Espalier Training Fruit Trees

1. Espalier training is suitable for apples and pears. It is not suitable for plums and cherries, which should be fan trained. They can be trained against a south and west facing wall or fence, or along wires as a garden screen.

2. Fix taught straining wires between firm posts, or along a wall or fence, using appropriate fixings. The first wire should be 45cm (18") above ground level and subsequent wires 38 cm (15") apart. Four or five wires is usually sufficient, though you may require only three.

3. Plant a 1-year maiden tree in the intended spot following our tree planting guidelines, remember not to plant too deep, a buried graft union will often rot and die. For apples buy a tree grafted onto MM106 rootstock, for a pear, Quince 'A'.

4. Some varieties, when purchased, will have side shoots growing from the main trunk on the maiden tree. This is a bonus as it will give you a head start with the training. Tie down two opposite side shoots along the first training wire to produce your first tier. If you have side shoots adjacent to the second wire then tie these down also. If no side shoots are present then follow the directions as in step 5 below to induce side shoots next year.

5. Tie in the leading shoot to an upright bamboo cane fixed against the main trunk and prune it back to a bud 38 cm above the last tier. Remove all unwanted side shoots by cutting flush with the main trunk.

6. During the following summer the uppermost growing shoot should be tied in vertically and the second and third shoots tied down gently to produce the next tier. All other side shoots should be removed as previously. There will be shoot growth at the ends of the lower tiers and this should be tied down to the wire each summer until the final required width of the espalier is reached, when they can be spurred back.

7. Steps 5 and 6 should be repeated each year until the number of required tiers is reached. At this point the central leading shoot should be removed, leaving you with your final espalier shape.

8. Each August cut back upright growing shoots on the tiers to three buds, or approximately 4cm, to encourage production of fruiting spurs.

Silhouette of Espalier Trained Tree

Espalier trained fruit tree


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