Grafting is the primary way to start a new fruit tree. With any grafting technique a piece of the desired tree/variety (scion) is attached to another root, trunk, or branch piece (rootstock) and the pieces are healed together to form a single plant with genetically separate parts. Typically one buys trees from a nursery, fully grafted and grown out in the field for a year or more.
I have done a fair amount of cleft grafting in the past as a way to change the variety of a tree or to hold over a variety on a single limb of an otherwise different tree. This, in my opinion, is one of the easiest grafting methods to learn and has fairly good success rates. I intend to cleft over any unsuccessful varieties in the orchard to new ones as years go on.
But if you want new trees, you have to start with smaller stock than that used in cleft grafting. In 2005 I decided to try my hand again at whip and tongue grafting, a skill I didn't really pick up in plant propagation class way back when. I did about 275 grafts that spring, 250 at work and 25 at home. At home I had 19 grafts take and start growth. My success at work is harder to measure due to some pretty extensive deer browsing in my nursery bed. In the future I intend to graft over as many of my own new trees as possible, both for the experience and for the economy ($1.50 per my grafted tree vs. $8.00 for nursery grafted trees).
I plan to graft some trees every year to fill holes in the orchard, prepare for new plantings, maybe have a few trees to sell down the road, and even just because it's fun. Grafting is a simple skill which is pretty amazing to see work its magic, and puts us humans in touch with a link in the natural world. I am just now starting to get fruit from various trees that I grafted years ago and it'w a pretty amazing feeling to think that this new plant and its fruit came from a little three-inch twig you cut yourself.
All material Copyright Terence Bradshaw 2006-2013
terryb at lostmeadowvt dot com