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

Grafting workshop 2014

Grafting apples

When I first walked into our grafting workshop and saw the selection of scionwood, I was a bit disappointed.  The extension agent had teamed up with a local farmer, who brought in prime scionwood from his trees in exchange for some free rootstock.  That part was good.  The bad part was that the only options were pretty mainstream: Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, Granny Smith, Lodi, Winesap, Stayman Winesap, Wolf River, and Early Harvest.  Only Early Harvest was on my wish list, although I did go ahead and get a Red Delicious (for Mark), a Winesap (for backup), and a Wolf River (as an experiment).

Scionwood smaller than rootstock

But Kayla and I are slow grafters, so as others left, they offered us the remnants of special scionwood they'd brought to the class.  Much of this scionwood was so skinny that I had to match only one side of the scionwood to the rootstock, so it might or might not take.  Despite the sub-par scionwood, though, I couldn't turn down varieties I'd never heard of like Wood's Favorite (a seedling of Maiden's Blush) and Pound Pippin (aka Fall Pippin, a popular commercial variety in the nineteenth century), plus a modern variety Apple scionwoodthat Kayla adores (Jonagold) and one that Mark adores (HoneyCrisp).  I also snagged a variety of Winesap that the attendee swore was the "real old-fashioned Winesap," and I took a gamble on a pear that the owner told me was an early, red variety, name unknown.  (There were a few pear rootstock available at the workshop --- the pear, of course, didn't go on apple rootstock.)

Some of my gambles will probably perish.  For example, when I came home and looked up Jonagold, I discovered that the variety is rated as very susceptible to cedar apple rust, which is our worst apple disease and which I treat only with variety selection.  On the other hand, perhaps I should have taken another grafter up on his offer of a White Apple, which I thought was just a vague term but which actually turns out to possibly be a synonym for Belmont, another rare variety.  Even though each unknown type will take up space and a bit of time, I don't mind gambling on the chance of getting a truly astounding apple variety or two when these plants start bearing between 2019 and 2022.

Watering in newly grafted applesBack at home, I soaked the roots of the baby trees overnight to make up for them sitting out during the workshop, then I made them a good home.  Mark reminded me that every tree that came home from the first two grafting workshops I attended died from deer nibbling, weed explosions, and lack of water.  Our farm is much more established now, but I still went a bit overboard on protecting our babies.  I planted them about a foot or so apart in the row where I'd ripped out cultivated blackberries last fall, within easy hose reach of the trailer and in soil that's rich and weed-free.  After watering the trees in and mulching them well, I even erected a deer-proof cage out of trellis material and U-posts just in case those few deer who make it into our homestead every year make a bee line for the baby apples.  Hopefully our new trees will all survive and thrive!

Anna Hess's books
Want more in-depth information? Browse through our books.

Or explore more posts by date or by subject.

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.

Want to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.

Mark and I are on the same level of apples. I love Johnagolds and Honeycrisp. My favorite when living in Maine was the Macintosh, but I find that Mac's below New England are mushy and tasteless. My great-grandmother took first place in the Maine State Fair ten years in a row for her Macintosh Apples!
Comment by Sheila Thu Apr 3 23:05:41 2014
What went wrong with the blackberries?
Comment by Rein Fri Apr 4 09:14:34 2014
Rein --- The blackberries were just a short-term planting to fill in gaps while the fruit trees matured. But don't worry, we have another row of blackberries in the main berry zone. On the other hand, Mark vastly prefers red raspberries to blackberries, so I'm slowly skewing our berry harvests in that direction instead.
Comment by anna Fri Apr 4 09:25:15 2014


We bought a new house in October and last weekend put 2 new apple trees in, a McIntosh and jonathan. Also put in a seedless concord grape. The house hadn't had its landscaping up kept for 2 years, so spent a month clearing overgrowth and readying for the garden.

How difficult is grafting and how would someone go about finding supplies to do it? We wanted to put in 2 peach trees and some raspberries on the property, but resources only go so far financially for this first year.

Thanks for an awesome blog! Dave

Comment by Dave Zimmerman Fri Apr 4 11:16:14 2014

profile counter myspace

Powered by Branchable Wiki Hosting.

Required disclosures:

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a few pennies every time you buy something using one of my affiliate links. Don't worry, though --- I only recommend products I thoroughly stand behind!

Also, this site has Google ads on it. Third party vendors, including Google, use cookies to serve ads based on a user's prior visits to a website. Google's use of advertising cookies enables it and its partners to serve ads to users based on their visit to various sites. You can opt out of personalized advertising by visiting this site.