Chip Budding apples on young green seedlings?

I have grown a bunch of apples and crabapples from seed this winter under lights in root pruning containers. I plan to keep them over the summer sizing up containers and then plant them in the field this fall. Some I plan just to let grow out, but many I will graft to specific DR varieties next spring. Here is how they look now:

The largest is about 46" above the container and closing in on 1/4". I received some scions from GRIN this year. I just finished field grafting most of the trees I previously planted in the field (I only did a few the first time around). Most were Siberian crab and leafed out early. I have a few more grown from other seeds that I’ll graft soon, after they begin to push leaves.

The scions I got from GRIN are all on the small side. I already know I’ll have more scions than I can use on my fielded trees, so I was looing for smart uses. I picked up a half dozen M111 rootstock that were small diameter and grafted them last night an potted them in root pruning containers and put them under lights. I did one for each variety so that if my field grafts of that variety fail, I’ll maximize the chance I’ll have a backup.

I will still have some left and was again trying to find smart uses. Here is my thought and question:

I’m considering trying to chip bud these to the seedlings I have growing. These are still very green and I presume too small in diameter to chip bud. The largest ones are close to 1/4" in diameter. However, since these trees got such an early start (zone 7a) from the indoor start, I wonder if they can be chip budded in a month or so.

In addition to the efficient use of scion wood, I’m thinking there would be several advantages. First, the grafting done on containerized trees can be done more easily and under more controlled conditions. Second, I would get an extra season of growth on the grafted variety. While I have not chip budded before, I understand it can be done with dormant buds and you don’t have to wait until the following spring to get much growth as you often do with T-budding. The one answer I can’t find relates to how green the understock can be.

  1. Has anyone done this or chip budded to green herbaceous growth?
  2. If not, just how lignified does the rootstock need to be?
  3. Any guesses as to when these trees might support chip budding?
  4. Any hints, thoughts, or critique?
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Grafting to green herbaceous growth may be doable, but my limited experience with fine, very flexible rootstock is that it is way too easy to cut right through it. My instincts are to wait until the wood is lignified as much as possible.

You are quite right that chipping can be done at about any time- it can supplement spring or summer grafting perfectly well. It makes great use of your stock of scions, the same as budding. And it’s as easy as it gets. About the only downside I can think of is that the resulting growth has a kind of “perched” look, as if it were stuck on with glue as an afterthought. But I have chips on my pear tree that are happily bearing regularly with not problems and I never notice the look.

That’s a nice, healthy-looking batch of seedlings you have going there! Looks like a lot of fun to me …

I’m an instant gratification guy and that’s one of the things I don’t like about budding. Often the buds take and it’s too late in the season to force growth. So you need to wait until the next spring to force the bud. If that’s the case I would be just as easy to graft.

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I bet you could t-bud those too. I would think that the base of the seedlings should be lignified enough by now with that much growth. And with the vigor I would bet the bark is slipping. T buds can easily be forced to grow the same year too.

My winning graft last was Williams Pride T-budded to a branch of Zestar after the first graft got knocked off in mid May. I think it grew 5’.

Here it is on 6/26 of last year.

Thanks for the replies. Interesting the different perspectives on T-budding. I think I’ll give them a couple more weeks. I’ll report back as things proceed.

Those are perfect for T budding but only if you could remove the wood from the scion bud. They appear too small in caliper to insert a bud with wood included. Apple scion wood won’t be mature enough to remove the wood until June. Therefore you are left with chip budding using dormant scions.

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Good point. I’m pretty sure I’m going to go with chip budding at this point. I’m still concerned they are too herbaceous. Hopefully in a couple of weeks that will begin to change.

