Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fig Grafting Experiment

I don't have enough fig starts to do a big experiment. This is a Petite negri that was started almost by accident from a cutting 2 years ago - stick stuck into the ground in the onion bed, just to see if it would grow. Last fall I dug it out and transferred to a container, and kept it in the garage to overwinter during the coldest weather. It's been outside again for about one month.

I don't really need more fig trees. Here is my thought: I would like to have a containerized tree, with multiple varieties, that I can move indoors for the winter. Doing so might preserve the breba crop. Petite negri is naturally small and slow growing, with short interstems. If PN can be used as a rootstock, just maybe the small, slow growing trait would be passed on to the scion. I could use the scion as the start for a multigraft tree.

I don't know if figs can be grafted this way. Since they grow so easily from cuttings, there isn't much reason for grafting. So this is my attempt. I used reverse saddle graft because it seems like the easiest method. Unlike the apples, I used rubber bands to tie, and I remembered to cover the grafts with petroleum jelly to hold in moisture.

This tree had 2 stems. That gives me 2 chances. If both grow (counting my grafts before they take), then one can be removed later for a stronger main trunk.

Petite negri in pot, Brunswick "Vancouver" in bag. The scions had been held in the refridgerator for the winter, with plan to grow cuttings.

Both scion and rootstock cut to size that I hope will match.

These match very closely.

Photo showing cuts for scion and rootstock.

Same as above, but the other branch.

In place. Note to self: After trimming, the scion diameter is a little smaller than the rootstock. If I do this again, adjust so that the scion starts a little bigger, for a closer final match.

One is completed. The other is held in place with a cut rubber band. I am concerned that the deental floss that I used for the apples might be too restricting, and am unsure of when to cut it. The rubber band gives more flexibility, but is more difficult to tie without moving the scion in it's new perch.

"Real" grafters use asphalt pain or waxes to protect the new graft from dehydration. I'm using petroleum jelly because I already have some. It does not harden, but should have a similar function. I also forgot that step with the apples, but in this chilly rainy season, they might still survive.

Final step - I wrapped them in plumber's teflon tape. It sticks nicely to the petroleum jelly, is easy to handle, and is very stretchy.

Count'em. 10 fingers. No blood. Another sign of success.

Will they 'take'? I'll have to post later with either report of success or failure.


  1. Anonymous11:07 PM

    I would be very surprised if your experiment succeeds.
    There is a big risk that your scions are going to rot as a result of combining petroleum jelly and plastic wrap.

  2. Watch and see! So far, so good. I have no pretentions about being an expert - this is just my backyard garden blog - but as of late April, the grafts are starting to sprout.

    Petroleum jelly is a water barrier, same as paraffin. It's just not as solid. I used it last year for apples and none (as in zero) rotted, although not all took either.

  3. Anonymous4:58 AM

    If the ouside temperature is hot I would expect the petroleum jelly to melt and be absorbed into the scions.
    Wax does not melt ,just goes soft

  4. How did this turn out?

  5. The scions grew for much of the summer but died that winter. When I pruned them off, they were still loose. I don't know how they grew without actually healing together, but that's what happened. If I do it again I'll try grafting wax.