We have always done a little grafting each year with a lot of success. Usually we do it to replace a variety we have too much of or to add variety to a pick-your-own block. To me, the key to success is not just the correct timing, but that we make sure the paint is thoroughly applied so the grafts do not dry out. Then, periodically, we must repeat paint applications. If we don’t, the paint will crack and allow for the graft to dry before it heals over. If the grafts dry out, the grafts will not take. These trees are what we would call “third leaf” which means they will be going into their third growing season. We will harvest some apples from those trees this year. We must be careful though, because over-cropping might cause some of the branches to break at the graft union. That union will continue to strengthen with time where breakage will no longer be an issue.
Deer can also be a problem as they LOVE to eat the tender shoots of the young grafts. A solution, and you can do this to any plant deer like to munch, is to tie a couple of small but pungent soap bars on the grafts. This usually will keep the deer from eating the young shoots. Blueberry Gall has been a serious problem the last few years. The female lays her egg under the stem, which swells and grows the gall. To combat this, we remove all the prunings from the field brush where they are then taken away and chopped. We remove and chop it as far away as possible to remove Blueberry Stem Gall Wasps that may be left in the cuttings. We will also walk the fields before pruning to try to cut out as many as we can get. It seems odd, but it’s hard to focus on getting the gall and prune at the same time so we do the separate hunt. The Gall Wasp can cause significant damage, but oddly only effect certain, mostly, later varieties. The best control comes from physically cutting the galls from the plant. Removing them by hand and then carrying all the prunings from the field is labor intensive, but field sanitation is the best control. Above is a picture of a successful gall hunt.