Espalier apple first-year pruning

I posted this over at Gardenweb, but then discovered this forum here. Seems like there are many more active espalier masters 'round these parts. Forgive me for the double-post.

I planted two apple whips that I intend to train as tiered cordons. I tended to the apple trees at my parents house when I was growing up, but these are the first apple trees I’ve planted myself.

I cut the whips back to just above a bud at the height of the first tier, and a few months later I have lots of good branch and leaf growth. On both whips, I’ve ended up with four buds turning into branches, when I only need three. I’m also getting some small leaves emerging from buds lower down the “trunk”. Should I prune off those extra leaves and branches this summer? Or should I wait next winter?

I am in Chicago, if that makes any difference.

Thanks for your help!

How about some photos?

Sure. Here are some from a few days ago before I started to train them.

This one has four significant branches.

Here is a closeup of the growth along the trunk.

And here is a picture of my other tree, also with more branches than I need for the first tier.

Let them all grow out through this summer.

In the fall when leaves have dropped you will tie down the first tier. They will still be very pliable.

Late winter or early spring can eliminate all unneeded branches and you will head the leader at or near the level of the next tier above a set of 3 buds that are facing the right directions.

Hurry up and relax.


Mike, that’s very helpful, thanks for the quick reply. A couple of days ago I tied the trunk and the branch I’ll use for the leader to a vertical wire for support (we had some wicked thunderstorms the last few days and I was worried about too much wind). But I haven’t done anything with the tier branches. I’ll leave the tier branches and everything else growing blowing in the wind until the fall, and I’ll wait to prune until early spring!

Thanks again.

You are more than welcome.

Stick around, join the club, invite others and ask questions.

Just asking is by itself a contribution So questions are appreciated.


little off topic but were do you guys get the galvanized metal wire. I can only find it with regular steel and it rusts very quick or is already rusted in the store

I got mine at the local Ace hardware a few years ago. Got a huge spool that I’m still working my way through.


Try Tractor Supply, Kencove Fence (

Although I suggest you look up 12.5 monofilament . See the link below. I used galvanized but later switched to monofilament and found it easier to work with.