You will need

  • A grafting knife – any small, thin, sharp knife will do
  • Secateurs
  • Sealing Wax
  • Grafting tape, string or plastic strips
  • Rootstock
  • Scion wood
  • Practice wood
  • First aid kit and Mobile phone…just in case

Gather your Scion wood

Scion wood is just pencil lengths of wood from a tree that you want to propagate.

You cut scion wood when the tree is dormant, normally around the start of the year during maintenance pruning.
Collect the thickest bits of last year’s growth. Get your secateurs and starting at the top, make a sloping cut behind a bud, and then count down around six buds or a pencil length before cutting behind the next bud.
Put these ‘pencils’ into a polythene bag with some damp tissue or moss.

Remember to label them right away!

If you don’t have the variety you want, you may be able to get scion wood from specialist growers.

Before you try this on live wood, have plenty of offcuts to practice on. Grafting is not hard, but experience is invaluable.

Grafting basics

There are multiple ways to graft and many different names for each method, but essentially grafting means taking scion wood from a tree you want to propagate, and inserting it into the cambium layer of another tree.

Cleanliness is very important, so keep some methylated spirits handy to clean your tools. Seal all cuts with grafting wax to prevent infection.

Wrap the graft using grafting tape, string or plastic strips by winding them around the graft and tying them with a half hitch. Once the graft is established (1-5 months), remove the wrap before it becomes too tight.

Cut off any branches that grow below the grafting line.

Rind graft

This is normally used when you have removed a large branch from an established tree, and are changing the variety, or creating a multi-type fruit tree. Saw off the top growth, and you will be left with a thick branch.

Put your knife against the bark and press it firmly through the outer and inner bark. Stop when you get to the cambium layer. Twist the knife slightly so that the bark comes away from the cambium.

Take a piece of scion wood, and make a diagonal cut similar to a fountain pen nib. Insert this wood into the cut you have made up to the first bud, making sure that the cambiums are touching. Repeat up to three times around the thick branch.

Seal with wax, wrap firmly and label.

Cleft graft

Cut a horizontal cleft into the wood, approximately twice as deep as the cut in the scion wood you are going to insert (around 5 centimetres or 2 inches).

Make a cut on both sides of the base of the scion wood to form a point. Insert this into the cleft, making sure the cambium layers connect.

Seal with wax, wrap firmly and label.

Whip graft

Most effective if the wood is the same size.

Make a diagonal cut on both the rootstock and the scion wood. On both, make a cut approximately 1/3 along from the point of the diagonal. Interlock them.

Seal with wax, wrap firmly and label.

Saddle graft

An alternative to the Whip graft, so again, this is most effective if the wood is the same size.

On the rootstock, make a cut on both sides of the wood to form a point. On the scion wood, cut a triangle, that fits the rootstock. Lock your thumbs together to add more control. Put the rootstock and scion together.

Seal with wax, wrap firmly and label.