Clone Your Favorite Fruit Trees

If you enjoy the fruit that you harvest from your orange, avocado and apple trees, you can make more trees just like them, either to plant in your own yard or to give away as gifts. And it won’t cost you anything more than a roll of grafting tape.
Germinate seeds from your apples and oranges, and sprout the pit from your avocado. The seedlings that emerge will form the rootstocks, or bottom portion, of your new trees. Shoot pieces from the variety you wish to duplicate or clone will be grafted onto these seedling rootstocks. Fruit trees invariably consist of a rootstock, which is grown from seed, and a scion, the top portion of the tree that originates in a shoot or bud from a mature, fruiting tree.Nate Brogin, who lives in Sherman Oaks, reminded me of the “V” or “double V” grafting technique, also known as cleft grafting, in an email. You remove a 3- to 4-inch shoot tip from your mature, fruiting tree. Then, with a well-sharpened knife, you whittle the end of your shoot tip into a V-shaped, tapered wedge.
After decapitating your seedling rootstock, you make a horizontal pruning cut in the flat stem surface created by the cut and insert your shoot tip into it. Then you wrap your graft with special tape.
By doing a YouTube search under either “V graft” or “cleft grafting,” you will find videos that provide excellent guidance on how to perform this simple graft.
In sealing your cleft graft, you will need special waxed tape known as Parafilm. At Amazon.com, I found a 90-foot roll of Parafilm grafting tape for $5.40, although you will generally pay around $10 for it.
You can use any well-sharpened, smooth blade (as opposed to serrated) whittler or pocket knife for the job, but grafting knives, which make the job easier, are available from Internet vendors for around $25.
Brogin expanded on his affinity for grafting: “I have taken a special liking to grafting which, to me, is taking advantage of the maturity of one tree and sharing it with a less mature tree. More specifically, I try to start rootstocks from seeds/pits and, after two years, graft on a scion (the 3- to 4-inch shoot tip piece) from a healthy fruit-bearing tree. That approach reduces fruit-bearing age of the new tree from about 10 years, if it was grown from seed, down to about three years. This is exactly what commercial growing grounds do to get trees ready for retail sellers.
“Grafting will work best in a shaded area,” Brogin continued. “Grafts should be 100 percent covered with grafting tape to prevent drying out. If the graft is in the sun, the graft will boil and die. If you do graft in the sun, take a small brown lunch bag and place it over the graft. Cut off the corners of the bag so you can see inside.
“If the graft is successful, new growth will break through the tape, which you will see when peeking through the bag.
“One last point,” Brogin concluded, “If I spot a tree that I would like to propagate, I approach the tree owner and explain my intent. I offer in exchange to graft an additional variety onto the owner’s tree or provide a newly grafted tree of the same variety. I have never had someone say no. Other than the cost of my original fruit that I buy from the market, the cost of my fruit trees is almost nothing.”
In other words, even if you have no fruit trees, you can start an orchard in this manner. Let’s say your neighbor has a Hass avocado tree that you would like to clone. You buy an avocado and germinate its seed, either in a jar of water, suspending the seed over the top of the jar with toothpicks, or in a flowerpot or other container.
After your seedling has developed into a little tree, you ask your neighbor for a small piece of a shoot, graft it onto your seedling and — voila! — you have your very own Hass avocado tree, ready to give fruit in a few years’ time.
White sapote
“I’ve been a renter in Downey since 1992 and I’m fortunate to have a sapote tree in the backyard — wonderful fruit and a bountiful tree. I eat some every day during harvest season, which lasts from fall through winter. I also have a large avocado tree from which I am currently harvesting the biggest and best avocados I’ve ever had. And there is a tangerine tree which is having its best year ever.”
—Gary E. Myers, Downey
White sapote (Casimiroa edulis) will grow wherever orange trees feel at home. White sapote, which is in the same botanical family (Rutaceae) as all citrus fruits, is a prolific bearer, producing up to a ton of fruit per year when it is fully mature, with the potential to reach 50 feet in height. White sapotes tolerate wetter soil than most fruit trees and will produce in less than full sun exposures.
Much experimentation has been done with white sapote but the unpredictability of fruit quality has kept it from being more widely grown on a commercial scale. Be aware that skins and seeds of sapote fruit are toxic. When picking a fruit, make sure a small piece of stem remains attached to it. You will know fruit is ripe and ready to eat when the stem falls off.
I, too, have noticed larger than average fruit crops on a variety of trees. My intrigue is due to the fact that this was a dry winter, rainfall being less than half Los Angeles’ average annual amount. I would not go so far as to say dry winters stimulate fruit growth, but it would appear that dry winters do not, in any event, negatively affect fruit production.

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