How NOT to Graft a ‘Family’ Apple Tree (#EpicFail)

Feature image: a grafted family tree

This time last year, I came up with a Cunning Plan. Regular readers may remember it – I’d found an apple rootstock at work that had thrown off its scion and grown four stems of its own, so I thought I’d turn it into a multi-variety ‘family tree‘, by grafting onto the three strongest stems, whilst – and here was the clever bit – leaving the fourth, rather spindly stem to grow on a bit so it would be strong enough for grafting onto this year.

Here’s a pic of the newly-grafted treeling1If ‘treeling’ isn’t a word, then it jolly well ought to be.:

Can anyone spot – or guess – where I went badly wrong? I’ll give you a minute to have a think about it…

{tuneless whistling}

Well, I wish I’d taken a few more minutes to think about it before I started grafting, because then I might have realised my rather obvious (and with the benefit of hindsight, it really is perfectly obvious) error. Remember yon spindly stem that I’d left to grow on a bit? Well, that’s exactly what it did. And – although you can’t quite make it out from the angle that I took the pic from – because it was the lowest placed stem of the four, it diverted pretty much all the water and nutrients – not to mention the photosynthates it was producing in its own leaves – away from the three scions and gobbled them all up for itself.2D’OH!!!

One healthy rootstock stem, three dead scions…

End result: three failed scions, one vigorous stem of rootstock. And no ‘family tree’ for me. Sad / embarrassed face emoji.

There are a couple of other reasons why the whole thing was probably doomed to failure. The main one being that, by grafting three scions onto that fairly short M27 (or possibly M9) stem, even if they had taken, I would have ended up with an odd, multi-stem bush rather than a tree. And who knows whether they would have grown evenly anyway. I have to admit, I just grabbed three scions from what was left at the end of the grafting session at work, without researching them to see if any of the varieties I’d used would have been a lot more vigorous than the others, leading to a multi-stem bush that was badly unbalanced to boot.

But hey, it’s a lesson learned, and all is not lost. I might just try to stool that M27 stem and generate some more rootstocks from it in future. Or, if I don’t get around to trying that, then it’s all good compost material.

“Oh no! What about your family tree project?” I hear (probably / absolutely) nobody cry. Fear not, it shall return! This year, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, I’ll be having a go at setting up a family tree properly, by cleft-grafting onto the main branches of an out-grown MM106 rootstock on the Plot #79 orchard. Watch this space for updates.

How about you? Any hilarious grafting blunders to share? Or have you always enjoyed a 100% success rate? Please feel free to commiserate or gloat, as you see fit, via the comments.


  • 1
    If ‘treeling’ isn’t a word, then it jolly well ought to be.
  • 2

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