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Rookie Season - Grafting Conifers Results

sc77 (6b MA)
9 years ago

In the January of 2014, I found my first witch's broom on a very old Pinus strobus.
I had never considered learning how to graft until that point, but then was determined to retrieve this broom and clone it.

Many thanks to the generous help of Dax and Maple_Grove (Alex). I was able to but a plan together to build my budget grafting chamber. Here are some invaluable grafting resource Links:

I decided to use the plans Alex built for an indoor chamber, and just modify it slightly, as I wanted it to be a portable unit. My original plan was to garage graft, but I quickly found out it gets much too cold in there, then I thought I would use my basement, but the light setup was pretty expensive. Ultimately, I used a four season sunroom, which is on it's own temperature zone. I had overlooked this option, because I wasn't sure it would provide enough sunlight, but it did. Here is my setup:

* 3ft (wide) x 3.5ft (tall) x 2.5ft (deep)
* Humidity introduced using ultrasonic humidify & 2 fish pumps + oxygen rocks (1 in the ultrasonic humidifier and 2 in the "catch basin" inside the structure)
* Monitored humidity/temp using AcuRite 00613A1 Indoor Humidity Monitor ($10 - Amazon)


This was about as "budget", low-volume grafting as it gets. My understock was collected in Spring '14 from the woods around my house and potted up. I only collected 7, so didn't leave myself with great odds of success. I also didn't use any of the nice Anderson Pots, just recycled what I had lying around.

Tools/Materials used:

* Victorinox Florist Grafting Knife ($16 - Amazon)

* Parafilm Grafting Tape ($5 - Amazon)

* Hydrofarm MT10006 Heat Mat with Digital Control

* Elastic bands

* Rubbing alcohol

I brought my understock in around Dec 20th, and started my grafting about 1 month later on January 18th. The understock had not yet began pushing, but it was close (bud swell) and I had to take advantage of the day, because it was one of the few that had a high above freezing for collecting the scions from the broom. Using a 6ft ladder, 14ft pole prunner, and modified 6ft pvc extension, I was just able to reach the broom. I also collected some scions from a local Pinus strobus 'Pendula', and returned home to graft.

The biggest problem I encountered right away, is that I did not get my knife sharpened professionally. I had hoped that since it was brand new it would be sharp enough (Wrong)! Had I taken Dax's advice, I would have sent it to Frank Surace The other major problem is that I like to avoid chemicals, so I didn't initally use any fungacide/insecticide, which caused me a lot of headaches dealing with "cotton balls". I later used Daconil, since that was the only thing I had and it helped, but wasn't great.

The actually grafting wasn't too difficult, but I went pretty tight (almost too tight) on the binding, to make up for the less than stellar cut my knife was making. 1 of the 7 understock had died before I could even graft it. Of the remaining 6, 3 were not in great shape, but I grafted them anyways. I suspected those would be my failures, and they were. Had a not gone so cheap and purchased pot grown understock, I may have had better results. In the end, I got 50% to take and now have 3 new plants I grafted myself, one of "Witch" is new and I named it Pinus strobus 'Mason's Comet' after my son. I also send some scions of this broom to Alex, who has now become an expert grafter, and had good success with them.

The Results:

Pinus strobus 'Mason's Comet' (The Broom)

Pinus strobus 'Pendula'

Again, huge thanks to Dax & Alex... really wouldn't have even tried this without there advice and knowledge. Hopefully this inspires other novice grafters to give it a shot.


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