Pruning notes – Espaliers

HELEN PEARCE, APRIL 2016

Points to remember when pruning espaliers

1.      What am I doing and why am I doing it?

Know the fruiting habits of your fruit trees

  • Apples and pears produce fruit on “spurs”. These are formed by cutting back vertical water shoots to three buds; spurs will form the following year ready for fruiting. Encourage spurs along the horizontal branch, thin out if congested.
  • Peaches and nectarines fruit on one year old wood (laterals). These laterals form along the main framework of the tree and are kept to a length of no longer than 30 cm in order to keep the weight of the fruit close to the main framework. It is important to progressively renew these laterals.
  • If a lateral has broken off, don’t cut it to the bud on top, but to the one underneath. Nip off anything that is shooting up.
  • You are pruning to maintain a tree that is easy to harvest and spray.
  • In the case of an espalier, it is to ensure that it is flat and doesn’t take up too much space.
  • Look out for shoots from the root stock. This will take over your tree if not removed. Cut them out as far down as you can, get under the crown.

2.      When should I do it?

  • Ideally prune trees shortly after harvest as the wounds will heal rapidly. This is more important with stone fruit as they are prone to bleeding (oozing gum) and exposure to infection.
  • Winter pruning is easier to maintain the shape of the tree, but late summer pruning sets up the following season’s harvest.
  • Summer pruning removes growth as you want the tree to put its energy into spurs rather than growth.
  • Espalier pruning needs regular attention to contain growth – Nip, nip, nip!!

3.      Feeding your trees

  • Depending on your soil you should add just lime in autumn so that you don’t force growth; you can add compost and mulch.
  • In Spring add manure and compost.

4.      Take care when pruning

  • Use sharp, clean tools. Always clean your secateurs before and after pruning. Wipe with vinegar or methylated spirits. Use a pruning saw on thicker branches.
  • Position the sharp blade of your secateurs  against the tree, the blunt blade should be against the piece that is to be discarded.
  • When pruning in winter make sure that you paint your cuts with wound sealer.