Tucked away in the hillsides of Honaunau is the community garden project Ma’Ona, a place we visited to learn about grafting techniques. The work of this community garden spills over into the parking lot, where both the vehicles of visitors and piles of mulch are parked. The chalkboard in the outdoor classroom has a to do list and the quote, “A gardener learns more from the things that don’t work than the things that do.” 

“There are no dwarf trees. There are only trees that grow at a slower rate than others of the same species.” – Ken Love

We gathered under the shade tents on a tropical summer Saturday to learn about grafting techniques from Ken Love and Xavior Chung. On the table were grafting knives, parafilm, and tissue samples from trees. 

Grafting is a plant propagation method that allows for plant tissue from a plant with desirable genetics to be joined with the root stock of another plant. 

Chantal Chung, project manager at Ma’Ona, talks story with us and reveals that a group of six moms have worked together to regenerate an old junk yard into this community garden. They cleared about 6 cars from the 5 acre lot. Some of their kids are now becoming exceptional gardeners themselves. Her son, Xavier, later taught the group how propagate by air-layering. Ma’Ona also offers free garden plots to anyone who wants to grow food.  

In this blog I will summarize notes from the workshop for those curious to learn more about grafting techniques. Ken Love candidly revealed that grafting is trial and error and that learning is best done by doing. His teacher told him a good grafter becomes one by trying 10,000 times. 

Why Graft

A tree is an intelligent collective of 10,000 to 100,000 meristems, each capable of genetic mutation. 

A collection of compatible genetic individuals form a tree entity, yet each responds differently to energy and stimuli (1). So, each fruit and flower has localized and unique qualities such as color, flavor and size. By choosing scion from a fruit tree with desirable qualities, you may propagate the plant and extend the genetics by fusing the scion with a new root stock. 

Choose the Best Scion

A scion is a sample from a living plant, such as a branch, bud, or young shoot. It is the part of a plant that is used for grafting upon a root-stock plant. A scion sample should come from a healthy and productive plant that has desirable qualities that you wish to encourage in a new propagation.

  • Choose a scion that is flowing with buds about to burst out. 
  • Choose older growth from a piece that shows signs of new growth. 
  • Wood should be more brown than green.
  • Scion should be solid, without any hollowness in the center.
  • Scion should have no signs of bug damage. 
  • Immediately wrap scion in parafilm.

Grafting Techniques and Methods 

  1. Cut root stock low to keep tree growth low.
  2. Make a split in the root stock.
  3. Choose and prepare a scion. 
    1. Scion should be from a healthy plant with desirable qualities. 
    2. Scion sample should be about the same size in diameter as the root stock if you are planning to fuse the two together in a ‘simple’ wedge graft. 
    3. Be sure scion exhibits signs of new growth and new buds.
  4. Wrap scion entirely in Parafilm to prevent moisture loss. 
  5. Cut a point in the scion graft stock that corresponds to the cut you have made in the root stock. You will cut through the Parafilm. Both cuts should be similar in length and size. 
  6. Fit scion in to root stock.
    1. Align the cambium layers of the scion to match that of the root stock on at least one side. Be sure that you have made cambial contact between both the root stalk and the scion and at least one point of convergence.
    2. If the scion dies and the root stock sends out a new shoot, re-graft a new scion onto the new shoot.   
  7. Tightly tape around the point where the scion meets the root stalk. Ken suggests electrical tape for the job. The new plant growth is so strong that it will grow through both the parafilm and the electrical tape. 

See Photo Above: Aaron is pointing to the original scion wrapped in parafilm. Notice the green new growth above his hand. Below his hand the electrical tape is being outgrown.


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