To keep all grafts healthy until the union sets, it is crucial to provide proper aftercare. This includes monitoring and maintaining the right humidity levels to prevent excess moisture from entering the graft and drying out the scion, providing shade to protect the graft from direct sunlight, pruning off any rootstock growth below the graft union to direct energy to the scion, and removing any binding materials once the scion shows healthy growth to prevent girdling. Additionally, it’s essential to regularly check the grafts for cracks in the wax seal and reseal as necessary to maintain a good seal on the graft.
Grafting success is heavily dependent on aftercare, according to the authoritative text on plant propagation by Hartmann and Kessler. The book states that 45% of success is attributed to preparation, 10% to craftsmanship, and a significant 45% to the care given to the grafted plant after. Therefore, it is essential to focus on aftercare, just as much as mastering the grafting technique.
Creating a successful graft requires a thorough understanding of the specific technique involved, whether it’s a whip and tongue or a side-veneer. On the other hand, caring for the grafted plant is relatively straightforward, as long as you follow a few basic principles outlined in this guide.
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Aftercare of New Grafts
Caring for a newly grafted plant is similar to nurturing a young seedling. Just as you would harden off seedlings by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions in the spring, the same process applies to new grafts. The objective is to slowly adjust the graft to its new environment by moderating temperature and moisture levels, similar to mid-spring conditions.
The steps involved are straightforward, much like gardening. Professional gardeners often use warm water in PVC pipe to provide heat, and piles of sphagnum moss or sand to maintain humidity.
Aftercare Graft Tips
Monitoring the wax seal on your graft is crucial in the first few days after grafting. It acts as the first barrier against humidity loss. Remember that a graft is a living organism and its seal may weaken due to expansion or changes in temperature. It’s essential to inspect your grafts frequently, especially after a significant temperature or humidity fluctuation. Reapply the wax seal as necessary to maintain proper protection.
Keep Humidity High
Maintaining the right level of humidity is essential for the success of your graft. While you should avoid excess moisture that can seep into the graft and disrupt the connection between stock and scion, dry air can dehydrate the scion and cause it to die. If you are working outdoors, try to keep your grafts in the shade. For indoor grafting, you can use a tray of water under your work area or use a misting spray to keep the air humid.
Control Temperature with High Shade
In case you can’t relocate your grafted plants, providing them with shade is the next best option. The ideal solution is to place them under the canopy of a nearby tree or use the branches of the rootstock left behind during the summer to provide shade. Direct sunlight during summer can cause heat damage to the graft tissue, especially if it is not accustomed to it. If there is no natural canopy available, you can consider building a temporary shelter using shade cloth which can be purchased from nurseries. Even a simple white bedsheet hung from laundry lines can also provide some shade.
Suppose Rootstock Growth
The rootstock is a strong, established plant with roots, stems, and leaves or buds that can produce leaves. The scion, on the other hand, is a weaker plant that is grafted onto the rootstock. To ensure that the rootstock directs its energy towards the scion, it’s essential to prune off any rootstock growth below the graft union, including ground suckers. This should be done promptly to prevent the rootstock from wasting energy on unnecessary growth.
Wait for Scion Growth
When you see healthy growth from the scion, it’s an indication that the graft union has been successful. However, your job is not complete yet. It is crucial to keep an eye out for a weak union that may break under wind stress and continue to prune the rootstock to ensure that as much energy as possible is directed towards the scion.
Girdling occurs when the expanding scion is constricted by the tight wrapping holding it in place. To avoid this, it’s essential to remove the tape or string used for binding the scion once it begins to show healthy growth. This should be done as soon as the scion starts to produce leaves.
Hartmann, Hudson T., and Dale E. Kester. Plant Propagation Principles and Practices, 7 ed. 2002.