How to Swap Fruit Tree Scionwood

Reader Contribution by Anna Hess And Mark Hamilton
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Groundhog’s Day is past, which means winter is ebbing.  My favorite way to celebrate the impending spring is by swapping scionwood.

What’s scionwood?  Most of the fruit trees we’re familiar with are clones produced by grafting a twig (scionwood) from a known variety onto a rootstock.  That’s how people around the world can grow Red Delicious apples and all come up with a similar tree.  In contrast, if you plant seeds from a Red Delicious apple, all of the offspring will be a bit (or a lot) different.

There’s a rich tradition among fruit-tree enthusiasts of swapping scionwood, which means you get free twigs to graft onto your rootstock for the price of shipping out a padded envelope.  These swaps not only save money, they also help you find rare varieties, like the Kidd’s Orange Red I plan to add to my orchard this year.  Assuming you don’t have an in-person swap in your area, you can learn about the best online swap sites here.

In the past, I’ve assumed the best way to ship and store scionwood is by wrapping the twigs in damp newspapers and then sealing them inside a ziplock bag.  However, I recently heard from one expert that this method is too damp and promotes problematic molds.  Instead, he recommends simply dripping one drop of water into the bag with your fresh scionwood, then sealing it tight.  After going through the mail, this setup can be placed directly into your fridge or root cellar unopened to wait until grafting season begins in a few weeks.

Have fun expanding your orchard with nearly free trees!  And while you’re saving money, my Permaculture Chicken: Incubation Handbook is on sale this week for only 99 cents — get it while it’s hot!