Apples- Propagation by Stooling

Propagating apples by stooling is usually restricted to rootstocks, though it will work with any 'own-root' trees.

This is a good way of using up failed grafted rootstocks from the previous year. If you do a lot of grafting it may be worth setting up a stool bed. The method is shown below.

1. In Feb or Mar, plant the rootstock in the ground. If the failed graft is still attached, remove it, also any unhealthy-looking shoots. Make sure the ground is kept kept clean and free of weeds, and keep aphids off. They spread virus and stunt the plant. You are aiming for lots of growth before winter arrives.

2. The plant should be relatively large and vigorous by Oct-Nov.

3. A year after planting, cut the plant to near ground level.

4. A cluster of small shoots should form in the spring. Again, watch out for aphids. When the shoots reach a height of about 6 inches, probably during July, earth them up with fine soil or compost, pressing it down firmly to a depth of about three inches.

5. Continue to earth up the plants for the rest of the season, but do not swamp the shoots, and don't earth up to more than about 6 inches in total.

At the end of this time, Oct-Nov, the stools can be dug out. The rooted shoots can be broken or cut off, and planted elsewhere. The larger ones may be graftable after the winter; the smaller ones have to be left until they're big enough. The stool is replanted carefully. It should send up a cluster of new shoots in the following year,when the process can be repeated.

If you set up a bed, the stools need to be about a foot apart in each row, and the rows about a yard apart.

Note that some rootstocks may have protection under law: individuals intending to propagate rootstocks for commercial purposes should check the regulations for their own country.

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