I had been estimating girth by simply holding a tape in front of them. My largest is about 50" now, but I finally grabbed a caliper and the girth is only 0.20 inches. Looks like I’ll be waiting a while to graft…

Well, I started chip budding last night. I kind of like it. I haven’t taken any pictures yet but I will. It actually seemed to work quite well. The apple seedlings grew so fast they can not support themselves. Even with the wire flags as support they want to flop over. So, cutting them back will be good in that aspect. Those I’ve grafted so far were well more than pencil diameter at the base. I cut most off at about 10". I removed leaves just below the cut-off point so I had 5 or 6 inches of leader to work with. They are green but starting to harden pretty well. I used buds from the dormant GRIN scions I received. I did 2 or 3 chip buds at different heights going around the leader. My intent is only to keep one, but wanted to maximize the chance of one taking since this is my first try. I also removed the lower leaves. I kept about 3 or so leaves not too far below the lowest chip bud to help keep the root system going. I used a single piece of Parafilm-M starting below the lowest bud and just covered the entire leader going over top of all the chip buds clear to the top. They are all in 1 gal RB2s right now. As soon as I see the buds taking, I’ll transplant them to 3 gal RB2s.

Do you think it was a good idea to leave a few leaves below the chip-buds?

Do you think I removed too many leaves or not enough?

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My English is not perfect, so, sorry if I misunderstand you. As I understand you left no leaves above the chip buds, you left a few only below them? If that’s right there is a risk the section above the leaves to dry out. It’s more important to have leaves at the top than at the bottom.

I have done quite many chip buddings on a 4-5 mm thick rootstocks, often with chip buds bigger than the rootstock. The success rate is very high, so that is not something you should worry about.

After the buds take if there is a need they can be provoked to grow by making a notch above the chip buds.


Here are some pics:

Original Tree

Tree cut with leaves removed, ready to graft.

Tree after chip budding.

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I’d do the chip bud lower and leave the rest of the tree growing instead of cutting it off. The graft may not grow until next season.

That seems to be a lot of trouble and expense for seedling rootstocks unless you’re breeding specific varieties, which could be done just as easily in 6-pack containers.

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Frankly I would be surprised if the example above succeeds. What applenut said is really the better way to go. Removing the top 1/3 should not hurt too.

The buds should take in 2 weeks. Since you are budding on different sides, careful girdling above the last bud would be better than notching. Easier way to provoke their growth would be to cut most of the top, but you have to leave a few leaves above them until they begin growing, only then you can entirely remove the top. Girdling is riskier to do on such thin rootstock, but in theory should give a stronger bud growth.

Looking at the images I have the impression that you didn’t wrap the buds tight enough. Parafilm is not strong enough, so there is no danger to overtighten them. Make it as tight as Parafilm allows.

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Budding rubbers are much better than parafilm for tying T or chip buds. This still may very well work even done as shown. But I’ve always left some growth/leaves above the inserted buds.

In the past I used Parafilm M and Parafilm grafting tape. I no longer use them because they did not lasted more than a week before breaking (when exposed to sun, rain ect.). I have heard that Buddy Tape is better, but it’s hard to get here.

Thanks folks! I have more to do. I’ll use some of the suggestions above with the next group. This was my first try and I was doing it based on descriptions I read. With the next group, I’ll cut off less tree and leave a few leaves above. Should I remove leaves below the graft before it takes? As for the parafilm, I did wrap it tight enough that it stretched, at least over the buds. I wasn’t worried about getting it tight between the buds and that may be what shows in the pic.

More leaves = more photosynthesis => stronger growth (as long as the pot allows enough roots to support that growth)

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I grew them using a root pruning container system. They were started this winter in 18s under lights and transplanted into the 1 gal Rootbuilder II containers you see them in in the picture above. My plan is to transplant them again into 3 gal RB2 containers as soon as I see the grafts take.

I guess chip budding is different. My pervious grafting has been with trees in the field and the root stock wants to service its own growth rather than pushing the grafted buds. In that case, the more I remove leaves up front the better my results were. Here, since the seedling is not established, it makes sense to keep more leaves. I’ll try some more tonight.

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i’ve done a ton of chip budding, but i always do it late summer…mid July thru early Sept. I actually had a few buds start growing right away (plums i think)…they grew maybe 6 or 8 inches before winter. I’ve done apples, never any issues…they seem to take pretty easily. Sharp knife, parafilm and rubber bands. With chip budding i’ve done i always use this years wood (mature) … Be interesting to see your results.

What soil did you use for the seedlings?