HOW TO ES­PALIER FRUIT TREES

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Jane’s Garden Diary -

Win­ter is a good time to start an es­paliered fruit tree. How­ever, some trees adapt bet­ter to es­palier than oth­ers. Ap­ples and pears are tra­di­tion­ally used, as their branches are flex­i­ble and they fruit re­peat­edly on the same spurs. A small num­ber of ap­ple and pear cul­ti­vars are tip­bear­ing, but spur-bear­ing va­ri­eties are best for es­palier­ing.

Quinces, olives, al­monds, crabap­ples and figs can also be trained.

Ta­mar­il­los, although not typ­i­cally used in es­paliers, can be cut low and trained into a fan shape. Stone fruit (peaches, plums, nec­tarines and cherries) are best trained into a fan shape as their more brit­tle wood is dif­fi­cult to train horizontally.

Get­ting started

You can es­palier trees against a wall or fence, or cre­ate a free-stand­ing liv­ing screen or fence be­tween you and your neigh­bours. Make a sup­port frame by fixing hor­i­zon­tal wires to a fence or posts us­ing eye­bolts. Use a 2.5mm gal­vanised high ten­sile wire and cre­ate two or three tiers spaced 30-50cm apart. Dig a plant­ing hole 30cm from the fence.

Year 1, win­ter To es­palier an ap­ple or pear tree, plant it, then prune the tree to the height where you want your first tier (just above the first wire) and where there are sev­eral strong buds just be­low the cut. Year 1, sum­mer

Come spring, the buds will shoot. In sum­mer, train one shoot ver­ti­cally, one to the left and one to the right. This is eas­i­est done by se­cur­ing three wooden stakes tem­po­rar­ily to your sup­port frame, one placed ver­ti­cally be­hind the cen­tral stem, the other two at 45° an­gles to the left and right of the mid­dle stake. Don’t bend the young branches com­pletely hor­i­zon­tal at this stage as they’re still ten­der and may snap. Tie the three shoots to your stakes reg­u­larly as they con­tinue to grow over sum­mer us­ing a flex­i­ble tie or panty­hose. Any shoots be­low these three should be trimmed back to about three leaves. Re­move all form­ing fruit in the first year to di­vert the plant’s en­er­gies into growth.

Year 2, win­ter

Un­tie the 45° an­gled side shoots, re­move the stakes and gen­tly lower the shoots to a hor­i­zon­tal po­si­tion. Tie shoots in place, cut­ting them back by a third. Cut back the cen­tral ver­ti­cal shoot to just above the next wire on the sup­port frame. Choose a bud at this height that has two more buds be­neath on op­po­site sides so you can re­peat the process. Re­move any ex­cess shoots above and be­low the first tier of branches. Cut flush with the main stem.

Year 2, sum­mer

Again, tie three wooden stakes to your sup­port frame, one ver­ti­cally and two at 45° an­gles. Train the next tier of shoots along these stakes. Re­move any other shoots, cut­ting back to about three leaves. Keep train­ing the hor­i­zon­tal branches of your first tier along the bot­tom wires. If any side shoots form on these, trim these back to three leaves.

Fol­low­ing years

Re­peat the process un­til you’ve achieved the de­sired num­ber of tiers. To stop fur­ther growth, cut the cen­tral stem to just above the last tier of hor­i­zon­tal branches. Like­wise, when your hor­i­zon­tal branches reach the de­sired length, stop fur­ther growth by cut­ting back the tip. Each sum­mer, trim back any side shoots that grow from your main stems to three leaves. The most im­por­tant thing to re­mem­ber is to trim your es­paliers twice a year, once in win­ter and again af­ter they’ve fin­ished fruit­ing in sum­mer.

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