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Tools Make Grafting Easy
Adding new apple varieties to a family orchard is easy and cheap once you know how to graft. All you need is rootstock, scion wood (twigs from a donor tree), and the right tools. Nick Botner says grafting is not hard to do and the benefits are huge. His orchard collection of 4,000 apple varieties is considered the largest in the world.
"It's good to go through the orchard in the fall and see and taste so many varieties," says Botner. "Grafting made collecting these trees possible. I couldn't afford to buy them all."
Grafting is as easy as slicing through the stem of rootstock at an angle and making a matching cut on the scion wood. The goal is to match the cambium (bark layers) as much as possible so the sap can flow through the graft.
The simplest form of grafting tool is a sharp knife. Botner did all of his early grafting with a knife. But as he grew older and as the number of grafts a year increased, he turned to other grafting tools. He recommends trying a hand-grafting tool if doing a moderate number of grafts or simply not wanting to use a knife. These pliers-like hand tools offer as many as three sets of blades for multiple types of grafts. Prices vary from around $50 on up. A.M. Leonard, Inc. sells an Italian made hand-grafting tool for $74.49 (ph 800 543-8955; www.amleo.com).
His preferred tool is a Top Grafter made in New Zealand. It can be mounted to a bench or used in the field and makes perfectly matching V cuts. A.M. Leonard offers the tool for $422.49.
Apple rootstock in dwarf, semi-dwarf and standard tree sizes û as well as apple variety scion wood û are available from a wide variety of fruit tree suppliers and nurseries. Scion wood of newer varieties should be purchased as a way to support the apple breeding programs that developed them. However, older heritage varieties can often be obtained from friends and relatives.
Whether using a special tool or a sharp knife, Botner encourages people to try grafting and not to worry about making perfect grafts. He knows what he is talking about, having made an estimated 20,000 grafts in his lifeāso far.
"Despite everything you do, they will often survive, if even one side of the cambium layer is matched," he says. "Even a bad graft can make it."
He sells scion wood from his collection and for $5 will send out a list of available varieties and their prices.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, A. M. Leonard, Inc., P.O. Box 816, Piqua, Ohio 45356 (ph 800 543-8955; info@amleo.com; www.amleo.com); or Nick Botner, 4015 Eagle Valley Rd., Yoncalla, Ore. 97499.

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2011 - Volume #35, Issue #2