Q&As/Fruit Trees & Berries/Espalier Apple Trees

Question

I want to try and grow an apple as an espalier. Is there a variety which is best and what else do I need to know?

Answer

Choose a variety of apple that is spur-bearing (fruit grows on small thorn-like shoots called spurs), like Grannie Smith. Non-spur bearing varieties can be espaliered but won’t produce as much fruit. If possible, choose an apple that is grafted onto EM9 rootstock. Although it’s a dwarf rootstock, it’s exceptionally vigorous, producing fast-growing laterals that are perfect for espaliering.

Always choose a sunny, well-drained position with a fence, wall or strong wires attached to sturdy stakes to carry the weight of a mature espalier fruit tree. Leave room for the tree to grow up to three metres either side of the trunk.

Select a tree (1-1.5 years) with a straight trunk and evenly spaced branches. Tie the first branches down horizontally, about 500-600mm above ground level. The next pair of branches should be 350-400mm above the lower branches for adequate air movement, full sun penetration and room for fruiting spurs to develop.

Water new trees deeply and regularly as required over summer. Feed with Daltons Garden Time Fruit and Citrus Fertiliser early spring and every six weeks till mid-December, recommencing late February till late April.

For the first 1-2 years after planting, remove young fruit so the tree’s energy is focused on vegetative growth.

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