Apple trees are pretty amazing. They have been part of the diet of nearly every nation since pre-history. Why? Because they are absolutely delicious … well … the one’s we eat that is.
If you grow an apple tree from seed, you might be disappointed. Firstly, it will take around 8-10 years until it fruits and secondly it will probably taste nothing like the apple it came from. This is because nearly every apple needs to be cross pollinated with the pollen of a completely different variety of apple tree. This is why apple trees you buy are grafted.
There are two parts to a grafted tree: the Rootstock (the part that grows in the ground) and the Scion (the variety you want to grow).
When you want to create another apple tree, lets say a Granny Smith, you need to not only find a scion of Granny Smith to use, but you also need to determine what rootstock you want to graft it to.
The choice of rootstock used will determine a number of factors of the resulting tree. Some f these factors are:
- Overall tree height
- Tree vigour (how quickly it grows)
- Disease tolerance or resistance
- Drought tolerance
- … etc.
In Australia, there are a number of rootstocks that are better for the home garden. For example, common rootstock names are MM102, MM106, M26, M27, MM111 and B9. One of the best websites for all things apples is www.orangepippin.com
Courtesy of the rootstock we have chosen for our Super Dwarf Apple Trees (M27), each apple tree will:
- grow to around 2 metres tall and 1 metre wide
- mature in 2-3 years rather than 4-5 years
- grow between 3-5 kg of apples per tree when mature
- can be planted as close as 1 metre apart to create a hedge
- can be grown in large containers
The main drawback to using this rootstock is that it has a shallow roots system (which is why its good for pots) so needs lots of regular water and a stake to hold it up.
Creating a new apple tree requires that the grafting be done during the Winter using dormant wood or in Summer using budding techniques (more on these in another post later). Here is a series of images we took during last Winters’ grafting session…
Collect your scion wood and store it
Our scion wood is collected once trees are dormant. That is when all the leaves have naturally dropped form the tree. We collect short lengths of around 20-30cm of pencil thickness. These are bundled, labelled, wrapped in moist paper towel and then refrigerated (in plastic bags) until they are needed.
Store your rootstock correctly
When your order of rootstock arrives, unpack it as soon as possible and put it in a medium that keeps the roots moist but not wet. We use moist wood shavings.
Graft, tape and label your trees
There are different ways to create a grafting union. You can use a knife or specialised grafting tool. The following images show a grafting tool which uses an Omega cut. You can see how the rootstock and scion meet almost perfectly.
Here are two boxes of trees grafted and ready to be planted out.
So the next time you nibble on an apple, think about all the research that has gone into creating the wonderful fruit you are eating.