Tree Grafting – Olive

Graft success (2) (Small)

We have plenty of uncultivated olive trees around our plot, which were here when we came. Although bearing fruit, they tend to be smaller, and are only suitable for oil. I`ve tried on several occasions to graft these “wild” ones, as the Cretans call them, but always unsuccessfully. Until, I discovered a new method, (to me anyway) which I will call “pegging”.

Graft success (3) (Small)

Graft Successes (7) (Small)

It would appear I`ve at last succeeded, one of the pegs has taken. Unfortunately, I did not record the procedure on camera. You will find more “technical” descriptions on line, which lost me in their terminology, so I will endeavour to explain below, in layman`s terms. In Crete, this procedure is usually carried out in March/April. It may differ in other countries, depending on how late the Spring is.

You`ll need:

Grafting knife

Binding materials, can be hemp, reed or wide plastic ribbon

Handful of local soil to make mud sealant

Cut the “wild” or uncultivated tree down, leaving approx. 1/2 to 1 metre of height. Locate your “donοr” branches, ie. branches from a cultivated olive tree, choosing this year`s, thickest growth. Look carefully at the leaves, you will usually have pairs of leaves, one on each side of the branch. In the crux of these leaves, close to the leaf stem, on the upper side, look carefully for a small, unopened bud. This is what will develop into a new shoot. After deciding how many pegs you would like to implant, chop the donor branch section to approx. 12/15 cms, making sure your leaves and buds are towards the top of the chopped section. On a chopping board and with a good sharp knife, slice the bottom end of the branch diagonally, creating a deep diagonal section on your branch, (will update photo of how this should look later).

Once you have your donor branches ready, take your grafting knife and with the handle, tap the bark gently around the top of the newly chopped trunk where you wish to implant the pegs. This loosens the bark. Carefully make a vertical incision, the same length as the diagonal cut on the donor branch. Using your grafting knife again, gently ease the bark away from the trunk, revealing two flaps of bark. Place your diagonally cut peg branch into the opening, making sure the surface of the diagonal cut is snug against the trunk. Close the two flaps of bark over the peg. If you are placing more than one peg, continue with the rest. When completed, bind quite tight, holding the pegs in position and the bark flaps closed.

Mix up a handful of local soil with a little water and place this on the original cut to the trunk. This keeps the procedure moist, prevents parasites and the cold from damaging the tree. Wrap a piece of plastic bag, or even cling film over the mud and around the binding, but not over the upright peg branches with leaves.

Go back in 20/30 days to check. If there appears to be no new growth on the pegs, but they still appear green, check the mud for moisture. If necessary, drip a little water onto the mud, reclose and leave. If you see the new leaves sprouting, then you`ve succeeded!  Once you`re sure your grafts have taken, remove the binding.

Usually, you`ll find the base of the tree has loads of new growth. Trim these back to the trunk and keep repeating. The new graft will slowly draw the trunks energy, and these off shoots will reduce in number.

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