Fruit Propagation Workshop

Yesterday we held the Plant Propagation Workshop.

It snowed the same day, but inside the greenhouse, we propagated raspberries from root cuttings, and grafted apple and peach trees. We used a grafting tool to do the latter:

Here is the transcript of the video.

Today we had a fruit propagation workshop. We covered a hands-on experience with raspberry propagation and grafting of fruit trees. 7 people attended the workshop.

The basic story is that if you have the knowhow and access to genetic material, you can create edible landscapes – including animals – which can provide all your food needs. If you can propagate edible plants – and especially perennials, then you could have an endless supply of food, year round. Nut trees such as hazelnuts and chestnuts can be a big part of that. See our Distillation number 7 for an overview of our local food production strategy.

In the workshop, we started with raspberry propagation from root cuttings. To do this, all you need to do is dig up a raspberry plant in its dormant state, take about 1-2 inch root segements, and plant them in soil. You should take the thicker, as opposed to fibrous, roots – roots at least 1/8 of an inch wide. This way, you can get tens of new plants from a single plant – an entire food garden dripping with raspberries later on in the season. We took the raspberry plants and did this, and people took them home in small pots. Little raspberry plants sprout up from these when the weather gets warm, and they can be transplanted out in early or mid summer, once the babies are sufficiently big.

Root cuttings can be used to propagate a number of other plants – any plants that spread by rhizomes or have thick roots.

Next, we moved on to grafting of apple and peach trees. We took apple rootstocks – from suckers that came out of the base of some older apple trees. You can grow these rootstocks from seed, or get them from a nursery. I know the last ones we got from a nursery were simply branches that were rooted and then sold as the rootstocks. By the way, does somebody know the details of rooting apple branch cuttings to make rootstocks? This is a valuable technique, and it should be open source.

Why graft in the first place? Well – some trees, like apricots, peaches, and plums – have good fruit quality if you grow them right from seed. Personally, I never saw any wild peach that I didn’t like. Indeed, the wilder types are typically more hardy and disease resistant, and while not as cosmetically attractive, they are typically more packed with flavor. For some trees, like apples, that have been improved from wild crabapples over millennia – by selection or hybridization – the offspring from seed does not come true, so it is desirable to graft. Grafting is asexual propagation that guarantees that you will obtain clones of a desired variety. The rootstock is selected for various good features, such as disease resistance or adaptability to particular weather or soil conditions.

We took our apple rootstocks, plus peach rootstocks that we grew from seed – and used a grafting tool.

The grafting tool allows you to do make an exact-fitting v-cut – so that you are guaranteed that the rootstock you cut, and the scion of the tree of interest – have a perfect fit. Indeed, we got about 95% success rate on our 50 apple grafts 2 years ago, and I suspect that the success rate would be lower if we just used a grafting knife.
I tried making a homemade grafter with relative success, but I used a spare blade from the grafting tool, mounted it on a block of wood carefully with some screws, and attached the assembly to a drill press to get straight, downward pressure. You need something like a drill press, as a lot of force is required to make a smooth cut. While you can get these replacement blades for $20 and do it yourself, I suggest just buying the tool if you have $60 to spare. Best yet, is someone out there familiar with how to fabricate the actual blade? That would be a great process to make open source.

In any case, you cut the rootstock and scionwood, fit them together, and then simply use masking tape to hold them together. We brushed beeswax from our hives on top of that to seal the joint so it could callus or heal, without losing moisture. That’s about it. We also sealed the top of the scionwood with beeswax to prevent desiccation.

The procedure requires that you take the rootstock and scionwood when they are dormant, allow about 2 weeks for healing the cut, and after that, you keep the tree in a cold place with light, until the tree starts to leaf out. Then you let this grow until well-established, and transplant to the field later in the spring.

So this is how you can create an endless supply of fruit trees, at the cost of an apple seed or peach pit.


  1. Nathan

    The inquiries are a nice touch: it shows interest in collaboration. We keep at it; they will come. The voice describes the content displayed. A

  2. […] plant propagation workshop of last weekend did not offer a chance for good documentation of the process details, so […]

  3. John Carlson

    I have always been interested in grafting. While surfing for info about the subject I ended up at your site. Since I only have slow speed internet I could not watch the video, but it would be nice if you could take a few close up photo’s of the processes that you talked about and make them available on your site.. Just a suggestion. I put you on my favorites list and will be checking back in. Thanks from Minnesota.

  4. […] Propagation Workshop on March 20. See the documentation from last year’s workshop – blog post and […]