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Growing & training espalier apple & pear trees

16-Oct-2013 | Contributed by: Guest Author

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Espalier Apple Tree

Training trees to grow as espaliers might take a little more effort up front, but it can have many advantages to your orchard. Most apple and pear tree varieties work well with the horizontal espalier shape (and the brittle wood of stone fruit trees is better suited to the fan shape).

Advantages of Espalier Training

  • They are space saving, allowing you to make the most of your orchard space
  • You can plant them against the fence line of the orchard
  • They look attractive – ideal if you are running orchard tours
  • Once they are trained, they are easy to prune
  • The fruit is easier to pick

Planting Espalier Trees

Set up posts at 4-5 metres apart (unless you are using already erected walls or fences) through your orchard where you want your espalier trees. Fit five or six horizontal wires between the posts, at 35-45cm apart. These wires will be what the horizontal branches are trained against.

If you are using a fence or wall that you already have, set up five or six horizontal wires along to train the tree, and mark out where you will plant your trees (every 4-5 metres).

Plant your trees along the fence line. Line each tree up with a post, planting them about 15cm out from the fence line.

You can either plant a young single-stem tree, or buy a ready-trained espalier and train it against your fencing. The below training schedule is for those training with a young single-stem tree.

Training Espalier Trees

When planting a single-stem tree, with no sideshoots, tie the stem of the tree to a training cane with twine or twist chords.

Allow the plant to grow its top three buds, and prune the rest. Use the cane to train the centre lateral, and train the other two along the lowest wire. To train them, wait until the laterals are 10 to 15 cm long, and tie them down to the wires with twine. Make sure you tie down the laterals while they are thin, and easy to bend. If you leave it too long they may get too woody, making them liable to snap.

As the tree grows, and the laterals extend, continue to tie down the laterals above on the higher wires. It may take a season to get each tier training.

Prune off unwanted laterals. And remove the blossoms for the first three years to assist with plant growth.

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