I’m making the most of the warmer weather to get pruning done – first of all the grapes, then the espaliered apples and pears. I pruned the other fruit trees in autumn, so at least they don’t need any work now. I’ve cut the espaliers back hard to keep their shape; it might mean I get less fruit than last year.
February is also the time to graft stone fruit trees. I’ve never done it before and always wanted to try, so when I had a grafted tree die at the grafting point, I decided to keep the rootstock and use it to graft myself.
First step was to cut it back to healthy stock. This is the original tree – an apricot, usually grafted to a wild plum. The top part is dead (the old graft) but the lower part (the rootstock) is still alive and had grown prolifically last year.
The techinique is called bark grafting or rind grafting; insert a knife vertically into the bark, starting from the cut-off end, making a short vertical cut downward. Then the bark is peeled back slightly from that cut.
Then cut the base of a dormant twig from the scion tree (in this case a tasty plum) into a long skinny wedge.
This is then inserted into the cut in the bark
We put in two scion twigs. Then it is tied with raffia to hold everything securely together as it heals, and painted over the graft with mastic to protect the exposed areas.
Then you cross your fingers and hope it takes! If it doesn’t, we will try again – we left the rootstock long enough to cut it back again and regraft if necessary next year.