An Easy Method for Grafting Apple Trees

Use cleft grafting to start a one-tree apple orchard.

  • Grafting
    Make sure that the cambium of the scions is lined up and in contact with that of the stump
    Photo by Adobestock/brszattila
  • Grafting Healthy Bud
    The first step in cleft grafting apple trees is to take cuttings from below a healthy bud. 
  • Grafting Host Limb Off Square
    Cut the "host" limb off square to form a clean "stump".
  • Grafting Splitting the Host Stump
    Split the host stump with a chisel, and wedge it open to make a scion implant.
  • Grafting Wax
    Then coat all cut surfaces with grafting wax to complete the job!

  • Grafting
  • Grafting Healthy Bud
  • Grafting Host Limb Off Square
  • Grafting Splitting the Host Stump
  • Grafting Wax

How many folks do you know who can boast of having an apple tree that bears Roxbury Russets, Westfield Seek-No-Furthers, Esopus Spitzenbergs, and crab apples ... simultaneously? Well, you'll be able to make that—or your own unique—claim if you follow the easy grafting procedure I’ve outlined here.

You see, I discovered years ago that, even with just one lonely apple tree, I could use a no-sweat technique called cleft grafting to transform something as unpromising as a “crabber” into a veritable apple factory. The time for grafting apple trees is just before the buds pop open in late winter or in early spring … and here’s how.

Cleft Grafting Procedure

Step One

Locate donor trees that offer the varieties of apple you want. I’ve found that most folks will allow you to take cuttings from even their most valued apple producers, as long as you act as if you know what you’re going … and assure them you won’t harm their trees. Tree cuttings used for grafting are called scions, and you’ll want to take them from thin limbs that produced well the previous summer, as evidenced by an abundance of dormant but fat early-spring buds. 

Harvest scions in foot-lengths, beginning your cut just below one of the buds. With a sharp knife, slice into the limb at a downward angle, so that the cut forms a wedge extending an inch or so below the bottom bud. (It’s important not to damage the bark on the side of the wedge opposite the bud … and don’t take so many cuttings that you’ll weaken the donor tree.) 

When you’ve collected all the scions that you’ll need, just drop the whole batch into a pail of water to carry home and store until you’re ready to make the implants. 

12/20/2018 6:40:20 AM

Can I graft apricot scions onto a peach tree?

8/19/2017 12:50:30 PM

I appreciate your methods of grafting an apple tree. I have over hundred fig trees in my farm and do you graft fig trees? Thanks for your answer.

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