The rootstock will govern the overall height and vigour of your tree, so choose carefully. From big trees to small then, If you are planting a traditional orchard in a field then M25 is a good bet, although you will have to wait around 5 or 6 years for a decent crop. M111 is slightly smaller and less vigorous and crops in 4-5 years, MM106 is a good cropping, semi vigorous tree suitable for most gardens and mini orchards (fruiting well in 4-5 years).M26 good for espaliers and M27/M9 for patio trees or single stem cordons,(fruits in 2-3 years).
Obviously personal choice will dictate varieties here, but choose good growth, cut with clean, sharp secateurs from the tree. A pencil thick straight, unblemished length of last summer’s wood with flat leaf buds is what you are looking for. You can store them with some wet kitchen roll in the fridge for a while. Remember to label them with the variety.
What you need
Well I’ve tried doing it with both a sharp grafting knife AND secateurs, and have to say that the secateurs is easiest, and I use the knife for small adjustments. Bit of meths to clean blades between each separate plant.
A wooden board to cut on if using the knife. Newspaper to protect surface.
Grafting tape (I use parafilm), plastic label and permanent waterproof marker and pencil.
Ready to start?
Firstly, take the rootstock and cut a deeply slanting cut above a bud about a secateurs length from the soil level, giving you a rootstock length of around 6 -8 inches long.
Then do a corresponding cut on the scion.
Then reduce the length of your scion material to 3 buds length. Do this now before you start taping.
So, you should have a prepared rootstock and a prepared scion.
Match the cuts on both pieces, adjusting as required. You want to have as CLOSE a fit as possible with the edges of both cuts matching (although sometimes this is not possible if your scion material is thinner).
Start to tape from the rootstock end. The film kind of sticks and is stretchy, so you want to tape just under the rootstock cut, and wind the tape flat around the cut and onto the scion material. I use about a foot length and just wind over and over, keeping the tension on. THIS IS NOT EASY and takes some practice.
Practice cutting first on some duff twigs of the same thickness and practice winding the film on to 2 cut edges – its difficult.
When you think you have sufficient tape on to completely cover the cut surfaces, check the tension by gently pressing the scion end whilst holding the rootstock end. If there is any give, take it off and do it again. The more slanting the cut the longer the 2 surfaces are and the easier it is to join.
When complete, gently move the grafted tree into a pot of compost, planting it to the same soil level as before. Label it with a label wrote in pencil on one side and marker on the other (to hopefully not fade), water with watering can, and place in cool, sheltered spot. (I put mine into a cold polytunnel till March and then move to a plunge bed to protect from rabbits.)
As the plant starts to grow you will hopefully see the dormant leaf buds start to break. You should see leafs by end of May. If all 3 buds break, rub out the bottom two, when you are sure of growth.
When your apple has produced full leaves, gently remove the tape with a sharp knife to allow for expansion. You might put a slim stake into the pot, attaching the tree loosely at bottom and top. Keep sheltered till at least January the following year before planting out with a stake & rabbit guard (I use a tree tube and a stake to offer more shelter from the wind).