|Open! Open! Open!|
I can feel it. Can you? I shouldn't be inside typing. I should be outside, digging in the dirt. The weather is warming. Do you feel that sunshine on your back? Does the sun look just a tad brighter than the normal winter blah? Look closely. Is that daffodil about to pop open?
Spring is on its way. I should be outside amending the raised beds in anticipation of the onion starters that will arrive next week from Dixondale Farms. After last year's grand experiment produced some whopper and good tasting onions, the wife that is Venus and I doubled up on the order this year. We ordered one bunch each of red, yellow and white. One bunch equals about sixty onion starter plants. That's 180 onions. Think that's enough?
|Bing Cherry Graft to Royal Rainier Cherry Tree|
The onset of this February blast of spring-like conditions also tells me something else: I'd better get moving and finish off the projects on the grafting front. With the stone fruit trees in dormant stage, Bill Bird has been playing the role of "Johnny Appleseed" in one Frankensteinish grafting effort after another. Why be stuck with two or three peach varieties when you can have 20?
I documented last year's amateurish grafting efforts here. Using my handy-dandy 3T EZ grafting tool, I set about the yard grafting scion branch after scion branch to one fruit tree after another. The result? Amazing success on the pluot and plum trees! But I struck out on the peach, cherry and nectarine grafting efforts. Not a single branch took. So what went wrong?
|3T EZ Grafting Tool|
Nothing, really. I'm still learning at this craft. Greater success comes with experience. The more you graft? The better you'll get at it. Your success rate will go up. So, when you look at it from that angle? I did pretty good. But I can do better. This year I am employing a new method learned at the hands of an Iranian-born Sacramento resident who taught me a grafting technique I'd never seen performed before.
His name is Samad (or Sam) Jaufeshan. And his Sacramento backyard is loaded with testament after testament to his grafting skills. When you come across a grower that has 42 different varieties of table grapes that have been grafted to less than ten grapevine stumps, it might be a good idea to stop, look and listen. I first met Sam during my miserable and failed attempts to graft Duke avocado tree scions to avocado root stock.
|Standard Grafts Using the 3T EZ Tool|
The 3T EZ grafting tool I had employed that first year is a good tool for beginners and it's a tool I will continue to use. But this type of grafting does have it's drawbacks. The V-Graft, for example, requires you to find a branch on a tree that is about the same size of the scion itself, which isn't always easy to do via the naked eye. Secondly, both the V and Omega grafts require you to pick a branch that is the farthest away from the fruit tree trunk. As you get closer to the trunk, the fruit bearing branches get to be very large -- an inch or more in diameter.
I do not recommend hacking off a large branch to perform a graft like this. It's likely to fail and leave you with a gaping hole in the tree itself. This is not a good idea.
|Samad Method: Skin Grafting|
But the "Samad Method" as I've come to call it now (also known as t-budding) does not rely upon grafting one branch to another. It doesn't require you to "search out" and find the "perfect fit." It allows you to graft on any branch, or even the trunk of the fruit tree itself. The "Samad Method" is simple, yet successful. I say this because I have three grafted Duke avocado trees to prove it. At least one of them will find a home in the Bird Back 40 this spring.
Let me back up a moment and say the Samad Method "seems" to be simple when you see it performed. However, like any grafting attempt, experience counts. My first few grafts using this method were, in a word, bad. But practice makes perfect. The last few grafting attempts have been right on the money.
|Common Box Cutter Turned Skin Grafting Tool|
Another plus? This grafting technique does not require the grafter to hack off fruit bearing branches. It also allows the grafter to make ten grafts instead of one or two. Every inch of the fruit tree in question is open to this method. You're not limited to one small branch that is at the furthest point from the tree trunk itself.
The "Samad Method" involves taking skin from one fruit tree scion branch and grafting that bit of skin to the skin of a fruit tree. Rather than "branch to branch," it's the skin of one bud cut from the donor branch to the skin of the recipient tree. This requires a couple of things: a bit of practice and razor sharp grafting tool. There are some grafters who employ actual surgical tools for this type of procedure, so caution is a must.
|T-Cut Into Cherry Tree Branch|
Each scion branch contains anywhere from five to ten buds. This means one donor branch can provide five to ten grafting opportunities rather than the ONE that is offered with the V or Omega grafts. This is why Venus' Royal Rainier Cherry tree holds eight Bing Cherry grafts instead of one or two. I don't need all eight to be successful, although that would be a riot, wouldn't it? No -- as long as one survives and grows -- I will have accomplished the task at hand.
This grafting technique allowed me to graft four Loring Peach buds onto the trunk of my O'Henry fruit tree. It allowed me to place four Suncrest Peach buds on the strongest branches of the June Pride Peach tree. Four of the strong, fruit bearing, branches on the Fuji Apple tree hold Braeburn Apple grafts. There's more to list here, but I'm sure you get the idea.
|Bud Inserted Into T-Cut|
And now the $64 question: Will this method work? I've seen it work in another backyard, but Sam has a 40 year head start on my growing and grafting efforts. As with any gardening experiment? Only time and patience will tell. When the first buds of spring emerge I'll either have a large smile on my face, or it's "more practice needed."