onto the rootstock at or soon after budbreak.
Nothing wrong with practicing on this little oak - though if you're into fruiting plants, I'd probably be practicing my whip, whip & tongue, saddle, etc. graft techniques on some random apple branch prunings in the warmth and comfort of my home. Bark grafting and T-budding pretty much require that the bark be 'slipping' - you'd have to 'force' some branches to really get a good feel for those techniques.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 12:43PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

if you want stock.. to learn how to graft .... and have a few years..

then start planting apple seeds ... and learn how to grow trees in pot ...

to generate the stock..

to learn how to graft ...

and if successful.. you have understock to graft good scion onto.. in a few years ...

you are basically asking for a graduate thesis in grafting.. in a GW post ...

what i suggest.. is you call your local county extension office.. and find out if they know of any nearby GRAFTING CLASSES ... or call a nearby arboretum ... and see if they know ...

the actual grafting is not all that hard.. but i gotta tell you.. the science behind it is baffling ...


    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 1:35PM
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If you haven't already, consider watching grafting videos on Youtube. It brings home the many ways to graft, knives to use, etc. I had taken a class before, but there is much to be learned by seeing it up close. I also try to watch grafters at fruit society shows. Enjoy yourself, it is like magic.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 7:50PM
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Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 8:33PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

I bet you could chip bud an oak easily... although i speak with no evidence to back that up :) I'll try if my oak trees ever get big enough.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 1:04AM
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I think Olpea makes an excellent point about temperature- it is something I overlooked completely for the longest time, but got away with it on apples and pears because they're so forgiving; stone fruit are harder. I finally hit a plum right, but have failed at apricot (never attempted a peach). I have a new apricot I grafted to this summer and I think it might be OK.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 7:44AM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

Wow,I live in Western Washington and it barely gets in the 80's most years.I hope I can successfully graft sometime.Brady

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 9:06AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


There are fruit nurseries in western WA so I'm sure you can successfully graft there. Of the stone fruits, peaches and apricots are the most temperature sensitive. Plums and tart cherries are more forgiving. I've never tried to graft sweet cherries.

In my earlier post I indicated a daily high of 80-90F is the most optimum temperature for peaches. That doesn't mean you can't graft peaches successfully outside that range. It may just mean you just have lower % takes. In cooler temps it also probably depends on how many hours per day the temps are cooler. Here, there is generally about a 20 degree variance between daytime highs and lows, so that a graft done when the daytime high is 75 will experience a nighttime low of, say, 55F. There may be only a few hours where the temp is close to 75F. Peach callusing is going to be very slow for those temps making for a lower probability of success.

If western WA has less variance between daytime highs and lows you may well get by just fine with 75F highs.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 11:15AM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

Okay thanks olpea.I can always try.Probably the first attempt will be with Mulberry.It's something that is at hand and I've read that it is one of the more graft friendly plants. Brady

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 2:21AM
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megamav(5a - NY)

I have a link here that you may find helpful.
Its a collection of videos on grafting.
It may help you avoid common mistakes, and get you going in the right direction.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 11:39AM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

Thanks megamav and a good way to link.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 3:42PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)


Thanks for the tip on temperature. I knew peaches needed to be hot calloused, but I never gave it a thought for other fruit trees. Maybe there is hope for me yet.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 10:12PM
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