Espaliered apple question

I have espaliered apple tree, that currently has two layers. I want to have three layers, so I pruned the leader right above the level of third wire. Now I have three young shoots growing - one thin one below the wire pointing slight left, one strong one on the wire level pointing slight right, and one very strong a bit above the wire going directly up. Choice for the right branch is clear, but for the left one I can either use that thin shoot or bend new leader. I hope if I bend new leader it will stop making new leaders, and if I cut it it will start to push new leaders up and that thin shoot will have no chance to grow strong. But all the instructions for espalier I saw telling to cut and use side shoots for the branches. Your thought?

I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong, but my guess is the advice comes from both aesthetic and risk concerns. I bend my leaders and must use more gentle arches or I risk snapping it. If I was more rigorous about form, I might find my system unacceptable.

I can’t tell you about health and effect on bearing, because my trees haven’t set fruit. I am a little worried I over prune and am dwarfing the trees but I really like to make sure only the tips grow. I will show you what my joints look like.

So bending the leader doesn’t prevent new one growing up? I bend my shoots while they are still very soft, so I think I will be able to bend the leader in a week or so, though side shoot looks much more convenient to bend. I just visited my tree, it seems this thin shoot gets some power…I guess I have to wait a bit more to decide what to do.

I’m not sure if this is going to answer your question, but I get a little edgy when people use strong words like “prevent” and then I get wordy when I want to be super clear.

The “simple” way to think about a tree is that it’s a hydraulic pump to move building blocks up and down the tree. Hormones limiting growth are produced at the top and flow downward, hormones and nutrients stimulating growth are pushed/pulled upwards. Cutting the tree stops the hormone, opens a wound, and provides a hard stopping point for upward traveling nutrients/hormones. Bending the tree affects the flow of the nutrients such that hormones and nutrients that would have gone all the way up are distributed by some factor of the degree of bend and the number of buds and size of the wood and whatever else, while disruptive hormones that would have gone to every bud on the way down instead are disrupted and will not reach all the lower buds. If you don’t bend the tree enough, it will simply grow more slowly and other buds may not emerge immediately, but will likely emerge the next year as waterspouts.

So the difference is when you bend, you can’t really predict which buds will start to grow, but you can influence it with things like notching, girdling, or the sharpness of your angles. You still have a dominant leader, which effects balance of the tree and symmetry, you have just pulled that leader down to horizontal. The opposite branch will be behind. A new leader will eventually emerge, but it’s going to likely be at the highest point of your bend, if you created an arch. When you cut, you increase risk of disease, but you end up tightly spaced branches right where you want them which are more evenly sized and will likely grow in a more balanced manner.

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@galinas

I have been faced with this many times. The young shoots are verrrry flexible. I would just bend the one on the left as follows:
1. right where it gets to the wire, I would bend it, practically at a 90 degree angle and tie it tight to the wire
2. then tie the rest down as you would normally.
3. by next summer the branch will stiffen up and you can loosen the 90 degree tie down and just tie it loosely like you would any other arm.

You can also tie down the leader to the left and next year there will be water shoots growing vertically. Use the one closest to the cent as a new leader.

Below are two photos. On the apricot tree (bottom) you can see the 90 degree bend.
On the apple tree you can see the extreme convoluted bends and the water shoots coming up vertical.

Try it… you’ll like it.

Mike

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Thank you guys, I already got the point that fruit growing is as much art as it is science, so final decision is always depends on your styles and techniques. Just wanted make sure I do not break any science here, as I am is very new to apples - it is my first apple tree :grin: