Stone fruit grafting observations in Michigan

I have almost zero experience grafting, although I learned a lot this season. Here in my zone we really have to wait to graft stone fruit. At last the weather is about as good as it’s going to get, and time is running out on scions obtained. I just wanted to pass on some observations. I stored most in long stranded sphagnum moss. Figs are often rooted in this. Peat moss is acidic and a read a few accounts of mold. Well none observed in the moss. Some in paper towel, and also in moss had mold. Those just in the moist moss, looked fantastic. Some pieces started growing out, not bad though. I found the big pieces, twice pencil size or so, stayed dormant longer. Also they kept better too. More mass, more energy it can store. It would be advisable to graft larger pieces if you have to wait til the 20th of May or later before you start! I also kept them in a new fridge and didn’t look or touch them if I could avoid it. I can’t graft, till I can graft, and looking at them doesn’t help. If they grow oh well. Seems just above freezing and a constant temp, in the back. Away from the door! Leave them alone!
Some of the biggest cuttings I got December 15th or so! They look better than most of the others. I have some still I’m putting in Sunday or Monday. I still have five or so cultivars to graft.
Anyway these big cuttings held up, are green, are dormant too. Talk about stretching the limit! Like 6 months old! Moss and a constant temp worked well for me. The moss gives a super even moisture rate, and prevents mold, it works extremely well.
I’m sure using them sooner would have been better, but we were in the 50’s and 60’s. Not very warm. So I’ll probably have a ton of failures again though I need the better weather, not much I can do. I was surprised though at how good the scion wood was, when old the bark peels away etc. They were in better shape than that. The bark was firm, not water logged or rotted. I’m sure the even moisture in the moss and no mold to start the breakdown of the wood etc., helped a lot.

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Drew,

There were some warm days in April and I grafted some of the stone fruit scions but all failed. This week is warm and steadier for the first time this year. Lucky that I saved some scions for “just in case”. I haven’t looked into the scions container so I don’t know if they still are in good shape or not. Guess I’ll find out tomorrow…

Good lucks with your project!

Tom

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Good luck Tom, just make sure you cover the scions tight with parafilm.

Tony

I did some grafting this year in 2 phases in NE Ohio. One about 5-6 weeks ago, another about 2-3 weeks ago. I wish I would have waited, but from the first batch I had 2 Jubileum tart cherries take on a Surefire cherry, A Vision plum, a Tomcot apricot, a Jerseycot apricot and a Kahinta plum take on a Myrobalan plum, and a Methley plum take on a Canadian plum. At least 20 (or more) other grafts failed. With the second phase I had about 1/2 of my euro plum grafts take (Mt. Royal, Empress, Castleton, Golden Transparent) on a Green Gage, some Toka grafts on a Canadian plum, A Black Ice plum on an American plum and Van and Gold cherry on a Stella. I tried grafting onto 2 peach trees I bought from a big box store in my house about 2 months ago. I figured the warmth inside would help. I got a Tomcot apricot, Belle of Georgia peach, Starking Delicious plum, and Flavor King pluot to take. About 12 other grafts failed. I did the same with a big box apricot and got another Tomcot and a Zard to take, about 6 others failed. The grafts from the first batch took a long time to show green. Overall I probably had maybe 20% success, but I’m happy with that given all the mistakes I made. With the second batch, I wrapped the whole scion in parafilm. That seemed to work better.

I tried grafting last year on the same Myro plum (also way too early) and all failed except one that I forgot to remove. I didn’t notice it until this spring , and it even had a bloom. The parafilm for the graft union is still evident, but I forgot which variety it is since I had given up on it. I’m hoping the same thing happens this year. I have some Valor plums from the first batch that are just now showing a tiny bit of green.

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Very good observations, thanks for posting guys. I had mostly peach, why I wanted to wait. Any leftover spots we can all try again next year!

Drew, I think you will find that plum and cherry graft quite easily even in the cooler temps. I grafted several weeks ago during a warm stretch and since then it’s been quite cool and even down in the 30’s a few nights. Everything has taken and is growing well. I even did peaches, nectarines, and apricots at that time. The only thing that I’ve grafted that appears to have failed are 2 Indian Free peach Scions, one Artic star grafted to plum, and one D’Arcy Spicy Apple graft.

To me the status of the scion is most important. I’d rather graft completely dormant scions in 50-60 degree temps than to graft lesser quality scions (partially woken, popping buds, dry) in ideal 75 degree temps.

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Thanks for the tip, I may have to try it as this was a touch too long, although a lot of the wood was still dormant a few had growth. None were dry. Something else I did to the December scions, knowing it would be 6 months I painted the ends.
Also of note, I have an old seeded concord grape that is about 40 years old. I don’t like the grapes, but the vine is trouble free. It needs no spraying of anything. Never is diseased in any way. Grows leafs bigger than my head! So I wanted to use it as a rootstock. When grafting unto it yesterday I noticed it didn’t bleed at all. I made cuts below graft anyway, but I didn’t observe any leakage. I looked at it after 3 hours and still no sap flow. Appears to be ideal to graft unto.

I agree with Speed. The quality of scionwood is very important. My grafts with iffy scionwood have not look good. Everything else has taken well.

In my limited grafting experience, 3 important things contributing to my grafting success are: quality of scionwood, techniques (how well cambium joined and how well scionwwod is protected from drying out) and temperature (esp. For temp sensitive like peaches).

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Mostly what I had,and the window to meet all criteria mentioned is short. Some wood I had though was perfect, and why I posted, you can store a long time in moss. I positioned some pieces to cross the cambium instead of guessing where it is. I did wedge and whip grafts.

