Grafting Workshop Review

Grafting class, spring 2016, Laura FinkbeinerThis spring I had the opportunity to attend a grafting workshop that was presented by Toby Day, our State Extension Agent, and Laura Finkbeiner, an expert at grafting apple trees.  Both did an excellent job of presenting and teaching us how to graft apple trees. Here is a bit of the information that I gathered from the class.

  • Planting seeds from a specific variety of apple tree do not produce an apple tree with that exact cultivar’s fruit. Apple trees can only be reproduced “true” to the original cultivar by grafting.
  • Some of Montana’s heritage apple tree branches are being grafted to new root stock to keep the old genetics alive. (See article on Montana Heritage Orchard Program.)
  • With our short growing season, dry conditions, and long harsh winters it is important to have a tree that can withstand these conditions. One such apple tree that can withstand these conditions originated in Russia and is called Antonovaka.  It is often used for the root stock when grafting other desirable cultivars of apple (such as Goodland, Honey Crisp, and Sweet Sixteen to name a few).
  • The part that is grafted on to the root stock is called the scion.
  • There are special knifes that are made just for grafting and they are specific to left or right handed individuals.
  • The grafting knife should be cleaned between each cut. (Lysol spray disinfectant or denatured alcohol are good products to use.)
  • A whip graft is made by using your grafting knife to make a single straight slanting cut on both the scion and the stock. Toby and Laura made it look as simple as (apple) pie!  For us beginners it was really quite scary and took a bit of practice to accomplish.  Luckily we all left with all our fingers and no bloodshed.
  • In order for the graft to take, the cambium of the scion and stock must be lined up and in contact with one another.
  • Grafting tape and wax are used to cover and protect all grafted areas. (Laura had devised a clever and useful way of using her body to keep the wax pliable.)
  • If you ever get a chance to attend a grafting workshop given by Toby Day or Laura Finkbeiner, you should do it. You can also find some good information on grafting at
  • On last note, my grafted apple tree is growing! Aren’t plants just amazing!!!

Elaine Allard