Posted by: puebloman | September 18, 2013

Grafting mangos

At last! The light coloured leaves are the burst bud of the scion wood. The graft has taken!

At last! The light coloured leaves are the burst bud of the scion wood. The graft has taken!

I was going to call this post “how to graft mangos” but since my success up to this year has been nil, I can hardly pose as someone who knows how to do it.

August is the month when you graft mangos – the temperature must never fall below 70 degrees F (20C) day or night, and it’s best to attempt it when the receiving wood is at the height of its vigour, that means watering it when there ain’t no water and doing this often enough to introduce a little feed by way of encouragement.

In July you prepare the scion (pronounced syon) wood. That’s the wood you are going to insert (the Spanish for “to graft” is insertar ). A wild mango tree won’t fruit until it’s over 100 feet high so isn’t it strange that the height of every mango tree in the Axarquia is exactly the same as that of a small Spaniard? It’s because small Spaniards chopped the sapling heads off at a convenient height and bound on bits of fruiting wood from another tree. It’s the way all fruiting trees are grown and it sounds simple but there are tricks, wrinkles, knacks and skills that I am only slowly acquiring.splitting the rootstock wood detail

Timing is all as I’ve already said. Last year the old boys told me to graft in the autumn, but they were having a laugh.

In July you select the shoots from your best healthiest trees. You strip off the leaves, water and feed the tree and cut the shoot off just before its bud bursts into leaf. In other words when it’s at is maximum potential. How you know when a mango tree is just about to do something is beyond me. The old boys just tap their noses and grin.

You have already selected your receiving tree. It’s either old  or not producing anything, or not the right fruit. The bottom line is that it still has vigour. There must be strong growth coming from the rootstock and you have to catch the tree a the top of its potential. Hopefully both the scion and the rootstock reach this stage at the same time. Ha!

My best fruit trees produce the variety Tommy Atkins. Yes I know it’s a daft name. the root stocks are from Florida and all have first world war names or the names of English counties. Like Kent.

Splicing the scion to the split rootstock and bind the cambium layers together

Splicing the scion to the split rootstock and bind the cambium layers together

I want to spread my best Tommy Atkins around so I have cut back the rootstock wood that grows from beneath the fruiting wood on my non-productive trees and insert my best “Tommy” scions. I use the crudest grafting method, which is to splice the wood, creating a 3cm wedge from the scion wood, splitting the rootstock wood to about 3cms and splicing them together. The important thing is to bind the cambium layer of the scion and the rootstock together. The cambium is the vessel rich layer just below the skin or bark of the shoot.

The binding tape has peculiar properties – springy with good holding power. Traditionally string or hemp would be used but the plastic tie is more sanitary and is airtight to reduce infection – a hazard to which any wound or operation is prone.

Well, after that you just wait around smoking and having a drink as though you were pregnant, or waiting in the delivery room. After two or three weeks you can assess the level of your success or failure. After a month the non takers have turned black. This year I did 20 grafts and have three sprouts, perhaps six takes yet to sprout. This is a record for me, though I’m not sure if I’ve got enough life left in me to become an expert. Next year 50%!

Finished graft. The tie is made with stretchy plastic tape that both holds tight the join and makes the graft airtight

Finished graft. The tie is made with stretchy plastic tape that both holds tight the join and makes the graft airtight. Note the yellow proto-shoot round the tip of the bud.


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