Mummy says…It has been reported that gardens are becoming smaller and have been for the past two decades – it is therefore important to know how to make the most of your limited space. One way to do this is grafting.
Dobies of Devon, a garden plant and seeds stockist, give us an insight into this gardening technique and how to do it effectively.
In horticulture terms, grafting is a term where a bud, scion or a shoot of a plant is inserted into an
opening in a stem or stock of another plant so that it can continue to grow.
Examples of plants that can be grafted include ornamental trees, shrubs and fruit trees. Find out
more about why you should grow grafted plants here, and read on to find a step by step guide to grafting…
Grafting ornamental trees and shrubs
Ornamental trees and shrubs tend to be grafted as an alternative to cuttings or cultivars which do
not come true from the seed.
Grafting ornamental trees and shrubs also means plants, which grow weakly via their own root systems, can be strengthened and a larger flowering plant can be produced in a shorter timescale.
The technique used here is usually side-spliced grafting. This is usually done in the early weeks of
spring ahead of the sap beginning to rise – it can also be pursued in the autumn months.
- The process of side-splicing begins by cutting the scion wood just above a bud into lengths between
15 and 25cm. The rootstock should also be cut down to around 7.5cm, before a downward nick of
around 3cm is made below the top of the rootstock.
- Following this, you should start at the top of the rootstock and make a downward sloping cut which
will meet the first cut. Remove the slither of wood that is the result of this step.
- Take the scion wood and make a cut along one side that is the same length as the rootstock cut.
- Now focus on the base of the scion wood. Make a short-angled cut and fit the base into the
rootstock – the cambiums (the green layer found underneath the bark) should meet during this
- Finally, the graft must be wrapped to ensure it is secure. This can be done with grafting tape,
polythene strips or raffia, and paint any exposed surfaces with grafting wax. You should expect to
see new growth from the graft around six to eight weeks after the procedure has been completed.
Grafting fruit trees
Gardeners often graft fruit trees as they may become too unruly if left to grow on their own root
system. The technique also means a fruiting plan can be produced in a quicker period, while it allows
a weak-growing cultivar to be invigorated.
Fruit trees should be grafted during the month of March or early week of April – as long as rootstocks have been planted at least 12 months beforehand. The recommended method is called whip and tongue grafting.
- Ahead of March (in December or January), healthy and vigorous shoots from the scion tree should
be selected, with a 23cm length removed by cutting just above a bud on the tree.
- Five to six scions should then be bundled together and heeled into a site that is well-drained and sheltered, with between 5 and 7.5cm left showing above the soil to keep them moist yet dormant.
- When February arrives, the rootstock should be cut at about 15-30cm above ground level and the side-shoots trimmed.
- The next thing to do is to make an upward-sloping slit 3.5cm long on one side that exits half way through the stem.
- Following this, create a downward cut that is one-third of the way down the exposed face that is the result of the first cut. This cut needs to be 0.5cm deep so to form the ‘tongue’.
- Focus must now be placed on the scion – this should be three to four buds long. Make a flat sloping cut that is 5cm long behind a bud. By making an upward cut that is 5mm deep, the corresponding ‘tongue’ will be established.
- The two ‘tongues’ then must be brought together so they are interlocked. Work to match the two cambiums together and bind using grafting tape or raffia.
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Have you heard of grafting in the garden before?