Category Archives: Garden

Apple Tree Grafting, Take Two


Last year, I attempted to graft some scions onto the apple tree in my front yard. Unfortunately, they did not take.  Now I’m trying again.

In order to produce fruit, apple trees need a nearby “pollenizer”, another variety of apple that blooms at the same time.  In orchards, the different trees varieties can provide the necessary diversity.  Since I only have the one tree, I’m forced to graft on different varieties in order to get any fruit.

My base tree is a Northern Spy variety, which is an old variety from New York state.  I really wanted Pound Sweet, Pitmaston Pineapple, and Smokehouse varieties to graft on.  Pound Sweet is a huge, almost melon-like dessert apple.  Pitmaston Pineapple is a tiny, tart apple with well… pineapple notes.  Smokehouse is a nice versatile apple.  Sadly, all of the places I was looking to order scionwood from did not have Pitmaston Pineapple this year.

The other apple tree grafting consideration I needed to take into account was the bloom times for these various varieties.  Based on the Apple Bloom Periods ebook from the Home Orchard Society, I got the following blooming periods:

  • Northern Spy – C (Mid-Late)
  • Pound Sweet – B (Mid-Early)
  • Smokehouse – A (Early) or C (Mid-Late) [Two varieties same name]
  • Pitmaston Pineapple – C (Mid-Late) [Couldn’t Get]

The problem with this is that I might have a bloomer in each of the A, B, and C blocks, but possibly no overlap, meaning no apples.  To get around this, I looked though the Maple Valley Orchards and FedCo Trees catalogs for suitable varieties.  I ended up selecting Shamrock (B) and Sweet Sixteen (C) to make sure that I at least had the B and C blocks covered.  If my Smokehouse is the A block, I might still get some apples from early B period blooms, but at least my Pound Sweet and Northern Spy would produce.

I ended up ordering from Maple Valley because I missed the FedCo ordering window.  The scions came well-wrapped and moist in a padded box on Friday.  I kept them cool and today (Sunday), I went out and did the apple tree grafting.  I used a Saddle Graft instead of a Whip-and-Tongue graft like last year.  I also used Parafilm tape instead of Grafting Wax (which may be the stickiest substance on Earth).


I also cut off some excess branches and a bunch of extraneous, tiny “sucker” branches that formed after last year’s failed grafting.  I sealed all the cuts with Tanglefoot Sealer.

The large branch pointing away from you in this photo is Northern Spy.  Since it’s the main variety, I wanted to make sure it remained well-established without giving it too much of a headstart.

Now, we wait with fingers crossed.