Interstem graft advice

Hey all, I’m getting ready to attempt my first grafts - side grafting more “frost hardy” varieties onto my Chinese apricot - grafting some apple scions onto G890 rootstocks - and topworking an Arkansas black makes apples that I’m not crazy about. My question is about the latter.

The Arkansas black is about 4 years old, 6 feet tall and it’s on M111. I was thinking about grafting my new apple scion onto G890, and then grafting that onto the M111. It’s in an urban apple row with 6 foot spacing, so my thought was to use the interstem to dwarf it somewhat. However, I was going to cut the tree down several inches above the M111/Arkansas black union and actually do my graft there. So would I already be encountering some of the low vigor of the Arkansas black by grafting at that location? The original graft union is only a few inches above the soil so I’m not sure I want to cut it that low to graft direct to the M111 - unless there’s argument to do that. Thoughts?

I’ve been practicing my tongue and grove cuts and it’s harder than I thought it’d be!

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Them Arkansas Black can be mighty tasty at Thanksgiving or Christmas…pulled from the bottom of the 'fridge or from the root cellar. Plus, a very fine pie apple IMO.

But, not everyone loves the same thing…and not everybody has room for several trees.

Bark grafts or saddle grafts may be options to look into for your situation if grafting onto existing trees.

None of the grafting options are all that difficult once you get some experience.
I’ve began doing a couple to doing couple dozen to doing over 100 past 3 years.
I use a box cutter knife, and can almost do them in my sleep!
So…go for it, plants can be pretty forgiving.

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Do bark grafts at 5’ directly to the Limbertwig and I’m going to go off your own information that limbertwig or ‘Arkansas Black’ is a slower tree.

If you need less vigor than that, then consider a interstem.

With interstems, remove all buds and use about a 5" piece to graft your new cultivar to and then graft the interstem to the root(s).


Hey Barkslip, thanks for the feedback! Is Limbertwig the correct name for this variety? I have read that about it and seems to hold true for this tree which has been slow growing.

Was the 5’ here a typo to indicated 5" / 5 inches? That’s my guess and would make sense to me.

Blueberry, you are probably right about that. My apple taste preference is fairly specific apparently, and had this tree not also sustained a good bit of borer damage half-girdling the tree at 2 feet, I might keep it as is. But I also am thinking I better have apple trees that make apples I’m pretty excited about eating given the time and energy input to get it to bearing.

You got a 6 ft. tree so I said graft it at 5 ft. with your work/carpentry. I don’t know what you’re asking about is Limbertwig the correct name. You know your own tree and seriously the whole point is “vigor.” So whether ‘Limbertwig’ or ‘Arkansas Black’ it doesn’t matter. You are trying to control vigor. Therefore an interstem may not be necessary because you said your tree is slow.

Best I can say. I don’t own any limbertwig apple varieties. I tried to make sense to you. That was my best effort.



You are the one who introduced “Limbertwig” to the conversation, which was why I asked you about it. Now I’m understanding that limbertwig is a category of apple varieties - but was completely unnecessary to answer my question, as is your tone in this reply.

I’m sorry, you’re right I said “limbertwig”. I was trying to help though. My tone was for me to get to the point, is all. Please accept my sincere apologies!

I was trying to get myself over the hump is all and get straight to the point. I’m really sorry when I offended you.

I tried to change my tone halfway thru my response to not come off strong but it didn’t work.

Very sorry,



I hope you’ll be okay and your feelings aren’t hurt.

This is an easy one:

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@kunsangsean checking back to see what approach you may have determined is right for you?


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Yeah, I gotcha and I do appreciate the help. I find that when the goal is to get to the point fastest, it’s best to avoid introducing unnecessary terminology and then acting annoyed when someone of inferior fruit growing knowledge and vocabulary (me) doesn’t understand it. I understand that the point is vigor, which is why that’s the subject of my question. I don’t need less vigor that the Arkansaw Black - that would be fine. The new scion is a more vigorous variety, and if the Arkansas Black acts like an interstem then I suspect it will work well. If not, it will probably get too large. Time will tell.

I decided to graft straight to the Arkansas black, but at 12 inches height. There was bad borer damage 2 feet, up and my goal is to have a 9 foot tree so grafting at 5 feet didn’t make sense for my goals. I liked how this guy does this graft in the video below, and my plan was to replicate this style, but since my tree is smaller diameter which much thinner bark, I wasn’t able to cut out enough of the wood to make the scion fit like that. I think I will have to go back and do it over with a cleft graft to get better pressure on the scion.

I will check out that mega chip method, thanks. It looks interesting. I believe my dad bought about a thousand aronia bushes from Tom Wahl a number of years ago.

Top Working an Old Apple tree - YouTube

I’ve grafted 10’s of thousands of trees…

I don’t need to watch any videos. This stuff comes to me like drinking milk.

Carpentry, it’s all carpentry. I bought some Kleenex today for myself. Thanks for the story.


It’s my understanding that Arkansas Black has high vigor, so keep that in mind for your future grafts and intentions for that tree. I believe it is listed in the reference section for tree vigor on this forum. Additionally - sounds like @Barkslip may have gotten varieties confused and something may have been lost in translation. I know he had every intention of trying to help you out with good advice.

To @BlueBerry s point, I have Arkansas Black grafted with the intention that it will be an apple I eat late into winter or in the spring as it is known as a keeper. If you weren’t impressed with it, you may want to try giving the fruit itself some time off the tree. I hope your graft works out!


much thanks… I had no intentions whatsoever to come off “too strong”. That’s “plain” grafting language to me. But, I’ll try to watch out next-time. But, I don’t know how to, @kunsangsean . I meant nothing. I swear on all the atoms in the universe or to every God there is.

Now, I feel like I’m going to far again and writing too much bringing in examples for truth.

Sean I have no idea what happened. I was as shocked as you were. Can we call it equal?


Thank you @disc4tw


Oh interesting. I saw it listed as low vigor in some random internet chart, no idea of its accuracy. This particular tree had been slow growing, but that may have been due to neglect. Maybe I should consider the interstem, or just replacing with a different rootstock altogether. I thought it would be cool to save existing root structure but I think M111 is not really appropriate for location it’s in.

I can’t speak to what vigor AB is supposed to have, but mine is the slowest growing and shortest tree in my flock. It is one of five the deer have gone for first, and nothing they chew on grows back well until I trim it up, which I just realized this year. Still, it is far smaller than it was when I brought it home. It came from a box store, so I have no idea the rootstock. Could be on Martian Pomagranate pi11 for all I know.

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There are different stains of Arkansas black apple.
At least a “ standard “ and a “ spur” type .
I have the spur type. It’s not what I would call vigorous.
On M111 , 20+ years old , they are 10-12 ft tall, with little pruning.
well behaved trees
I did have one limb that decided it wanted to be “ standard “ size .
A sport no doubt. I Cut that off.


Based on that info, I’m guessing that my tree was the spur type. I guess the question I still have is whether to graft direct or use an interstem of G890 which I have. I don’t feel like a solid idea of what to expect from grafting direct and whether the new higher vigor scion will take off or be limited by the 12 inches of existing AB trunk. I’ve read various things about interstems having issues, so I also don’t feel like I have solid grasp of that.