Espalier Apple Trees Rework - 2016 Updates


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I like that term, “The finger of God”!


Thanks for sharing. I used this photo as a guide earlier today.

So, …Spring has sprung and here’s updates from my espalier apple trees. I’m back to pinching just this morning after long enough waiting for some flower buds to show. Apparently, none for this year!

I padded myself on the back, “next year, next year…”! :disappointed_relieved:

A bit closer look, plenty of greens and nothing else!


How long have you been at this?

I feel your pain. I got nothing this year except CAR on varieties that didn’t have any last year. Your trees are much, much farther along than mine are!

About 4-5 years but learned how to keep them in shape only last year.

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Tom, these are beautiful even without apples.
I’ll be converting my open vase trees to a trellised system which approaches an espalier-like arrangement but I’ll be most fortunate to accomplish something as tidy as you have. Do you have a favorite reference for doing this?
My 2 cents on the ‘no apples’ issue would be (1) carbs, (2) nutes.
My interpretation may be incorrect but I thought that the ‘next year fruiting’ efforts (i.e. pinching, bending, pruning, girdling) began, at the earliest, after the summer soltice, and that before that (on a non-fruiting tree) vegetative growth is maximized in order to store up and translate carbs to the roots.
I’ve been a gardener waaaaaay longer than playing with fruit trees, but Phosphorus (triple/super) has always served me well in getting fruiting to happen abundantly. As it turns out, nute transport doesn’t happen in the tree w/o phosphates except in rare instances. So maybe there is an easy soil test to see if your levels are sufficient for fruiting.


What this about pinching the growth? Do you just pinch it with your figures until it pops a little or do you break all the way through it or am I on the wrong track entirely?


Look up the genesis of this thread from last season . There is a whole conversation explaining “pinching” etc.


Wow, 4-5 years and no fruit yet?

Basically Tom went back to square one last season. See the link above.


How long does it take fruiting spurs to develop? I’m thinking one year is not enough.


I have other fruit trees (pears, plums, peaches) that basically sharing the same piece of 1/2 acre that flowered and fruited successfully so the Phosphorus may not be the issue. Maybe they need to build up 2 year old woods for that to happen. One strange thing is I have 4 apple trees, 3 are espaliered, 1 was not touched/pruned/pinched/ect. (HoneyCrisp). Last year, there’re some blossoms on the HoneyCrisp but no fruiting, the other espalier gave me 2 apples. This year, nothing except green leaves on all 4!

Even my little paw paw tree that I planted last year yields 1 flower bud! And nothing to show on the apples!

I just wondered of this year’s weird weather!


It’s disappointed but I guess it needs 2 years old woods. You’ve stated it perfectly correct: Last year, I went back to square one after cutting off all stubby branches and rebuilt the fruitwoods…


Phosphorus is sucked out of the soil by anything bearing seed. No Phos. No seed. No fruit. Maybe it was drained out and a local (to those non bearing trees) soil sample would answer that.
Ample soil Phos (for fruiting!!) and still no fruit means uptake issues which are nicely remedied by microbials.
The kind of ‘weather’ that impacts minerals is rain. Too much washes minerals into the subsoil. You see this in spades if you try to grow peppers and tomatoes.

All my other fruit trees are flowering and fruitlets formed so I still don’t think that’s the problem… I’m convinced that I’ve hit the reset button last year by pruning off all major secondary branches in an attempt to rebuild the espaliers form. If I still not getting any result next year, then I would think of different strategy, provide that 2017 winter is going to be somewhat normal…

Here’s another update!

Not much is change except more pinching work for this year. I noticed that some new growths are already terminated after a few set of leaves and other continues with green shoots. Probably the terminated ones are the fruitwoods of next year?

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I’d like to propose an experiment.

In a thread called “Grafting dummy question” a few days ago I posted a youtube vid - -

One method tthe poster used to entice fruiting spurs was to break the shoot but leave them attached. The sequence and explanation begins at around the 1 minute 40 second mark.

Maybe you could try the “break and hang” method on a few vigorous shoots and see what happens.

I am going to try that on a few of my vigorously growing plum and pear shoots.


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I’ve tried “break and hang” the shoots 2 years ago during early 'til mid-summer on these 2 espalier apples but it did nothing.

I’ve also tried this method on pluots and Asian pears that same year. Fruit spurs on pluots and pears were readily created a year later. Last year, I did not “break and hang”. This year, fruit spurs from the pluots and pears are still readily created. I don’t see any improvement re. fruit spurs creation from “break and hang” vs. regular summer pruning.

Now gathering all thoughts, I think last year drastic pruning to reshape my espalier form maybe the key (for not having fruit this year) here. This year, if I retained all of last year “sticks”,its green leave from these sticks would store up enough carbohydrate (from JustAnne4’s suggestion) for fruiting process that results in fruiting next spring…

Still keeping my fingers crossed…