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[nafex] Braiding Apple Grafts

        Last week I was speaking with Dan Whitney, a professional grafter in
Washington State.  He told me when his crew professionally topworks an apple
orchard to another variety, he "braids the grafts".  You can see photos of
his braided grafts at http://www.whitneysorchard.com/grafting-commercial.htm
        Dan selects the main leader, strips the leaves from the braided
portion, and then braids the other whips that have taken from his bark
grafts around the newly chosen main leader.  If there are two whips to be
braided around the main whip chosen as the new leader, each is braided three
times around the leader/whip, one clockwise, and the other counterclockwise.
You have to tie the braids for the first bit so they don't unravel.
Apparently the advantages are much earlier fruiting in the case of a new
trunk (3 years instead of 5) coupled with a much more solid trunk/branch
which resists being blown out in the wind.  Apparently within a very few
years, the braids all naturally graft within themselves, and you can't tell
they were braided originally.  The braided whips soon self graft, feed the
new leader, and result in much more growth, earlier fruiting, and a lot more
stability in wind.
        While it looks a bit wierd at first (see photos on website), I'm
going to try this this coming spring.  I have several new apple trees that I
started by cutting the trunks off flush with the ground and installing 3
bark grafts (trees 3 inches in diameter).  Up to now I've just selected the
whip I wanted as the new trunk and cut the other two off.  This spring I'll
braid them and see how it goes.  Has anyone else tried this "braiding"
technique and can comment on it, pros and cons?

Bernie Nikolai
Edmonton, Alberta zone 3/2
ps Dec 10 already, and our coldest is only -5F or -20C so far

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