I am not someone who spends hours gardening, pruning trees or caring for them. I don't even notice if plants are dead or alive in the house, so I have resorted to artificial plants and flowers. Something that caught my eye this spring, however, was the stem grafting method my husband used for the first time on our apple tree. The apples we have are really tasty but not storable over the winter, which is why he experimented with grafting. The 200 hours of googling and research paid off when we found out it actually works!
Grafting is a horticultural technique where tissues of one plant are inserted into another so that the two sets of vascular tissues may join together, which is called inosculation. This technique is normally used in asexual propagation of commercially grown plants for the horticultural and agricultural trades.
Stem grafting is one of the most common methods used today. This is when a shoot or stem of a selected desired plant (known as the scion) is grafted onto the rootstock or a stem of another plant (known as the stock), so when the union heals, the cambium of the two plants meet and they act as a single plant. However, for successful grafting, the vascular cambium tissues of the stock and plants must be placed in contact of each other. Here both tissues are needed to be kept alive after grafting has taken place, which is usually a few weeks. There are several ways the stocks can be cut and bound together for grafting and we have used the Splice Graft method (see picture). The entire graft area can be sealed with warm grafting wax or grafting paint and raffia. Such joints formed by grafting are not as strong as naturally formed joints, therefore, particular care and attention is needed at this time.
A big advantage of grafting is the ability to induce fruitfulness without the need for completing the juvenile phase. Juvenility is the natural state through which a seedling plant must pass before it can become reproductive and this can take five to nine years. When you have a 20-year-old apple tree in the garden, you could produce other sorts of apples on the same tree within only two years when mature scions are grafted onto rootstocks.
There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples, resulting in a range of desired characteristics and in our case wanting the apples that are storable. We have now successfully fused four different kinds of apples into our tree. Seven out of the eight stems we grafted had successfully grown together and it is really a simple process anyone can carry out.
Good links for easy to do grafting are: http://www.homeorchardsociety.org or http://www.ehow.com