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Grafting aftercare, round two

Grafting aftercare

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the first stage of caring for a newly grafted apple tree --- breaking off the sprouts that open up on the rootstock.  With that done, the tiny trees will soon start channeling their energy into the scionwood, and buds there will begin to open.  That's your cue to give your miniature orchard another few minutes of care.

Your goal with newly grafted apples in the first year is to get them to grow one long stem, which will hopefully reach four feet tall (a stage at which the apple is known as a one-year-old whip).  Since you probably left two or three buds (or maybe even more) on your piece of scionwood, now's the time to break off all but the best sprout so your tree once again channels all of its energy just where you want it --- into developing that whip.

Middle budThe top photo pair shows an apple before and after pruning.  Most of your trees will probably look like that one, with the top bud already asserting some apical dominance and growing faster than its brethren.  If that's the case, gently break off the lower two sprouts to let the top bud have full sway over the future shape of the plant.

The photo to the left shows a more unusual situation where the middle bud created a bigger sprout.  That's fine too!  If the middle bud is biggest, take off the top and bottom sprouts and let that strongest bud take over.

While you're visiting your trees, be sure to pull any weeds that might have come up in your nursery bed, and give the plants a round of water if they need it.  You don't want these apples to have to struggle any more than necessary since they're already recovering from surgery.  Also, resist the inclination to take the bandage off the graft wound --- that area still needs to be kept moist for a few more weeks before the tree is ready to leave intensive care.

It took me longer to type all of these instructions than to actually spruce up around our double handful of baby apple trees.  As usual, the most important gardening work takes mere minutes if hit in a timely manner.  Too bad I never stay ahead of the weeds in the vegetable garden in this way....

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The grafting tape we used was adhesive and began girdling our trees at the graft so we removed it around the time you wrote about step 1. I should have only removed it on the trees that were showing signs of girdling but I did all of them and one of the grafts broke because it wasn't healed enough to withstand the pulling off of the tape.
Comment by Brian Wed Jul 30 09:49:07 2014

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