The Four-Flap Graft

Sammy Helmers and Austin Stockton
Texas Agricultural Extension Service

Grafting is needed to propagate outstanding varieties of fruits. The four-flap graft is an easy-to-do, successful propagation procedure for amateurs and professional horticulturists. It is ideal for small-caliper trees up to 1 inch in diameter before they are large enough for the Texas-method inlay bark graft.

The four-flap grafts most successful when the scion and rootstock pieces are near the same diameter. The best fit is obtained when the scion is slightly larger than the stock.

Collecting and Storing Propagation Wood. Collect scion wood from the desired tree while dormant in late February or early March and store until spring propagation time. Optimum scion wood diameter is 3/8 to 3/4 inch; 1-inch diameter is maximum. Select healthy, 1-year-old wood with prominent, well developed buds. Label all propagation wood by cultivar name and place it in a container with moist paper towels. Polyethylene bags make excellent storage containers. Store the wood in a refrigerator at 32 to 36F.

Grafting Technique. The best time to graft is April to mid-May when the rootstock is actively growing, the bark "slips" freely and leaflets are 1/2- to 3/4-inch long. Take the scion wood directly form cold storage and use immediately. Do not let the scion sticks dry out during grafting procedures.

The following outlines the four-flap grafting method:

Use a stock plant with a primary stem or lateral limb of 1/2-to 1-inch diameter. Cut straight across the trunk or limb with sharp pruning shears at the point you wish to graft. If possible, leave one or two side branches below the grafting point, but cut them back to 6 inches. This keeps the tree vigorous, protects it from sunscald and keeps the scion from becoming too tall or whiplike and breaking off. Place the graft 7 to 8 feet above the ground if cattle or horses are grazing near the trees; otherwise place the grafts at a comfortable working height. Roll a rubber band 3 inches down form the top to the stock (figure 1).

On the stock plant where the horizontal cut was made, make four vertical, equally spaced cuts 1 1/2 inches long. Make sure the cuts penetrate the bark down to the interior wood (figure 2).

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