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Budding Technique

What are budsticks?

The budstick is a twig ranging in size from a lead pencil up to inch diameter, usually from the current season's growth. It should have average vigor, be healthy, and have plump, well developed buds, as indicated by a slightly brownish color. Buds on the center of the twig are generally better than those near the tip or the base (where the twig may have branched from another limb). As soon as you cut the budstick from the tree or shrub, clip off the leaves; allow about 1/2 inch of the leafstalk to remain as a handle. Use budsticks as soon as taken from the tree, but if necessary, they may be stored in cool, moist conditions.

How should buds be selected and prepared?

Special budding knives are available that can be used for making the cuts and lifting bark for easy bud insertion. To cut a bud from the budstick, start 1/2 to 3/4 inch below the base of the bud. (Figure 5.) Make a smooth, slicing cut upward that extends 1/2 to 3/4 inch above the bud. As you finish the cut, bring the knife upward to release the bud. You must cut the wood (shield) attached to the bud straight. (Figure 6.) Beginners often remove buds with a slightly curved cut. A curve in the shield (wood attached to the bud) makes poor contact and most likely will not form a union. When you cut the bud from the bud stick, you must immediately insert it into the understock before either dries. Any drying or dirt on the bud shield can mean failure.


Figure 5. Budstick with leaf petiole attached. Note the method for removing the buds. Figure 6. Bud with wood attached. Note the very straight cut.

How should the understock be prepared?

Plants used as the understock must have new, vigorous growth. Select a smooth, branch-free location on the trunk or about 15 inches or more out on a branch. Most budding of young rootstocks is done 2 to 3 inches above the ground.

Make a vertical cut parallel with the grain of the wood by drawing the knife upward. (Figure 7.) The cut should be about 1 to 1 inches long. After making the vertical cut, make a cross cut which forms a "T" at the top of the vertical cut. (Figure 8.) Make the cross cut at a slightly downward angle to make insertion of the bud piece easier. Cut through the bark, but not into the wood.


Figures 7 and 8. Forming a "T" cut.

How is the bud inserted?

After making the two cuts to form the "T", gently lift the bark at the junction of the two cuts with the knife. To insert the bud, place the base of the bud shield into the slit at the top of the "T" cut. Slide the bud down into the vertical slit until the top of the shield is even with or below the cross cut. (Figure 9.) Leaving the inch of leafstalk as a handle can make insertion easier. Prompt insertion as soon as the buds have been cut from the budstick is important.

wrapping bud

Figures 9 and 10. Slide the bud into the vertical slit until the top is even with or below the top cut. Wrap the bud tight with a budding rubber.

How should the bud be wrapped?

After the bud has been inserted, it should be wrapped. Rubber budding strips are common and easy to use. You can start either above or below the bud, but generally it is better to start above and wrap downward to keep from pushing the bud out if the bark is loose. (Figure 10.) Make three or four wraps above the bud and three or four below. finish with a self-binding loop. Try to cover the horizontal cut of the "T" with one loop of the wrap. Never cover the bud.

What care does the young bud require?

Check the bud a week to 10 days after it has been set. By that time you should be able to tell whether or not it has formed a union. If both the bud and the surrounding bark of the bud shield are shriveled and dry, it has not taken. If a union has taken place, the bud and shield will look fresh. If tied cut the tie before it binds too tightly. Cut on the side away from the bud. Rubber strips need not be cut.

The bud should remain dormant until the following spring. If done in late spring with dormant wood, the bud will break and grow later in the summer. Cut off the stock above the bud as soon as the bud starts growing. If buds from the rootstock begin to develop shoots, they should be removed before they are 2 to 3 inches long.

Do not prune the new shoot that has developed from the bud during the first summer. If there is danger of it being broken by wind, it would be better to tie it or devise other means of support than prune it. After the second year, remove all extra growth from the stock, that is, keep only the bud grafted shoots. When two or more buds grow, all can be used, but one is usually enough to produce a new branch.

Information and illustrations have been taken from Minnesota bulletin #437 and Missouri bulletins # 6971 and 6972.

Todd Weinmann, Extension Horticulturist & Master Gardener Coordinator
Phone: (701) 241-5707

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