Grafting apple trees is fun!
Grafting apple trees is a good way to get the fruit you want. If you have only one tree, you can put as many varieties of apple on to your tree as you like. You can also use it to save a tree, or save a variety you love on a dying tree. You can make a new tree with scion wood from the variety you want on to new root stock. Perhaps you have a large old diseased tree that needs to be removed but you love the apples it produces. If you want those apples on a smaller tree, you can put a scion from the old tree on to dwarfing rootstock and have just what you want. Make it a fun hobby with many applications. You can also graft to direct growth. For example, I had a large branch that extended straight over my driveway. The branch was diseased and needed to be cut off, but would leave a very unbalanced tree if simply cut off. I cut off the diseased part, and then added two scions to grow parallel to the driveway instead of into it.
It all starts with two things. The scion and the root stock. A scion is a twig of one-year growth. The scion is the part of the graft that produces the apple variety that you want. You can tell what is the one year growth because there is a little ring on the twig where the prior year ended and the current year began. Scions can be obtained in many different ways. If you have a friend who has an apple variety you like, ask them to give you a scion when they prune their tree. You might also ask an orchardist if you can have a scion of a variety they grow. Sometimes nurseries will prune the bare root trees they sell in late winter/early spring. If so, occasionally you can get a pruning from them. One of the best ways to get a scion is in a local scion exchange. Clubs have them all over the country. Here in the northwest, the Home Orchard Society puts on a propagation fair that is a scion exchange where hundreds of scion varieties are offered. The root stock is a tree that gives certain characteristics to the graft. Some root stocks make the tree be dwarfed. This is popular among homeowners as well as professional orchardists. Who wants to get up on a tall, dangerous ladder to get the fruit? Other root stocks enable the plant to live in certain climate or soil conditions. Sometimes the scion is grafted right on to an already existing tree instead of a root stock.
There are several different types or styles of grafts. One of the most common types is the whip graft. This is used when the scion and the root stock (or tree branch) are the same diameter. This is done during dormancy in late winter/early spring. If your root stock or tree branch is larger than the scion, you can do a cleft graft during the dormant season or a bark graft in the early spring. In the growing season (summer) all is not lost for grafting. In fact most commercial trees are made by a bud graft during the summer. There are many other syles of grafts, but they are mainly variations of these mentioned.
The Whip Graft Even a beginner can make a successful whip graft.