Definition: Grafting – to cause (a scion) to unite with a stock; to propagate a plant (by grafting)
Grafting fruit trees is one of my favorite early spring jobs. The days are longer, the sun stronger, and the urge to plant is great. It satisfies that urge on a warm spring day either outside or in the greenhouse. Fruit trees have been grafted for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. This can also be done on shrubs and on greenhouse tomato plants.
Grafting involves taking a piece of scion wood and attaching it to a rootstock. The scion is a short piece of pencil-sized new growth from a tree with qualities you wish to propagate. It is then grafted (attached), by any of several ways, to a rootstock, matching up both sides if the two are the same size. If this is not the case, then both pieces must align the cambium layers on one side to allow for the flow of nutrients. It is then taped or waxed to hold both pieces together. This graft can be done on purchased rootstock, which is then planted, or on rootstock already in the ground, or on branches of trees where you want more than one variety.
The waiting period comes next. As spring progresses, the sap rises from the roots which start to grow and buds from the rootstock will start to send up new branches. Soon after this happens, perhaps June or July, you may start seeing growth from the grafted piece. Some years there is a good percentage that “take”. It is always exciting to know that you have created new life. Other years, because of weather conditions – late frosts, heavy rains, or poor techniques -- the scion dies. This is a disappointment but part of the cycle. The one redeeming feature is that the rootstock can be grafted again the following year.
For three seasons of the year, my life is totally immersed in soil and the plants I tend, and I’ve come to see grafting as a form of birthing. The egg and sperm unite to grow into a baby. There is that time of gestation, birth, baby, adolescent, adult (creating new generations), ripening to old age, and recycling. In the plant there is the union of pollen and ovule to form a seed. The dormant seed swells with moisture and warmth, bursts out of the ground as a newborn, becomes a seedling, matures to adulthood, flowers, produces fruit that contains the seeds to start the cycle over again, grows old, and recycles itself.
Like the tree that grows in a difficult spot, so we too are challenged in our life cycle. Some do better than others, and some don’t make it. Like the grafted tree we are a union of two parts, producing offspring to continue the cycle through the ebb and flow of seasons and the spiral of life.