Archive for March, 2014

Grafting 101.2 Tools

Posted in grafting, Grouse Mt. Farm, Pruning with tags , , on March 30, 2014 by Grouse Mt. Farm

Grafting is a fairly straight forward process, you don’t need many tools, but specific ones. Basically a sharp knife, or knives, depending on what kind of grafts you’re doing. I love tools so I try to use good quality and try to have what I need. If you’re only going to do a few grafts then using and/or modifying what you have may be the most prudent, rather then spend money on something you may not use again. Below is a picture of what I use when I graft.

Tools I Use For Grafting

Tools I Use For Grafting


Starting with saw, used to cut the tree (if the tree is bigger then a lopper could handle, or to not tear a branch up too much with a lopper). Some times a chain saw is in order if the tree is bigger, although you can cut a biggish tree with the hand saw, it makes for a much cleaner cut. Once again depending on how much there is to do and how much energy you care to or can put out. Then the loppers and hand shears, basic pruning tools used to clean branches out of the way and the hand cutters for the same and cutting scion wood to size, and useful all the time for work besides grafting. The tape we use is ‘grafting tape’, but it’s basically a vinyl tape. Some people use tape with adhesive which will work, some also use black electrical tape, which I discourage because of the excess heat generated by it in the heat of summer. I like 3/4″ or  1/2″ width, but sometimes it comes down to what you can find. The green nursery tape is widely available and works well. Basically you’ll be wrapping the cuts with the tape to cinch the grafts together and to keep the cut from drying out and to keep moisture and contaminants out as well. The yellow paint is also used to seal in and seal out, traditionally  a wax mixture was used, but we’ve found it difficult to keep it in the cut during the heat of summer, and not too easy to apply. We use Farwells Grafting Seal, available at nursery supply, hardware stores or on line. It washes off with water when still wet, but when it dries it’ll stick for years (don’t wear your best cloths when applying!) Not shown is a sharpening stone. It’s important to keep a keen edge on your blades, for ease of cutting and to keep tissue damage (on the scion wood) to a minimum. I prefer water stones over oil stones (oil and water refer to the liquid used to float the steel particles off the stone), my favorite are  combination 1200 and 4000 or 6000 grit water stones (wood working supply houses).

On to the knives: Having worked as a professional grafter I ended up making my own knives to suit my needs and because I couldn’t find what I wanted commercially. They are made from a old cross cut saw blade (the ones you might see with a painted mountain scene on it in a rural cafe) it’s good steel which holds a edge well. Short of that there are other options: Victorinox (Swiss Army Knife) makes a grafting knife which is the economical alternative to the Tina brand knife. I love my swiss army knife and carry it everywhere I go but the blade doesn’t hold a edge very well, it’s made from stainless steel. The Tinas on the other hand use a high carbon steel blade which holds and edge well, but is prone to tarnish and rust if not cared for. I recommend the Tina, but they are at least twice the price. In the pic above, from left to right are a folding Tina knife, my homemade and another modified knife used as a bark grafting knife (I’ll explain it’s use in a future post).


A few blade details: Most knives have what is called a double bevel. That is the angle that makes the edge of the blade which slopes in from both sides of the body of the blade to the cutting edge as shown below in the above image. It works well for cutting vegetables, whittling and whatever else you may need to cut with a knife. But for a grafting knife a single bevel makes the work much easier, it facilitates a smooth flat cut on the scion wood. As shown above, it’s the same bevel that chisel has, a single slope coming from the top of the blade to the cutting edge. On a grafting knife, the top of the blade depends on whether you are left of right handed. I am right handed, and looking at the blades in the photo above shows them from above, with the bevel sloping down on the left side of the blade. For a lefty, if the knife was flipped over, the slope would go from the top to the right edge.

Next post we’ll start grafting.

Grafting – 101.1

Posted in grafting, Grouse Mt. Farm, organic farming, Pruning with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2014 by Grouse Mt. Farm

I’m going to try to do a fairly complete series about grafting fruit trees, step by step throughout the spring and aftercare through the summer. For a quick read on grafting, what it is and why do it, check out this link of a blog entry I wrote a few years ago: and look up other resources where ever they may be .

I’ll be working with common fruit trees: apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries and walnuts. Some fruits are easier to graft then others. Apples and pears are probably the easiest, with the soft fruits a bit more finicky (mostly timing) and difficult to get a good take. Walnuts are the most difficult for me, I’ve only had scant success grafting them, but we will try… The techniques are similar with other species then those I’ve mentioned, mulberries and persimmons are fairly easy. If you want to try something else, I recommend looking up the specifics for the species on the web or library etc.

The first step is to collect scion wood (pronounced sign or sine). The wood must be collected when the tree you’re collecting from is dormant, mid to late winter is good. If early is the only possible time, as long as it’s dormant and you provide good storage it should be fine too. If it is collected too late in the winter/early spring, the scion will begin to grow after being grafted before it has fused with the tree you’ve grafted to and in short order exhausting  its reserves and drying out. When all goes well, the tree and scion form a connection then as the wood comes out dormancy it’s tapped in to the tree to provide the energy it needs to grow and survive.

Gathering Scion Wood

Gathering Scion Wood

Moderately vigorous one year old wood is optimum for scion wood. That means a branch that had grown in the previous season. Sometimes called suckers, generally upright growth about the size (diameter) of a pencil or slightly bigger, much bigger just makes for more difficult cutting when we get to the knife work. I’ve marked (rather crudely, I admit) an approximate point where you could cut scion wood from, on this particular tree (this tree was grafted two years previous, note the tape and paint on the trunk).




The second photo shows, in my opinion, optimum sized wood. The piece to right and apart from from the grouping of three is the top of the piece cut, this is usually soft and pithy, it may work , but I usually discard it. The others are firm mature wood ready for storage. I wet a few pieces of newspaper and wrap the scion wood in it, place in plastic bag and in to the refrigerator. Not too wet, but you don’t want it to dry out either, and protect from freezing. AND, remember  to label as to what variety it is, it all looks the same when grafting time comes!

I usually begin grafting cherries in late march or early April because cherry wood doesn’t keep well and begins to sprout while in storage. Apples and pears in April here, and the other soft fruits the third to fourth week in April, during a bit of a warm spell, if possible. The walnuts I’m still trying to figure out, but more towards the end of May when the weather has warmed up. I’ll write about tools in the next post.