Why Graft To Apple Trees
Some cultivars (varieties) of plants do not come true from seeds, for example the seed from a HoneyCrisp Apple will produce an apple tree, but it will not produce a HoneyCrisp Apple Tree. Instead you will end up with some unpredictable variety (good or bad) in it’s genetic lineage.
In other words, fruit trees cannot be reproduced “true” to the original cultivar from seed. They can only be reproduced by grafting. It’s also a method of using a root system better adapted to soil, climate and diseases than that produced naturally by an ungrafted tree.
When to Graft Scions
You want to graft scions in the Spring, from the time the buds are beginning to open, until blossom time. The usual time is April or early May. When to Graft Scions
When to Graft Buds
T” budding can be done almost any time that the bark of the stock slips (easily separates from the wood) and buds are fully developed. Most budding is done from July 15 to August 15 and will typically stay dormant until the following spring. In cold climates such as the Mid-West fall budding is undesirable because young shoots are subject to winter injury. It is NOT recommended to do Bud Grafting in the Spring, which is just the opposite for Scion Grafting.
You will want to cut your bud sticks (Scions) of the desired cultivar from strong shoots of the present season’s growth. These buds should be mature, as indicated by a slightly brownish color. This is a very good video on Bud Grafting.
Why Propagate By Budding
Budding, particularly “T” budding, is faster than any other grafting technique (Cleft, Bark, Whip, etc) and the percentage of successful unions is usually greater. T-budding will also form a much stronger union with your tree.
Budding With All Wood Removed
Start by cutting along the sides of your bud and down to the bottom bring your cut together. Then cut a line at the top of your bud, rocking your knife back and forth until the cut intersects the two cuts made on the side. Now, grasp the bark between your thumb and finger and pinch the bark with the attached bud, the bark should come off with the Cambium layer attached and the wood will stay on the Scion (branch). You may want to practice, but after a few tries it’s easy to do.
Budding With Wood
Buds which have the sliver of wood removed have a complete cambium surface exposed to meet the cambium of the stock and sometimes result in better growth, but they are not rigid so you need to handle with care. Buds with wood still attached are much easier to handle and will still give good results, but I recommend you practicing until you can do this graft with no bark attached.