Espalier apple tree and notch advice before cutting


I have 2 young apple trees. One which I planted 2 years ago and one that I planted last year.

I’ve chosen the first tier branches on my first tree and they have been tied down. I’m hoping to have the same height first tier branches on my second tree, but it looks like the growth on the younger tree has started much higher.

I’ve been reading here about notching above buds to promote growth. Would I be able to promote growth in the area or buds which I’ve circled in red?

In general, if I make any cuts or notches, should these cuts be made early spring before leaves emerge or can I start cuts and notches at any time.

Thanks in advance for any tips!

It is a little late but , Try notching with a hacksaw blade, then make your cut. Keep the tree well watered, it should push buds.

your unfortunately late with this. It was best to prune just above those buds before the tree made leaves this growing season.

if it where my tree’s, I would

leave them grow and get established this season to prune next dormant season.


pinch the new growing tips that i don’t want to try and force the buds i want. This won’t cost the young tree to much (since your not removing large established leaves) but you will likely need some luck/repeated pinching before those buds will brake. Since their quite low. And apical dominance/how “trees like to grow” dictates that higher buds grows shoots first. And there are quite some buds above those you want to break.

personally id leave them be for this year. And prune next dormancy. Less effort probably same results.

another more risky option is to prune just below the blue line. (above the red circled bud you want)

This will force that bud. But als setback the tree. (maybe even kill it, low chance)

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The most important thing when starting a Horizontal Espalier is to let the first layer grow out completely to full length and thickness before starting on the second layer. This can take up to 3 years.

You still need to start with the first layer, and with notching, you will never manage to maintain enough growth force in the lower layer.

What I do in these situations is to prune everything at the height of the first layer at a crown cut (0.5 cm), causing the side buds to sprout. These side buds are exactly at the same height, and with them, you will form the first layer. Let one branch grow straight up, which will become your leader. Keep topping this at about 20-30 cm so that the lower layer can grow out completely first.

Below is an explanation with:
Blue = buds
Green = new growth
Red = pruning


I tried notching this year. It worked great!

I made a quarter inch notch, patch, really, down through the cambium right above the bud with a very sharp knife. Whether I could have gotten away with a smaller notch, I don’t know.

All eight buds were fooled into thinking that the tree had been pruned just above it and tried to send out new central leaders. I am now bending those branches with clothes pins.

I did my notching very early in spring. I don’t sense that timing is necessarily a real critical consideration, although I would not be doing it now.

I never tried the espalier thing. The advantage to notching is that you get to choose your buds. Also, less of a setback to the overall vigor of the tree. Yeah yeah, I know that the oomph is mostly in the roots during dormancy. Mostly.

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Here some extra information about pruning espalier trees:

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Thank you everyone for all the tips. I think I will let the tree grow this season and try pruning and maybe notching the buds before they sprout next year @Masbustelo

I will plan to cut the main vertical branch down closer to the buds I want to sprout. As @oscar suggested, but maybe not all the way down to the blue line, but to the yellow line to ensure I have some buds? and not cut them all off. Then also notch above the red buds to encourage those to grow @kokopelli5A. I’m too scared to cut all the way down to the blue line :grimacing:

@Roland I’ve been reading around and I see in alot of your posts that you recommend growing the first tier out before starting the next tier. In this case, when do you know the first tier is ready? Is it by length or thickness of the branches. And you would just keep cutting back the leader every year as in your diagram?

Thank you!

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I just wanted to give an update on notching.

Instead of waiting until next year, I went ahead and notched the branches last week. I’m really surprised to say that when I looked closely at the buds this week, I can already see that the buds are awake as there is a little green color emerging from the tips!

Kinda hard to see from the pics as my camera wouldn’t focus on close up that well, but wow didn’t think it would happen so fast!

I notched 2 of my younger trees, so hopefully it will branch out where I want :crossed_fingers:


Notching can be surprisingly effective. In addition to helping quiescent buds wake up it can help field grafts along too, in my opinion. If I’m grafting to an established tree I’ll generally try to notch just above the branch to which I’m grafting. Seems like the lower down on the tree you’re grafting the more important it is, but it also seems to depend on the cultivar. Some cultivars (Gold Rush, Prairie Spy, Sweet 16, for examples) seem to graft easily low down, while I had trouble getting Macoun and Snow to take anywhere on the tree.