Fruit Tree Pruning Guide - This one I really like

That makes two of us, Mamuang!

Patty S.

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Truth be told, I think pruning espalier (two dimentional) is much simpler than pruning free standing trees.

For those you have to consider open center, central leader, modified central leader, tall spinfle, row width, tree spacing, branch to trunk ratio, etc. Each with a different pruning methodology.

Setting up the espalier tree is quite simple . When the trees are young they are as flexible as spaghetti and they grow like weeds. This allows one to twist, shape, rearrange making erasing mistakes easy ( which are almost hard to make in the first place). A living sculpture which feeds you. And it is easy. Just look at TomIL 's thread in May. “Espalier Apple Re-worked”

Amazing what can be accomplished with a pair of hand pruners and with eliminating the fear of snipping. compare the September photos to the May photos

Benefits are:

  1. Once the shape is set up all you do is trim. You can trim early, late, often, seldom, heavily or lightly.
  2. Being open every single fruitlet is in full sun.
  3. Much reduced dampness related fungal diseases as air flow is maximal.
  4. Real easy to spot any diseases early.
  5. Last summer I totally handled aphid problems by snipping off the new growth on which they feast and which you woul do anyway and it coincides with the time that aphids are around.
  6. Production is fantastic.
  7. Spraying is a breeze and quick. Just like painting a fence with a spray gun.

Last summer I managed 2400 linear feet of espaliers (six 100 foot trellis runs with 4 wires/levels each) made up of 93 trees with 125 varieties of apricots, apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, cheries, plums, pluots, apriums, & mirabelles.

I did this by myself only getting upstate to the orchard on weekends. And with a newly installed stent in my heart which slowed me down because the blood thinning meds and beta blockers got me winded real easily.

The espaliers made it possible. I only fell behind in weeding.

Espaliers sound exotic but they are dumb easy to set up and easier to maintain.



Mamuang, my message wasn’t just to you, but to anyone using the guide you recommend. The guide is very well written, but part of its beauty is the strong simplification of the subject- how else to cover so much ground in so few words?

It seems to make the claim of answering all the essential questions in training a young tree when really it only lays out a partial foundation, and I think it’s useful for anyone referring to it to realize this.

Another serious and fundamental issue not mentioned in this guideline is how much distance is needed in a central leader tree between the first tier of (the guideline recommends 3) scaffolds and subsequent tiers. This is a decision that may need to be made as early as year 2 if you follow the general methodology they are recommending- which is to choose the permanent scaffolds as early as possible.

Incidentally, I recommend a 3 to 4 ft distance between tiers on a semi-dwarf, free standing central leader tree- with greater distance between the 1st and 2nd than between the 2nd and 3rd. You may want 4 main branches for each of the higher tiers.

One advantage of waiting longer to choose your permanent scaffolds is that you have a much better sense of scale once the tree is closer to its mature size and will therefore be more inclined to allow adequate space between tiers to avoid excessive shading.

The other advantage is that the less you prune (beyond removing oversized branches) the faster the tree will realize its mature size and produce meaningful harvests (with most varieties).


Just beautiful!


Thanx, I linked to my photos to show how easy it is to maintain ( spray, observe etc) an espalier. I linked to TomIL’s to show how forgiving trees are. The resilience and the ability to rebound only becomes much more noticeable with Espaliers. Young trees especially allow us to fix our mistakes.

Looking at the attached photos of TomIL’s trees (from May thru September) illustrates the speed of the recovery after he gave his trees the crewcut that they needed.

That is why I think that pruning espaliers is easier and less intimidating than free standing trees. Cut off the wrong major scaffold on a free stander and you have grief. Do the same to an espalier and you just bend the next water shoot into place and… voila! mellow times. :relaxed: :sunglasses:



You are right, there is little mystery for pruning espalier. The trees are so healthy and the fruit looked beautiful hanging from the scaffolds. Just perfect! I wished my orchard had walls. They are surrounded by 12’ tall privet and 20’ tall arborvite. Green against green isn’t great as the trees sometimes get lost. Spring and fruiting times are best. Great examples you have there!

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I can’t tell you how many times I have spread or tied down branches only to find them broken off the next morning. That pre-bending technique is great advice!

Thanks for sharing mamuang!

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I agree, it is excellent!


My espalier–a weeping santa rosa plum next to a shed (west facing)–got the heck sunburned out of it last year. Trying to prune to leave more shading canopy this year and hope I don’t lose major limbs.

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This is the pruning guide I talked to you about. The link is on the top of this thread. I’ve found it easy to understand for someone like me.



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The link has moved:


And now that I’ve read through it, the only complaint I have is that it doesn’t address pruning to have an open-center tree, but the rest of the information is so clear that a bit of extra reading elsewhere (“Grow a Little Fruit Tree”) that now I’m not at all afraid of pruning! This little brochure is better than dozens of other writings out there because it explains WHY. I resurrected this thread because I think that alone worthy.

Unfortunately the link only shows the first page for me. It looked very promising from that page.

You have to download the .pdf. If you can view .pdfs, it should work. It’s clearly from an older pamphlet of some sort . . .

Great little guide, worthy of a bump. Other links are kaput; here’s the most recent:

Also, let’s see if I can upload the whole .pdf here, in case the link goes again.

Fruit-Tree-Pruning-Guide.pdf (7.1 MB)