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How to Graft One Variety of Fruit Onto Another

February 01, 2001|ROBERT SMAUS

To make a graft, the branch and the scion must be of similar thickness. The idea is to join their cambium layers--that thin, all-important layer just below the bark that conducts water and nutrients. "Nothing happens anywhere else" because the center of a branch is essentially dead wood and the bark simply protects, said Tor MacInnis.

Using sharp shears, cut off the end of the tree branch that you will be grafting. Choose a scion of about the same thickness and shorten it with the shears so that it has about three or four buds. Both branches should be between half an inch and a quarter-inch thick. Now you're ready to join the two together.

With a sharp knife (preferably one with a straight blade edge), make long diagonal slices. Be careful to keep the cuts flat, and avoid what's called "shoveling" (curved cuts) so the two will fit tightly together (see illustration). Make cuts away from buds since branches are distorted near a bud.

When joining, move the branch and scion around until they fit snugly, then wrap the splice with special "grafting rubbers" or with stretchy, plastic electrical tape. Don't use green garden tape or rubber bands.

Once the two pieces are tightly wrapped, coat the last inch of the branch and the whole scion with hot melted wax. This keeps them from drying out until the graft takes. MacInnis said special grafting wax works best, lasting months, but ordinary paraffin will work. He melts the wax by heating a small pot with a butane torch outdoors. You can melt it in a microwave and then take it outside. Be sure to label the new graft with a long-lasting metal tag. In successive weeks, don't test the graft by touching or pulling--it may break. MacInnis said that even birds landing on a newly grafted branch can snap it off.

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