Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Choosing where to graft a pecan tree.

    Most of my pecan trees have budded out about a week ahead of their average date of spring leaf burst. So this evening I gathered all my grafting supplies, a box full of scions, and headed for the field to apply my first grafts of the 2017 growing season.
    The first tree I came to was a little over six feet in height with a top divided into three main branches (photo at right). For some, this tree would provide the prefect opportunity to place a 3-flap on each of the branches in an effort to increase the likelihood of obtaining at least one good graft. However, grafting close to the top of a tree actually increases the probability the tree will reject the grafts and simply grow around the scions.
   When grafting trees of this size, I cut the tree off leaving the main trunk about two feet tall (photo at left). You might cringe at the thought of cutting the tree back so far, but I look at it as forcing the tree put all its root energy into the scion that I will place on the stock tree. In addition, I often choose to graft to trees at this height so I can sit on my cooler and graft comfortably. I can certainly graft more trees in a day if I'm comfortable when carving scions.
    I used a bark graft to attach the scion to stock (photo at right). As my usual custom, I then attached a bamboo stake to the tree to protect the scion from bird damage and provide a place to tie up the scion's new shoots to prevent wind damage.
   Because I removed so much of the top of the stock tree, this scion will grow with a lot of vigor. I'll trim the scion down to a single shoot about 4-6 weeks after grafting. The combination of vigorous growth and a single shoot will make training this new tree to a central leader shape very easy.
    The final step in grafting this tree was to place a deer cage around the tree (photo at left). The local deer herd loves the taste of emerging pecan leaves and I definitely don't want all my grafting efforts to be destroyed with a single bite.