Resources for grafting apples

If you’re participating in the Guidestone Colorado AgriSummit virtual grafting workshop, here are some resources you might find useful. These are what I use for dormant grafting in my unheated garage — generally in March in Boulder, CO.

NOTE: I’ll be adding to the list of requested links & resources in BOLD TYPE, just below, the morning of Friday, 4/17:

— Feel free to email with any questions.

Plant Propagation: Principles and Practices, by Hartmann & Kester. There are many editions. Find a used one for a low price on ebay, perhaps?

GATHERING SUMMER BUDWOOD — this article is right here on the web site.

(Below is just a TOOLS & SUPPLIES list. Look elsewhere for archived instruction and safety information)

KNIVES: The knife I show in the grafting workshop is the Victorinox Floral/Grafting Knife. It is under $20, beveled only on one side, and has a straight blade. I have done hundreds of grafts with mine, so they seem to last well. has a very similar one, also by Victorinox, that’s under $15. Cheapest option: use whatever very sharp knife you have on hand. I like using single-beveled knives, because it’s easier to make planar cuts with them, but there are plenty of people grafting successfully with utility knives.

Are you looking for a left-handed grafting knife (bevel on the other side from most grafting knives)? Try Due Buoi Agriculture — they have ’em (thanks to Reed Loefgren for the tip).

SHARPENING STONES: A very sharp knife is important, so be sure you have adequate sharpening equipment, unless you’re using disposable blades. I use diamond sharpening stones, but there are other options. NC State has a good video showing how to sharpen a new knife.

GRAFTING TAPE: I started out using 1″ Parafilm grafting tape, and still use it sometimes. A roll is only about $5 — which may be a consideration if you only need to graft a small number of trees. If you’re doing larger quantities, say for an orchard, consider Buddy Tape, which I absolutely love. Buddy Tape is more expensive, but there are many times more usable pieces per roll, so it’s probably roughly the same cost per tree as Parafilm. Cheapest option: cut strips of plastic from bread bags (you’ll need to remember to cut these off in mid-season so they don’t girdle the young tree).

HAND PRUNERS: I recommend bypass rather than anvil pruners. Be sure you get some that you can sharpen. I like Felco pruners, which can be disassembled to sharpen the blade. They’re a bit pricey, but spare parts are available, and they can last decades if maintained well. I use the Felco 8, but they have models for left-hand use as well as for smaller hands. Pruners don’t need as fine an edge as grafting knives. I use a small triangular file to sharpen mine. Cheaper option: any sharp pair of bypass pruners.

HAND PROTECTION: For cleft cuts, use an old CD or drill a hole in a board.

3-GALLON PLASTIC NURSERY POTS: I use these to hold my rootstocks in their bundles, and to hold finished grafts while they are healing. Nurseries and landscape contractors may have used ones that they’d give you. I block the drainage holes with small stones, so that water can drain but the moist sand I use to fill the pots won’t wash out.

NURSERY TAGS: If you’re just doing a few trees, these aren’t so important. You can tie pieces of string loosely around your finished grafts and tie different numbers of knots in the tail ends of the strings to designate the cultivar (make a written record of what means what). If you need more detail, embossable aluminum tags are nice because there’s no risk of ink fading in the sunlight.

Copenhaven Farms and Willamette Nurseries are good sources for larger quantities (bundles of 25 & up). Order in the Fall to ensure they have inventory. I suggest ordering smaller quantities from Fedco Trees or Cummins Nursery. Learn a whole bunch about different rootstocks before just buying some. I mostly use EMLA-111 and Antonovka for apples.

Masonville Orchards in Colorado has lots of cultivars.
Fedco Trees has a good selection.
And, you can cut your own scionwood in January from local trees. Read up on how to collect and store scionwood.

Moist sand for pots that hold rootstocks and finished grafts.
Isopropyl alcohol to sterilize blades between grafts.
Small candles if you’ll be sealing scion tips with candle wax (keep the candles away from the flammable alcohol).