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Homegrown plum rootstock

Planting plum rootstock

My apple-rootstock stool only produced six rooted shoots for use this spring, but my plum stool is a major overachiever, cranking out nine husky suckers plus four smaller shoots that I left behind for later. I set the former out in my nursery bed just outside the back door where I can keep a close eye on them.

(After taking the photo above, I added some straw on top of the kill mulch, and I soaked the ground underneath first...just in case you were worried.)

My goal is to really learn bud grafting this year since dormant-grafted plums only had a 25% success rate last year. Hopefully with nine rootstocks to work with, at least a few will show success.

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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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Here's a trick I learned from our ISU extension horticulturist: Make up a solution of 'semi-hardwood strength' rooting dip. Put the sliced off budding chip from the scion wood in the solution while you cut the T in the rootstock. Put a little solution in/on the budding T. Slip the whole works together quickly and wrap it up. Speed is key. Don't let anything dry out - ever.

I wrap my buds with rubber bands cut open so I have one long rubber wrapping strip. Then I apply grafting wax over the whole works. The new buds will grow right through the wax. (Be sure not to cover the bud with rubber band.)

Oh, and one other thing - maybe most important. Do NOT pull the leaf off the bud on your scion stock. That will kill the bud. Snip off most of the leaf but leave the little stem which will look like a little handle. This helps keep the bud alive while it is growing in.

Never give up!

Comment by Tim Inman Thu Mar 31 09:08:34 2016
Tim --- Thank you so much! I can use all the budding tips I can get. What month is your favorite time for bud grafting?
Comment by anna Thu Mar 31 11:48:46 2016

I'm sort of from the school that says 'blunt force and stubborn persistence often trumps skill and intelligence.' So....

Whenever the rootstock bark is 'slipping' meaning the bark will cleanly and easily peal away from the wood when cut, and when there are nice new swollen buds on the scion stock I start grafting. This usually begins for me after Father's Day. By starting early, I can 'retry' several times through the summer. I budded some peaches last October, and they are looking like some of them might actually have survived. I'm watching daily!

The best results for me are had when I have really nice swollen buds to cut. Watch your scion stock and get those buds to graft just 'before' they push on out to make side branches. They're ready to grow, and they seem to 'take' best in the graft.

I start my T budding low on the rootstock, and if something doesn't take, the next time I move up and around the stock a little. Also, I put a ring of waxed muslin cloth above the graft to sort of 'pinch off' the growth above. This seems to send a chemical signal down to the next viable bud - my graft - that it has to take the lead and grow.

It is an odds game for me. Graft a lot, hopefully something will take. A retired surgeon friend of mine with whom I share gardening and orchard fun doesn't see it that way. He told me his training required him to make every single graft take every single time. He's a surgeon, I'm not. Go with the odds is my best advice.

Comment by Tim Inman Fri Apr 1 11:05:14 2016

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