Saturday, September 1, 2012

Crab Apple Grafting

Its the first day of Spring and with the urge to garden comes the urge to blog, as well as other urges that are weird and confusing. After last years irritatingly successful grafting, I've been looking for a way to increase my apple cultivar diversity without taking up more than the generous area already allocated. The answer of course is to start adding bits to my existing apple trees. Of particular interest to me is finding crab apple trees and grafting them onto my normal sized apple trees. Crab apples create viable pollen for desert/cooking/cider/whatever varieties and also have prolonged flowering periods which is an enormous boon if you have a lot of trees that flower at slightly different times. And we're always on the lookout for enormous boons.

England has its hedgerows, America has the historic frontier orchards of Johnny Appleseed and I've got North Road, Oakleigh South opposite the Kittens Car Wash operated by a local adult entertainment complex which is very active in the community. The focus of my attention on this day however is a row of what I believe to be quite old crab apples teetering on the brink of bursting into bright red blooms which last for almost a month. Luckily they are street trees so it isn't a morally questionable act to help with their pruning and in a few minutes with some funny looks from passers-by, I had what I was after.

A number of questions spring to mind when harvesting budwood from apple trees. Are they actually apple trees? I'm almost 100 percent sure in this case but I can't completely dispel that nagging doubt that I don't know what I'm doing. I expect mushroom hunters feel much the same. Are they healthy? Now here is a definite legitimate concern yes? If I said I was going to hang out on a seedy street corner opposite a strippers car wash and strap a foreign object to something of mine you'd be at least a little concerned. How do you know for sure that an apple tree is healthy and that the grafting process isn't going to bring some kind of virus into your orchard. I'll have to dwell on this but for the moment i'll settle for a visual inspection of the tree and its constitution. Last of all, am I going to get in trouble? Why can't people just be cool? These harvested specimens were just starting to take off so I got in just in time.

My arsenal of grafting weaponry including my most excellent rose budding knife and indispensible paddle pop sticks. I have dispensed with the mastic grafting wax. Messy, time consuming and wierd it didn't seem to contribute much to the process. With good grafting tape (which is well worth the money!) the union is very well sealed?

What, you don't use digital calipers to measure your grafting site diameter? I wouldn't blame you, its just stupid. But they were expensive and I need to justify their purchase whenever possible. And also, grafting is science!

A before and after of my first crab apple appendage. In this case appended to one of my street apple trees, a Corryong Seedling on M26. I was quite pleased with the graft line-up except the top needed to be squeezed together somewhat with the tape. Side by side I'm sufficiently reassured that I found an apple tree that day. Time will tell.

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