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How to Make a Side-Veneer Graft

A Simple Graft for Conifers and Small Plants

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Cut a strip off the rootstock and a strip off the scion and sandwich the flat, exposed sides together. That’s the side-veneer graft in a nutshell. It works on conifers while most other grafts won’t.

Why You Might Use a Side-Veneer Graft

This graft is used by tradesmen for small plants such as young trees and shrubs still growing in nursery pots.

I don’t imagine that this cut will be very useful to you outdoors in the garden, but then again grafting is generally a rare practice for the home gardener, usually confined to specialized tasks. If you wanted to take scionwood from a plant and reproduce it on young purchased rootstocks, this might be the best cut. You might, perhaps, have an ancient Japanese maple that has been on your property for generations and has defied the efforts of all your visiting experts to identify it. What can you do if you want more of them? You can’t go out and buy more if you don’t know what it is, but you could buy young maple trees in pots and graft cuttings from your beloved specimen onto the new purchases, which you’d use as rootstocks.

The graft is also favored for work with small conifers, such as dwarf conifers. Gardeners who are enthusiasts for this particular kind of plant may want to learn this graft for reproducing their own plants.

Side-veneer also works on deciduous plants such as maples and fruit trees, and is in fact used by professionals in production of these species, making side-veneer one of the most versatile grafts.

Since you are making just two long straight cuts with the grain of the wood and two very small cuts across the grain, this is one of the technically easier grafts to make. Four cuts and tight binding is all that is needed, though of course cut straightness and good matching of all exposed faces will be rewarded with better success.

What You Will Need

  • Winter: all plant material should be dormant.
  • A grafting knife.
  • Rootstock and scion of same size, a quarter up to a half inch thick. Scion has at least three healthy buds.
  • String, a budding rubber, or similar tight binding
  • Plastic tape, sealing wax, a bed of moist sphagnum, or other moisture control

Making the Side-Veneer Graft

  1. Sharpen your knife. When you cut with a dull knife you increase the force you apply, which will increase your risk of slipping. Also, a dull knife is more likely to turn as it passes through the wood, making a wavy cut.
  2. Make the first rootstock cut: make a straight cut straight down or angling slightly into the rootstock, stopping when halfway across its thickness (this splits off a this strip of wood, hence the name “veneer”). Your cut should be an inch to 1.5 inches long and pass through an internode, a smooth segment of the stem. The bottom of the cut should stop just above the crown of the plant (just above the thickening at the soil line). Withdraw your knife.
  3. Make the second rootstock cut: make a small cut down and across the grain, just above the rootstock crown, to free the piece you just cut and create a notch for the scion base to rest in.
  4. Make corresponding cuts in the scion. The base of the scion should be angled to fit in the stock notch, a semicircle in cross-section. Its thickness and length should be the same as the removed stock piece, so that the faces match.
  5. Check that these cuts match. Place these cuts against each other now and see that they line up well, the bottom of the scion sitting on the stock platform and nesting there. When placed against each other, there should not be air gaps or exposed inner wood. If there is a problem correct it if possible, or discard the scion and try again with a new one of a compatible size.
  6. Place the scion and stock together and tie the graft well. There should be minimal or no air space between the pieces of wood. If the thicknesses are slightly different do not center the scion. Rather offset it to make sure one of the two sides line up smoothly. This graft depends completely on a tight tie with twine or tape, so do this well, never releasing tension as you wrap; this can be tricky. There is no rush, though. If the pieces slip apart, just start tying again.
  7. Seal the graft by applying sealing wax to the wrapped union, or place the graft in a bed of peat moss you will keep moistened.
  8. Follow up with general aftercare, such as humidity control, until the union fully takes.

References

Hartmann, Hudson T. and Dale E. Kester. Plant Propagation Principles and Practices, 7 ed. 2002.

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