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I consider grafting plums, Euro and J plums, easy, almost as easy as apples and pears. Pluots and Cherry right behind them.

Peaches, nectarine I wait for the temp. I lump apricot in this group because I have no experience. Persimmons, jujubes and pawpaws are late grafting because they push growth very late.

I did no spring grafting, but i think next year i’ll give it a go. I budded a lot last year and plan on doing more this summer.

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I completely agree with Mamuang, the quality of the scions is the most important. This year I had about 90% takes and the only scions that did not take were the scions that looked iffy when I grafted them. The second important step is the technique of grafting. There is the room for the improvement. Use parafilm on all your scions it helps VERY MUCH to keep the scions alive during the callusing part.
As for temperatures, I started to think that the lower temperatures in 40-60s are are better for the scion growth than 70s. All my scions that I grafted early in March grow very good and they are big now. They did not grow much during the cool weather but they were busy making graft unions. So when the temperatures got warmer they just leaped along with the growth of the main tree. The scions which were grafted later at the end of April when the temperature was warmer are alive but they still are very small and do not do much. My thought is that the tree puts so much energy into the new growth, that the late grafted scions do not get much of it. Plus the high temperatures cause the scions to wake up and to start to grow BEFORE they make the graft unions. This is why people say that some trees are more difficult to graft i.e. cherries, peaches, apricots. This is exactly the same kinds of trees which can sprout in in refrigerator. I think that most people wait too long for the warm temperatures to graft them and then they have high failure rate and they think that they have to graft them even later. I have unintentional experiment when I grafted the scions of the same apricot variety in early March and the again in late April. Guess which scions grow better? I grafted peach scions in early April, and they grow very good too. Those are just my thoughts, on the matter…

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Good observations, i waited because the experts here said to, like Olpea. I may try earlier next year.
Actually here even though it is later, the trees are still not in full leaf, they just started to grow themselves. They are almost in full leaf. Very close now. So I have not seen any growth on trees till about 2 weeks ago. Well besides flowers. Mine are at shuck split now. Most still have flowers. I just saw fruit about 7 days ago. Flowers are slowly falling off. I also observed this year lizz having success only for them to fail a month after growing. Until they are 2 months old, it’s hard to say if they took. In March I have no growth at all. No open flowers till the middle of April.

Drew, your spring is later then mine, although the winters are supposed to be warmer. For the comparison I started grafting when the buds were green and swollen on stone fruit trees and up to the tiny leaf stage. For apples I wish I started earlier then the tiny leaves, because apple scions take long time to start to grow. My only complain that it is cold outside at that time of the year. The hands get cold. But I like the results, so I would do it again next year.

I’m going to snip off the handful of duds I had and regraft today. I’ll look through my scionwood and see what looks the “freshest” and use it.

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Thanks for all the tips. I’ll try and start when leaves stat to just show. I could get it in a few weeks earlier that way. Again though the scion is very good, most is completely dormant and not dry. I should be OK.

Antmary,

Congratulations on your successes. I agree peaches are some of the hardest to spring graft. It’s generally recognized they take higher temperatures to callus. I’ve noticed this in my grafting and in just general callusing of pruning cuts.

I completely agree peaches want to sprout in the fridge. I keep the temp in my mini fridge as close to freezing as I dare. Actually it’s generally slightly below freezing. The wood will sometimes freeze, but I take it out every few weeks and let it thaw so it doesn’t get freezer burn. In this way I’ve been able to keep the peach wood dormant for a long time. I received some wood in Dec. and it’s still dormant. I grafted with it about a month ago when we had a warm spell and it took 3 weeks or so to start pushing growth (the weather turned cool during that period which of course slowed things down).

I’ve also experienced the problem of waiting so long (for the temps to be warm enough) the peaches push all the energy into the growth and don’t take kindly to a beheading to graft something else on. That’s why I’ve started grafting new peach cultivars on top of existing mature trees. They grow all summer and have plenty of energy to push the graft, even if they are grafted late.

Once I have the variety on top of a tree, I can harvest green wood in the late summer and bud it on new rootstocks. It’s much easier (and faster) for me to T bud that fresh wood in late summer. In that fashion I can multiply trees with pretty easily.

One thing I haven’t done much of is leaving a nurse shoot on peaches for spring grafting, which might solve the problem of the small rootstock not having enough energy to push the graft. In the past, when I grafted new rootstocks in the spring, I’d just behead the shoot down low and graft the scion on with no nurse shoot. I notice Tom Spellman recommends leaving a nurse shoot. I did that on a few E. plums I grafted to peach rootstocks this spring and they did fine.

I’ve always had better luck grafting peaches late for spring grafting, so it’s interesting you were able to get by with grafting so early. Please keep us updated how this continues to work in future grafts.

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I’m very excited as we have a long stint of good weather, the scion is good, and my technique is getting better. I’m finishing up my grafting today. I have about 7 more to do. Thanks all for the great observations. I learned a lot from you guys. I will be a lot more open to experimenting now. Also just my points, the main point of posting this subject was the fact how well long stranded moss works, and how bigger pieces keep longer, and tend to stay dormant longer. It’s not always possible, and thanks to those who sent a range of sizes. that worked well for me as I could choose what I needed for each situation.

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Oplea, maybe it is just the lucky circumstances, and thank you for the advise on grafting, I am thinking to graft a couple of new peach trees next year.

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By the way, Drew, thank you for the White gold scions, they are growing strong. I stare at them every time when I go near the cherry tree.