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Espalier Pruning Advice

660 Views 20 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Shibumi
Good day to all and happy spring (or still late winter depending on where you are).

I have what has been an attempt at an apple espalier, Belgian fence style, in my yard. I've made a mess of things and am considering options to fix it. My first thought is to top the trees below the first laterals and let the trees push fresh buds that will be easy to train.

I am sure there will be hidden dormant buds on the trunks even though they are hard to identify on the trunk as opposed to smaller limbs. I've included photos of each tree base.

There is already some growth on some of the I know I will sacrifice some energy that has already moved into the limbs, but the trees are already several years old so there should be plenty of energy still on the root system to push ample growth.

Any ideas from those more experienced would be appreciated.
Plant Tree Twig Fruit Grass
Plant Flowerpot Houseplant Grass Terrestrial plant
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@Shibumi it would be helpful if we could see all of what you are working with, not only close ups. For better perspective, it would be good is you could take another picture standing back a few feet from the trees so all of the trees can been seen in their relationship to each other as an entire group. Also when you post the picture please indicate what compass direction you are facing to take the picture, for perspective to north, east, south and west. Thanks.

@Shibumi thanks for posting the 2 extra photos. Yes, it's a mess but I think it can be fixed without you having to make any drastic cuts that risk killing the trees. I do have some suggestions but it's too late tonight to post them so will get back to you either tomorrow (Monday) or the day after. One quick suggestion I will make now though is that those 4 containers in a row on the ground nearby the apple trees need to be moved at least 20 feet away or more. I don't know what's in them of course but having them so close where they are now puts your apple trees at risk of cross contamination from them from things like diseases, insects and fungal spores that may occur on the contents and soil in those containers.

Are those carrots growing out of the ground near the roots of the tree at the end?


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@Shibumi, I just wanted to let you know that I haven't forgotten about you. :D You know the saying "You have to make hay while the sun shines" ? Well figuratively speaking I've been making hay for the past 4 days of welcome sunshine and warm weather (spring suddenly arrived with a big bang) and have been busting my butt transplanting as many as possible of my plants into the ground outside before the rains come again (supposedly) for another 4 days starting tomorrow night. So I will be back with my pruning suggestions once the rain has me cooped up indoors again but in the meantime I'm posting 2 short videos at the link below and commentaries for you that I think will be helpful.

The gardener posting the videos is an accomplished young man in Utah and when you read and watch his easy instructions and demonstrations you will notice that he did something very essential that you have not done but it really, really, really needs to be done first for Belgian espalier - he completed installing the solid construction of the entire permanently attached bamboo lattice work from end to end before he started doing any pruning or training of the little apple trees. You will see how that proceeded in the videos. Completing the permanent lattice work needs to be your number one top priority now before you do anything else with your trees. Seriously. You can put the whole bamboo thing together laying it on the ground and then lift it up into place to attach to the wires and frame.

And you have a GREAT sturdy lumber frame to support everything and build onto. If you are planning on leaving your center-most tree with a central vertical leader with trained laterals at the sides I would suggest that you attach one or two more horizontal wires to the wooden frame near to the top cross beam.

To put up and attach the full size bamboo lattice construction in place on either side of the wires you are going to have to detach the existing bamboo pieces from the wires and remove them from the branches they're on so the trees' branches can all be gently moved back out of the way while you hang the completed lattice up from the cross beam with rope and then attach the lattice to the wires. Then you can re-attach the branches to the bamboo. You'll notice it's a lot easier to visualize and quickly attach the branches to the full lattice once it is solidly up in place.

* A little tip for you, I use cheap plastic hair clips from dollar stores to temporarily clip branches to lattice work and wires. It's easier to move and relocate them and shift them around when making adjustments to the placement of the branches. The hair clips come in a variety of sizes, you'll find them in the hair care & accessories section of dollar stores.

One other thing you will notice this gardener commenting about in the video is that with Belgian espalier it's quite all right for you to have your trees spaced 2 feet apart and it's a common practise by many espalier gardeners to do so, sometimes with even less spacing than two feet. His trees are planted 2.5 feet apart and he has 9 trees in a row.

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..... But I am back to a step I am seriously considering taking before this. Topping the trees now and working from scratch with new growth. As you can tell from the photos the base lateral of each tree is quite a mess. Functionally perhaps it's not a big deal, but a part of the whole espalier thing beyond it's original intend (which was to grow fruit further north than the trees wanted by using the latent heat from south facing walls of buildings to protect them), the form is of importance to me. I am wanting to espalier these trees for the form as much as the fruit, so my inclination is to take my chance and top the trees to get a 'start-over' on the training as a whole......

....... Thus my posts here. Sometimes we just want to hear someone who doesn't reside in our own heads say "yes, go for it!".
Yes, go for it! :giggle:

I completely understand where you're coming from and when your instinct is telling you so strongly that you need to start over again you should go with your instinct. Good luck and I'm wishing you much success with your next go around. (y)

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