Looking After Your Fruit Tree
Graft and Go (and what to do with it)
When you get your grafted tree home, put it in compost in a pot and keep it in a warm place. If you have not got a greenhouse, it can be kept indoors as at this stage it does not need light. Be careful to keep it damp.
Within about three weeks the buds will start to swell and the tree will need to go into the light, preferably in a sheltered position or a greenhouse. If any growth occurs on the rootstock, just nip it off, The main task for your tree in its first year is to grow its trunk, so it needs to have one main bud allowed to grow. Usually this is the top bud of the graft. Again, nip the other off, but leave at least one cut off short so that if the top bud in damaged the tree can still grow. When there is 4 inches (10cm) of growth from the top bud take off the plastic and elastic ties that held the graft together.
As the shoot grows it will need a cane against it to protect it and keep it straight. At the end of the first year the trees on M27, M26 and MM106 rootstock will have made enough growth for the trunk. Those on M25, which are intended for standard trees, may have to have another year's growth.
At the end of this stage, you will have a tree that is either just one slender stem, or it may have little side branches called feathers (Diagram 1a / 1b) these can be used as permanent branches if they are in a suitable place, but are often too low and will have to be cut off.
The next task for the tree is to make its first permanent branches. Decide how tall a trunk you want and cut it at this height. This will make the tree grow ut from its buds and make side shoots that will become branches (Diagram 2). At the end of this year, select 3 to 5 nicely spaced branches and remove the others. Try to make the tree goblet shaped (Diagram 3). If you cut the remaining branches back by about a third it will stimulate them to grow strongly and make little side shots called spurs that will eventually have apples on them. When pruning them in this way, cut them back to a bud that is going to grow away from the centre of the tree.
At this stage you will have arrived at the basic framework of your tree.
If you have a tree that you would like to propagate by grafting, now is a good time to get some scion wood whilst it's cold, and the wood is dormant. Simply cut a piece of last year's growth, seal the cut ends with some wax, put it in a plastic bag and in the fridge. This way it will stay fresh until you are ready to graft in March