What is grafting?

Grafting is the creation of a plant by connecting a shoot of a desired variety unto an existing plant or rootstock of another variety. In the case of apples, say, a seed from most varieties will not grow up to be a copy of the variety that produced it, so we take a piece of an apple variety we want to reproduce and graft that onto an existing tree that in effect provides its rootstock, or we graft the shoot onto a rootstock we select for the purpose. The grafting connects the cambian layers, which are the actively growing parts, of the piece, called a scion, to the existing branch or rootstock in such a way that they grow together to produce the desired tree or branch. There are several kinds of grafts which do this, such as the whip and tongue graft. Apple trees are usually grafted in the early spring and potted up for a year before planting out. Any buds on the rootstock are taken off and just buds on the scion are left to grow. This is a very inexpensive way to acquire a new tree as the rootstock and scion are inexpensive.

What is rootstock?

Rootstock is usually a short tree, typically about a foot long,  with roots and no branches.  They are grown by sticking a short piece of a desired variety into the ground and leaving it for a few years to develop a root system. The rootstock will determine some growth characteristics of the tree that is produced by grafting it onto a piece of scion wood of a desired variety. Many different kids of rootstock have been developed by plant breeders and they can be purchased from nurseries for many varietes of fruit. Most commonly a dwarfing rootstock is used to keep a variety from growing to tall. Other kinds of rootstocks protect from disease, tolerate certain kinds of soils, etc, such as the following sample.

Antonovka -25′ to 35′ tree. Hardy to -50 deg.F. Wide soil adaptability. Produces large yellow edible apples if allowed to fruit.

Emla 7-11-16 feet tall. Trees can begin bearing in 3-4 years. It is hardy to -35 degrees F. and does well on wet soils. Suckers need to be removed each year

Emla 26-8-14 feet tall. Does well in most soils. It is hardy to -40 deg. F. Produces fruit in 2-3 years. Can be grown free standing but needs staking on windy sites. It doesn’t sucker much in the orchard.

Emla 27- four to six feet in height. It is well suited for growing in a container or a small yard. Trees grafted on EMLA 27 bear early and heavily. It needs staking. It is hardy to -25 deg. F. This rootstock is patented and it may not be reproduced without permission of the patent holder.

Bud 9- A very dwarfing apple rootstock similar to EMLA 9 but more hardy. Trees can be maintained at 6 to 10′ in height. Requires staking. Tolerates damp soils.

M111-Produces a semi-standard heavy bearing, precocious, well anchored tree about 20 feet tall. This rootstock has fiberous roots and does well in a wide variety of soils. It is hardy to -35° F. It produces burr knots at the base and should be planted almost up to the graft line.

M106- 15-20 foot can be smaller on dry sandy soils; larger on fertile soils. Few suckers, wide tolerance of different soils. Early bearing (3-4 years). Staking recommended for first year or two in windy sites. Susceptible to tomato ringspot virus; resistant to wooly apple aphids.

Geneva 30-Good resistance to crown rot and fire blight, this rootstock produces trees about 11-16′ tall. It is similar to EMLA 7, but has better anchorage, higher production and fewer burr knots. Stake for the first few years.

What is scion wood?

A scion is a piece, such as a small part of a branch, cut from a live variety of a plant that you want to reproduce, such as a favorite apple, that is grafted onto another plant or rootstock to make a new tree or part of a tree, a branch say, of the desired variety. Scion wood is collected in the early spring, like February, before the tree buds out. Select pieces about 10 inches long and 3/8 of an inch thick, pencil width, more or less. Seal the cut ends of the scion with bees wax or paraffin and dip the scion in a weak solution of bleach to kill any diseases. If you are not going to graft the scion wood immediately, put it in a plastic bag, with a wet paper towel to keep it moist, in the refrigerator.  Scion wood can be kept for a year or so, if necessary, as long as it doesn’t dry out.


What is apple cider?

The term apple cider is sometimes used to mean apple juice but the proper use applies to the product, sometimes called hard cider, that is fermented apple juice. Apple juice is made by crushing or grinding selected apples and then pressing this pulp to get the juice. After pressing the apples, the juice is made into cider by leaving it to ferment for several weeks or months. The juice is put into a vessel, such as a carboy, yeast is added, and the vessel sealed with an air lock to keep it from turning to vinegar. The carboy, yeast and airlock can be obtained from a store that sells beer making equipment, as making beer is very similar. As it ferments, the cider will bubble through the airlock. Once the cider stops bubbling, then the yeast have finished turning the sugars into alcohol, and the cider can be bottled up. One 5 gallon carboy can fill about 24 large beer bottles. First the bottles are sterilized, then the cider is syphoned out of the carboy and into the bottles, and caped just like beer. Sometimes a little bit of sugar, like 1/2 a teaspoon per, is added to the bottles as they are filled to get a fizzy cider.

What is a cider apple?

You can make cider from any variety of apple, but different apples give somewhat different tasting cider. Usually sweet apples that are good for eating are not considered cider apples, although there are some exceptions, and many people make cider from whatever apples happen to be available. Some cider apples are not good eating apples.