I joined Portland’s Home Orchard Society earlier this year. Their web site has some useful information, but the benefits that really attracted me to them are their pruning workshops, grafting workshops and fruit propagation fair / scion exchange. I’m doing things in completely the wrong order…I got trees over the past years, have mindlessly planted and pruned them, subsequenty went to the HOS pruning workshop, and now I got scions this weekend and still need to do their grafting class. Worst case I’m going to replace a tree at some point and do things right.
Back in January, based on reading about “bench grafting”, I did some tongue and whip grafting mixing my three plum varieties into single trees. I’m not sure if any of those grafts took, though I decided yesterday one didn’t and I pruned it off. I am pretty sure I did these initial grafts poorly based on the shoulder surfing I did yesterday at the scion exchange where experienced people were doing proper bench grafting of scions onto root stock. It’s a lot harder to do on the tree in the yard than on a work bench. But now that I read the info sheets I got at the scion exchange I wonder if I need to give these grafts more time. The sap’s just really pushing now and it logically could need some time to push through and heal over the graft site. The other things I did sub-optimally were to use plain old wide rubber bands, wind them over the graft site tighter than I saw people doing yesterday, not use disinfectant on my tools and the wood as I joined it, split the branch while cutting the tongue with a kitchen knife and leave the entire whip of the scion instead of pruning it back to just three buds and sealing the end, and putting graft sealant over the entire rubber band instead of just the ends. About the only things I did right was the general shape of the graft, sizing the two pieces pretty close to one another and using graft sealant.
I got to the scion exchange about two hours into the event with the hope of getting a few cherry varieties, a peach and an apricot. No such luck. I got one of the cherry varieties I wanted. So I consoled myself by wandering around taking in the hundreds of varieties of scions available and arbitrarily picking a few cherry varieties (Sam, Chelan, Lapin) and some lighter yellow/red plums (“peach”, Mirabelle de Metz, Victoria) as well as one apple (McIntosh) and asian pear (Hosui) scion. I also bought a jig for bench grafting which came with a sharp knife, a chisel, grafting bands and a few other things. After trying to use it on my trees, I can definitely say the bench grafting jig is truly for bench grafting, but I thought I’d try. I didn’t go a great job on these grafts either and barely managed to not end up at the ER getting stitches in my fingers thanks to the sharp tools.
I put the plum scion wood on the santa rosa tree my parents brought me and onto which I’d already attempted adding Green Gage and Italian scions. The Italian is the one I (prematurely?) decided probably hadn’t taken, so I grafted a new piece of that on today also. If these scions take, this little tree will have six varieties of plum. It’s my experiment tree. I’ve been playing with pruning on it the past couple years. I originally topped it to get some whips spread at a good starting height and have been braiding those whips as they grow upward. Those braids are just starting to grow together. Maybe it will look cool in a decade? While doing that first bit of braiding I left two loops out opposite sides of the braid a few feet above the ground as I’m figuring I’ll move this tree somewhere else once I’m doing playing with it and want it to just grow and produce. Those loops will be handles to move the tree and maybe later foot holds for the grand kids to climb up into the tree. How’s that for a long term project?