The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Grafting persimmons

Planting persimmon seedlingsI set out ten persimmon seedlings in our chicken pastures 2.5 years ago, figuring there were all kinds of experimental possibilities for the young trees. Option 1 would be to simply let them grow up to adult size, but a seedling persimmon has a 50/50 chance of being male (meaning no fruit), grows very large, and takes a long time to bear. Option 2 (my favorite at that time) was to graft hardy Asian persimmons onto the seedling rootstocks...but my hardy persimmon varieties kept dying back to the ground over the winter, so I decided to ditch that plan. Instead, I moved on to option 3 --- to trade for named American persimmon varieties (Yates, Proc, I-94, and Early Golden) and graft those onto my seedling rootstocks.

Overgrown persimmon seedling

Persimmons are trickier than some other fruits to graft, so I tried two different approaches. I also followed the experts' advice by waiting until it seems far too late to graft --- late May when the leaves on the seedling trees were nearly fully formed.

The first step for both methods, though, was the same --- yank out the weeds that had grown up within each tree's enclosure since the last time I dropped by. Out in the chicken pastures, these little trees are lucky to catch my eye more than once a year, so I wasn't surprised to find that two of my seedlings had died and that one wasn't big enough to graft onto. The rest --- despite being a bit winter-nipped from our -22 Fahrenheit cold spell --- had stems thick enough to graft onto.

Whip grafted persimmon

Whip-grafting persimmonI grafted the first four plants before doing any research, so they got my usual whip-and-tongue graft. It was definitely tougher to graft in situ than to bench graft, and both the rootstock and scionwood were on the small side (compared to apples) for most of the trees, so I'm not sure how many will take.

After I was done grafting, I still wasn't entirely sure what to do with the existing growth on the trees. So I just cut the branches back but left some leaves present to keep the tree alive until the graft union heals. Again, I'm not sure if this was the best choice, or whether the existing growth will prevent the graft union from healing. I guess time will tell....

Bark-grafting persimmon

Parafilm on graftWhile I took a water break in front of the computer, I found this interesting file suggesting an alternative method of grafting persimmons, so I followed the author's lead for my last three trees. First, I snipped the entire top off each seedling, then I slit a strip of bark and peeled it down (carefully!) before cutting away a bit of the rootstock to make room for another stick of wood to fit in.

Next, it was time to prepare the scionwood by cutting one side of the bottom at a slant and then using the knife blade to scrape the bark on the rest of the bottom of the scionwood down to the green cambium. The prepared scionwood slid under the rootstock's bark flap, and the whole thing was wrapped with parafilm. (Okay, I didn't wrap my entire piece of scionwood since that just seemed too extreme, but I may regret that omission!)

With seven trees grafted to four varieties, I'm hopeful I'll see at least a 50% success rate and will end up with several different types of persimmons to continue their slow growth in the chicken pastures. Since the trees there don't get much TLC, chances are I won't see fruit until 2020, but hopefully the results will be worth the (very little) effort I've so far put into my experimental trees.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I tried grafting Asian Persimmons onto our American Persimmon seedlings and had a 0% graft success rate but I did them when grafting is usually done for other trees. I did not know that I should have waited longer before attempting. Thanks for the info. I hope your grafting is successful.
Comment by Brian Thu May 28 13:21:30 2015
Brian --- Sorry to hear you had such bad luck! I'd be happy with just about any grafting success at all, and I'll be sure to keep you posted....
Comment by anna Fri May 29 16:06:48 2015
Were any of your grafts successful? I've had mixed success in the past and I'd like to know if either of the methods you tried was better.
Comment by David Schultz Fri Jan 19 17:50:11 2018

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