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Cutting espaliers

Fruit espaliers in the garden are useful for several reasons. Characterised by a strict structure and pruned, they are a garden design element but at the same time are made for a concentrated fruit yield.

Now, in January, this means re-working of the newly sprouted twigs on the pre-formed branches. Distinguish here between short shoots (these are the compactly growing later flowering stems with leaves normally in a whirled pattern) and long shoots (these are the growth shoots with “normal” leaf spacing). Remove the too dense long shoots up to one or at most two favourably positioned ones. Shorten these down to three buds. Use the leaves for orientation: there is such a bud situated at the base of each leaf.

Favourably positioned shoots means: if the shoot issues vertically on the top of the twig, it tends more towards growth and less towards fruit setting, which is important for the espalier. If the shoot issues on the twig side or even on the underside of the twig, the easier it is to switch from a long shoot to a short shoot by cutting. The more horizontal the shoot grows from the beginning, the easier this is. In short this means: preferably remove the vertical shoots and encourage the horizontal ones. If the twig base of a shoot to be removed still does not have much of a stalk, break off the shoot from the top of the twig with a sharp tug instead of cutting it off. In this way you prevent the so-called “sleeping eyes” (replacement buds) present at every twig base from sprouting and growing to become “suckers” (excessively thick leaf shoots without fruit development).

Tip: While working through the espalier shoots, also keep an eye on the amount of fruit. If the amount is too dense, break off damaged or too small fruits now in order to help the others. With apples, for example, not more than two fruits per truss should be left hanging, as otherwise their quality suffers. Tip: As a rule of thumb, to supply one single apple with sufficient nutrients, the tree requires about 35 leaves.

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