Grafting apple trees is a challenge for the gardener. Taking one species of apples and forcing it to grow on another species seems unnatural, yet it works. Most commercial apples grown and sold today are grafted tree fruits. Not only is the method of grafting important, the timing is critical to success.
Early spring when the plant is still dormant is the best time for grafting apple trees. Whether grafting just a branch or changing the whole tree, most growers perform apple tree grafting early in the year. The grafted tree wakes out of dormancy and the sap flows through the tissues of the graft.
After an apple rootstock about 3 years old is a good time to use it for grafting. By this time, the root system is well established and ready to handle the stress of cut branches. The tree matures after a couple of seasons and grows rapidly in the spring.
When scion wood is dormant in the early spring is the best time to take branches for some grafting procedures. Wrap the cuttings in damp sphagnum moss, put them in a plastic bag and keep them between 30 and 40 degrees until ready for use. Once the cambium layer in the stock tree is actively growing, graft the dormant scion onto it and tape it well. Some growers also do a type of grafting called T-budding in July to mid-September when the bark loosens a little.
Good weather is important to the successful take of a graft. Work early in the morning when you take the scion wood while the plant is still full of water. Don’t try to graft during a period of drought or early heat, as the tree is already stressed. Overcast, cool mornings are the best time of day for grafting apple trees.