The amateur guide to bud grafting...

25 February, 2014

...written by a complete amateur!

I never intended to get into grafting. It all seemed too hard, too technical, to much expert knowledge required. And while I am a massive plant nerd, I'm nerdy about varieties of tomatoes, non-chemical ways to foil the plans of local cabbage moths from eating ALL your brassica seedlings and heritage apple varieties.

Not so much horticulture in general.

People who know I like gardening ask me what is wrong with their azaleas. I have no idea. If I can't eat it, I don't care about it. I might be able to help you with your lemon tree that isn't fruiting, or the dark patchy stuff on your tomatoes that is making them die, but that's about it. Send all other enquiries to your friendly neighbourhood nursery staff.

But that all changed when I attended a grafting workshop at the Werribee Park Heritage Orchard. Run by Craig Castree the workshop included plant sales, where you could pick the variety you wanted (they had a range of plums, apricots, peaches and nectarines with maybe 100 varieties all up) for only $3 (yes, $3!!!) for each scion (piece of branch) and then $15 for the rootstock. Then you could take the scion and your rootstock and Craig would graft it for you, showing you how to do it.

It was awesome.

A whole other world of opportunity opened up for me at that moment. I have currently 3 plum trees, 2 peaches and a nectarine. If I grafted new varieties onto those existing trees, which Craig assures me can be done, I could maybe extend that to 2-4 varieties on each tree, and maybe have a total of 12 varieties of plum and 8 peaches, all in the same space as the original 5. Don't get me started on my apples.

How exciting!

I bought scions of apricot and peach. The apricot (variety Moorpark as I'm told this is a good all rounder for my climate, which I want purely for drying as I don't really like fresh apricots but I love dried apricots) I got Craig to graft for me onto a bought rootstock, but the two peach scions (variety Fragar and Blackburn Elberta) came home ungrafted as I wanted to try grafting myself.

I took the scions home in a plastic zip lock bag with a little water in it. I was told they would last and be fine for grafting for up to 2 weeks if kept in the fridge. Into the fridge they went. I then got onto Forestry Tools which Craig recommended for grafting knives and the budding tape he used. I soon had both knife and tape headed to me in the mail. (In fact I received it the day after ordering - excellent service!) I also headed to the big green shed for Clonex, which is a hormone liquid which helps the bud and graft site to become friends.

So having all my bud grafting equipment, I headed into the garden to give it a go.

Firstly, make a horizontal cut in a piece of bark (try to choose one year old wood for this, apparently) about 0.5-1 cm long. Use enough pressure so you can feel resistance (i.e. the central hard woody part).

Then cut vertically down from the middle of your horizontal cut.

About 2 cms should do it.

Then use the reverse side of the blade (yay for specially designed grafting knives) to gently pick up the top layer of bark and reach the cambium layer , where all the growth stuffs happens (I am so obviously not a technical expert on this!) and where you want your graft bud to go.

Do this on both sides of your T shaped cut.

Et voila. Ready for your bud.

Don't forget to sterilise your knife between cuts with metho.

Now get out your scion. This should be new growth about half a centimetre thick with nice buds on it. Make an angled cut under your chosen bud about 1.5cms down from the bud. Use the blade to cut under the bud along the stem. This is hard and takes more pressure than you'd think. Be very careful as the budding knife is very sharp.

I made sure to cut away from me, and always ended up cutting way up the stem. Then cut just above the bud.

There is your bud for the graft.

Dip it in the clonex.

Then insert it into your graft cut.

Make sure it sits nicely into the cut.

Now you need your grafting tape. Now you can use any old tape that will hold the bud firmly in the graft site and keep out water and bacteria etc. But if you use a general impermeable tape, at some point you will need to make an incision to allow the bud (hopefully) to grow out. I didn't feel comfortable with this, so I bought a thing called buddy tape. This is much more expensive than general budding tape, but it has the added advantage of being both a firm hold tape and impermeable to all the things it needs to be impermeable to, as well as allowing the bud to directly grow out. I don't know how. But this sounded like exactly what I needed.

Take your tape of choice and hold it over the bud graft.

Wrap tightly around (stretching as you go with the buddy tape) to secure the bud in place and ensure good contact with the cambium layer.


I wasn't feeling confident, so I did a few grafts of each type.

Now I just need to wait and see if my grafts take. 

Then it will be game on. No fruit tree will be safe.


  1. Grafting has always terrified me, but you make it look so easy, I might just give it a go!

    1. It was surprisingly easy. I know there are much more complicated methods but this one is quite simple. I hope it works though!

  2. Budding roses makes me want to throw things across the room. Have more patience with fruit (but not much). Funny isn't it because iwill happily faff around for hours with other things to get them right. Fingers crossed for your grafts to take.

    1. Funny how patience level differs with plant type :)
      Fingers crossed indeed.