Our resident exptert talks fruit tree pruning and grafting.
Dr. Doug Hibbard
California Rare Fruit Tree Growers How did you get into fruit tree pruning and grafting and how long have you been doing it? I’ve been doing both for about 20 years now. My grandparents were gardeners and, though I was gardening a lot before that, I realized it’s easier to grow fruit than veggies. I wanted to learn to grow as many things as I could on our property so I got involved with the California Rare Fruit Tree Growers - they were the best source for what would grow in our area.
Why did you decide to propagate your own, what grafting techniques are there and which do you use most? The goal of fruit gardening is variety or diversity, not necessarily quantity. Grafting allows us to create far more variety of fruit in a smaller space. The grafting technique I use the most, because its easiest, is called cleft grafting, where you insert the scion (fruiting wood) into the root stock. This is the technique we used in the workshop at The Ecology Center last year and will use again this year. I have also bark grafted and done t-budding, both of which are tougher to do. Using the t-budding technique, I was able get the Gravenstein variety from my grandparent’s land years after their farm was torn down.
ALSO: Learn more about fruit tree pruning and grafting in February’s Backyard Skills offering. Fruit Tree Pruning and Grafting / February 18th / 1PM Learn the basic principles of fruit tree grafting, pruning, and care. Instructor: Doug Hibbard. Material Fee: $10 (Includes a grafted apple tree.)
Has the art or technique of it changed much over time, or since you’ve been involved? Not since I’ve been doing it, but it has changed in the last 30 years or so with the use of Parafilm – a wax tape that’s actually used more in the surgical industry. It creates a little greenhouse that allows the grafting wound to heal without drying out. Why is it important for people to learn more about fruit tree care and culture? The number 1 reason is taste and health of the fruit – growing your own is far superior to buying at the market. Number 2, the real joy of grafting and pruning, is that it connects us to seasonal changes throughout the year because each 01.
part of the process has to be done in it’s own time. Also, it’s really fun to be able to grow varieties that you can’t find in the market, like my grandparent’s Gravenstien apple. The number 3 major benefit is that you can have a lot of variety in a little space, which greatly extends your season - if you do it right, you can be eating fresh apples from late May to January (in California). It’s also important to continue saving heirloom varieties that would otherwise be lost. With these techniques, could we reforest our communities with edible plants and trees? Absolutely, especially in this area. Grafting images and instrcutions from “Grafting and Propagating Fruit Trees” published by Penn State.
Cleft Graf Basics: The scion is prepared by making a tapering cut 1 to 2 inches long on each side (1). The stock is cut off squarely (2) and split vertically (3) with a knife or cleft grafting tool to a depth of about 2 to 3 inches. Keep the knife in position (4) or insert a chisel to keep the split open and insert the scions (5). 03.
All exposed surfaces are waxed or coated immediately. Usually, no wrapping is needed because the stock exerts sufficient pressure to hold the scions; however, wrapping the stock will ensure a tighter connection and less chance for the scion to be bumped out of the stock. 04.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE: Pruning shears Pruning saw Parafilm Sharp knife/ box cutter Block planar Electrical tape
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