Grafted Fruit Trees Vs. Seedlings
Are you considering growing your own fruit trees? Well, one of the things that is important to know is this: grafted fruit trees tend to be superior to seedlings. Why? Let’s find out.
A seedling tree is, as the name suggests, a tree grown from a seed that has come from the fruit. You know, you eat a peach and throw the stone in the garden. In a little while, a tree starts growing from the peach stone. (Of course, you can also source a seedling tree from a sucker at the base of a tree, which will be the same variety as the rootstock.)
Seedlings can be a bit hit and miss in terms of fruit quality and size, and it will usually take a long time before bearing any fruit—sometimes many years. The other problem is the root system and whether or not it has good resistance qualities.
You can, however, get lucky and produce a fantastic tree … or in rare cases, produce a new variety—should two or more trees cross pollinate, and the seed be a blend of those trees. We have one in our home garden that does not resemble anything in any catalogue. It was grown from seed in a small orchard among 14 other peach varieties.
Grafted Fruit Trees
So, what makes a grafted tree superior to a seedling?
To understand this, you must grasp the process of grafting a tree. First, we source a quality rootstock. By quality, I am not talking about tasty fruit; I’m referring to vigour, disease resistance, drought tolerance and the like—important factors that a tasty variety may not have. This tree can be grown from seed, from a sucker at the side of a tree or by striking a cutting from the right tree.
Usually when the tree is in its second year, a piece of wood is selected from a chosen variety and grafted onto the rootstock. This is where size, taste and quality of fruit come into the equation. The tree that produces excellent fruit may not produce very much due to a root system that lacks vigour, or it may struggle in certain soil types. However, when it is grafted onto a rootstock that has all the growing qualities it needs, it becomes a prolific fruiting tree.
Any wood that appears under the graft is continually removed to allow the graft to receive all the energy from the rootstock, and there you have it: a blend of strong-growing rootstock with a tasty large choice fruit on it.
Of course, this explanation is a very basic understanding of how it all works. There is a great deal of research that goes into the rootstocks. As well as trying to breed trees smaller on dwarf rootstocks, there is also the science of trying to keep up with disease tolerance, and trees that require less maintenance, or those that can be mechanically picked at harvest with greater ease.
My advice would be, unless you want to try your hand at grafting seedling trees, purchase grafted fruit trees from a reputable dealer. This way, you’ll be more certain of eating quality fruit sooner.
Thinking of growing your own orchard? Check out this article: Starting Your Own Home Orchard.