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Apple Espaliers

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  • Apple Espaliers

    I took the decision to plant a number of apple trees on my allotment and to attempt to train them as espaliers. As I was planting 10 trees I couldn't justify the cost of buying established/pre-trained trees and plumped for first year maidens, which were planted in late January last year. A few weeks later with heart in my mouth I took my secateurs and bravely cut each tree down to 18". At first it seemed that I had made a mistake and killed them all, but nature eventually kicked in and they sprouted as expected. I have since took my secateurs to them again and trimmed off all but the required shoots. I now have 10 healthy trees at the first stage of of becoming espaliers, that is two horizontals and one vertical.
    My question is what next? I understand that I should again cut the vertical, but do I cut the horizontal or continue to let it carry on growing, I seem to find contrasting accounts on what is the best way to procede.

  • #2
    Leave the horizontal branches - if you've chosen a variety that's free-spurring you should find that a lot of the buds along their length will swell next summer and become fruit buds and spur systems; bearing a crop in spring 2015.

    Personally, I would have pinched-out unwanted shoots at an early stage of their appearance to redirect the root strength connected to them elsewhere to boost the plant.
    .

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    • #3
      I should have added: winter pruning the tips of shoots deters fruit bud formation along the whole length of the shoot. By leaving tips mostly unpruned the branch will produce more fruiting spurs.

      It's partly to do with the hormones produced in the shoot of the tip and how the hormone affects the plant with the hormone present or absent.
      It's also partly to do with changing the plants root:shoot balance by winter pruning - removal of shoots results in vigorous regrowth because the balance is off. Great if you want strong leafy growth but not if you want spur, blossom and fruit production.

      On the other hand, spur-promoting summer pruning must only involve the shoots which grew that year. No shoot that grew in any previous year should be pruned while the tree has leaves because it risks the tree going into shock.
      .

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      • #4
        All the trees are spur bearing as this was recommended to me at the time of buying.
        So leave the horizontals and prune the vertical in winter when there are no leaves.
        Thanks

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