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grafting aftercare

Posted by Ted L. Jurney 
grafting aftercare
June 10, 2014 11:20AM
This spring I grafted 50-60 new trees of various varieties onto various rootstocks. I then placed bunches of the new graftlings into 5 gallon buckets with primarily peat and placed in a cool room, covered in plastic to retain moisture and humidity. I seem to get 70 percent taking this way. I have then been transferring inti 3 gallon fiber pots individually. Things go bad from there. Many trees will be cruising along just fine, then just up and die. The little leaves will start dessicating and die. Ive lost 15 or so so far, more die or begin dying daily. This is just horrible I'm down to 50 percent survival, more dying all the time. My planting mix is 50 50 peat compost, commercial, sometimes bagged mushroom compost, sometimes forrest products. Its a terrible thing, watching the trees die. Any help or ideas appreciated. Is my mix too hot? What do people do for aftercare? I'm in new mexico, its bloody hot and windy all the time. I just don't know what I'm doing wrong. I have close to 25 more to pot up, I am hesitating for fear of killing, don't know what to do. Again, any help appreciated.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/11/2014 08:20PM by Michael Phillips.
Re: grafting aftercare
June 11, 2014 02:05PM
Transition is usually the most difficult part of maintaining survival in propagating, whether this is cuttings, grafts, etc. Just like moving vegetable transplants from warmer environs to the outdoors in spring, so goes things like these. First, though, are you certain they "took", ie was union complete in the scion. If it had extension growth, it did, but simply leafing out does not mean a successful graft.

If the graft was good and they are dying it is most likely a humidity issue. Even in a soaking wet soil zone, excessive transpiration can spell disaster not only for grafts, but for plants in general. A plastic canopy can be helpful, but another method is to hang cloth over the grafts (not touching) in a kind of a tent, and soak it periodically. Not only does this hydrate the air, but cools things through evaporational cooling.

The medium as a problem would be evidenced by a rotting rootstock, which should be apparent as brown when rinsed, and a water soaked interior when cut.

Also, keep them out of direct sunlight in the first few weeks.

Walden Heights Nursery & Orchard
Zone 3 in Vermont
Re: grafting aftercare
June 13, 2014 09:44AM
Todd, thank you for your response. I like the idea of a tent, and thanks for the insights- will look for extension v. Simply leafing. This is rough. Do people who graft have all these problems generally? I'm looking at at least 50percent or less survival.
Re: grafting aftercare
June 16, 2014 11:36AM
Some people have trouble, some don't. I think you have a special case because of the heat and dryness that's all, at least that is what I suspect. I have done tens of thousands of grafts, but plenty I have killed with aftercare. It is usually drying them out. In most cases bench grafting is timed so healing occurs before setting out (ie- in the 40 F and moist ), and then set up for growth at a time of year that is kind to them. Spring in most locations is wet, cool cloudy compare to other times of year. If it isn't, you'd want to recreate the conditions artificially. The transition is less detrimental if the scion piece is fully dormant when placed out, but much more delicate once growth begins.
Re: grafting aftercare
June 22, 2014 10:29AM
Thanks, Todd. I may build a humidity tent, as I have at least 20-30 more to pot up. I am thinking you are on to something, as the heat/ dryness is significant, and the one change since the spring. Seems all the grafts that "died" merely lost their leaves, both rootstock and scion seem green and alive, the roots appear healthy...
Re: grafting aftercare
June 24, 2014 11:13AM
Ok. I went ahead with the humidity tent, set out 13 potted graftlings, and they are all fine and good, survived so far. Not only is it humid, but the evaporative cooling is knocking the ambient temp inside down at least 10 degrees.I think you are on to the solution. So far so good. I can't thank you enough. The immature root system couldn't keep the leaves hydrated? Any nutritional advice for young trees to encourage rapid root growth?
Re: grafting aftercare
June 25, 2014 07:45PM
Under normal circumstances the roots can easily supply the scion with enough water. A problem arises when the environment is too dry and warm leading to excess transpiration. There is recorded evidence that plants can suffer or die from this type of stress in, for instance, greenhouses. In such cases, no matter how much water was supplied to the root system, it could not keep pace with the transpirational loss of water. Note these are not examples of frail creatures like new grafts, but regular plant stock.

Unlike fresh cuttings, grafted trees can be supplied the same fertilization that the older tree would, albeit in smaller amounts. A foliar feed would also benefit.
Re: grafting aftercare
June 27, 2014 07:33AM
Just a thought, Ted. If you are in a semi-arid environment, might water quality also be playing a part?
Depending on the water source, dissolved salts in the irrigation water might be accumulating in the potting mix, and/or slightly saline water sprayed on the foliage (especially in hot, windy conditions) can rapidly cause leaf burn.

Kalangadoo Orchard
On the “other side” in South Australia
Re: grafting aftercare
July 13, 2014 11:09AM
My water source here in Albuquerque is city water. I totally appreciate the input. Starting last February I attempted to bench graft 60-75 trees. Will end up with probably 10 or so alive. If I'm lucky. Its been very depressing and frustrating, I can get the graft to take, grow about 6 inches, then just shrivel up. Too hot, too dry, too windy, too much water, not enough, too much sun, too little, every single variety I can get my hands on. I cannot for the life of me figure out what I'm doing, or failing to do, there's no rhyme or reason. The grafts in the humidity tent did hold on for about another two weeks, but then right back to 5-10 percent survival.
So.
I have to reevaluate. A lot. Like, everything. I seriously can't take it.
But thanks to all who had advice.
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