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How to Support Trees Naturally: Brace Grafting

A Five-Minute Graft to Strengthen Fruit Trees

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Your peach tree is a beauty, look at all those swelling fruits! Weighed down with all those ripening peaches, look how the bough bends . . . and bends . . .

Especially in fruit trees, there are times when a tree’s natural growth is just not prepared for the breeding we have done to to create larger-than-natural fruits. Pruning can create strong scaffold branches to mitigate this problem, but sometimes a weak branch angle will still develop, or you’ll inherit an old tree that needs some help.

When two limbs have a weak crotch or other poor attachment, a brace can be your solution. Bracing can be done with a cable by a skilled arborist, where branches are essentially tied together with an artificial material, but artificial bracing has fallen out of favor as a sound arboricultural practice. 

Instead, the brace grafting uses a woven “rope” of flexible scions that bind to themselves. It is an extremely easy and quick graft to make, probably the easiest of all.

When to Use Bracing

  • To support a long branch that will bear a large fruit crop.
  • To reinforce a weak crotch.
  • Any time of year—bracing can be done with active or dormant wood, one of few grafts like this.

What You Will Need

  • A grafting knife.
  • A very strong rope or cord (electrical cord is used for this).
  • Two long, young, flexible twig-branches from the interior of the weak branches to be braced that can be brought together.
  • Waxed string or poly tape.

Making the Bracing Graft 

  1. Select the scions for bracing. This is an unsual graft in that there is no real scion and rootstock. All the wood you use will be from the tree itself, and you will not cut off any of it. I think this is is the only graft like this. To make your brace, you must have flexible growth coming from both inside sides of the branch fork to be braced. These will be joined together to make the brace.
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  3. Brace the limbs artificially with a cable or rope. Above the site of the scions you located, brace together the two limbs with a rope. Do so very tightly, enough to flex the two branches together slightly and hold them there. Why do this? We need to prevent the branches from flexing independently too much in wind while our graft establishes.

  4. Pull together the thin scions you chose in step 1 and braid them around each other. Bind them tightly in the woven position with waxed string or poly tape.
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  6. Perform the usual aftercare on the graft. It’s likely you won’t need to do anyyhing more, since all parts of the graft are being fed by parent plants. The graft is completed when the young lateral branches fuse together, at which point the binding string can be removed. From this point on, the branches grow and strengthen to form a natural “rope” spanning and bracing the weak crotch.

Reference

Hartmann, Hudson T. and Dale E. Kester. Plant Propagation Principles and Practices, 7 ed. 2002.

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