This weekend we left our little urban farm and headed three hours south to Decorah, Iowa the home of Seed Savers Exchange. They put on an apple grafting seminar and we thought it was a great opportunity to learn how do our own grafting and see Seed Savers first hand.
Even without the grafting workshop the trip would have been worthwhile as Heritage Farm at Seed Savers is a really beautiful place and the town of Decorah is beautiful and interesting. That said the apple grafting workshop was amazing! We were interested in taking the workshop so we would have access to more unique and rare apple varieties. There are over 17,000 different named variates of apple but only a few hundred of them can be purchased commercially as grafted trees. By learning to do our own grafting the world of apples opens up as a cutting from a tree is all that is needed to create our own.
The purpose of grafting apple trees is to get a specific apple variety to grow with a size and hardiness you desire. All non standard sized apple trees are grafted onto a rootstock that controls how the tree grows. The type of fruit the tree produces is determined by the scion-wood that is grafted to the rootstock. Scion-wood is a dormant one year old cutting from the desired apple variety. We learned the the trick of successful grafting is to create contact between the living cambium layers of wood in the scion-wood and rootstock. By achieving this the rootstock and scion-wood can fuse together and become one living tree.
During our class the instructor demonstrated several different grafting techniques, then helped us do our own grafting of three trees each. With successful grafts we could have 6 new apple trees to plant! We'll know for sure in 4-6 weeks if the buds on the scion-wood leaf out.
If grafting sounds interesting we would really recommend taking the class next year at Seed Savers or getting the book The Grafters Handbook by R. J. Garner.