Chip bud grafting

A close up of a person holding a pan of food
Fruit trees are often made by choosing a good rootstock and grafting or budding a well-known or productive variety on the rootstock. Most farmers will choose a rootstock good for their soil, but seedlings (growing fruit from seed) are excellent rootstock too. Seedlings do not produce good fruit, but revert back to old wild fruit, while grafting or budding ensure a good crop from a cultivar known and you would like to harvest. Grafting uses a few eyes on every graft where budding uses only one eye - and much less material is needed!

1. Select your tools

Use a sharp budding knife, clean secateurs and include a good sterilizer on your list.

2. Cut dormant wood

Start by cutting dormant wood to about pencil thickness, and make sure there are plenty of healthy eyes. In this image, the wood at the back is too old and thick, while the bundle of wood in front is young and strong. Place the wood in a plastic bag and store in the fridge if you don't use it straight away but it is advised to use it as fresh as possible!

3. Choose your rootstock

It is important to choose a young, vibrant rootstock. Seedlings are best when they are also about pencil thickness or slightly bigger.

4. Cut your chip from rootstock

Cut a chip from your rootstock with a sharp knife in two moves. FIRST: Make a larger cut in the length of the rootstock. SECOND: From the front of this 'loose piece', make a short diagonal cut into the rootstock to (1) create a chip, (2) remove the piece of chip and (3) create a base with a slight angle to steadily hold the new chip.

5. Cut your chip from new cultivar

Do exactly the same as in Step 4 by cutting and removing a chip from the new desired cultivar wood. Aim for about the same size of chip which includes a healthy eye!

6. Place your new cultivar chip

Now is the time to place the newly cut chip bud into the rootstock. Make sure that the green cambium layers just underneath the bark touch by moving it to one side. It should fit snug or be slightly smaller.

7. Cover the wound (1)

Plastrip, rope, Steriseal or any flexible soft plastic strips will work to cover the wound.

8. Cover the wound (2)

We used Plastistrip. Start at the bottom underneath the new insert and stretch the Plastistrip around the stem allowing no room for air or pathogens entering between layers, covering the whole wound to the top. Tie with a knot and leave the wound to heal and to allow the bud to grow into the rootstock.

9. Force new growth

After about two weeks it is time to force the new eye to grow by bending and breaking the top growth. This applies to Apricots, Plums, Peaches or Nectarines. As soon as the new eye swells and goes green, the top can be cut to right above the new eye. That one eye will grow into a whole new tree! Remove the plastic as soon as it hinders any growth. It is wise to wait a bit longer for Apples and Pears – sometimes even over the whole winter to encourage the eye to grow in the following spring.

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