Espaliers have a long European history that included estates along with kings and queens. It was viewed that it required an extraordinary skill to grow these special trees. But the steps to an easy apple tree espalier are as easy as one, two, three.
The first step in this process is selecting the proper tree. A dwarf variety of apple tree that is spur-bearing is perfect. While you may understand the dwarf part, a spur-bearing tree is one that produces its fruit along its main branches instead of on the tips of vertical branches.
Also, the tree needs to be small or 3 to 4 feet in height. This type of tree is referred to as a whip.
The next step is setting up the trellis material. Apple trees can be espaliered on a one or two level trellis, which consists of running wire or rope between posts. This style of espalier is referred to as one or two-tiered espalier.
The third step in this process is pruning. The best time to do this is when you first plant the tree, which should occur in March or April. Once it is in the ground, bring out the pruning shears. If you are creating a one-tiered espalier, make a 45 degree angle cut just above the first wire. Tie the plant to the wire using a plastic garden tie but make sure not to tie it too tight. This can girdle the plant and deform it.
If you are creating a two-tiered espalier, cut the 45-degree angle at the top just slightly above the second wire. Tie the tree to both levels.
In about four to six weeks, tie the lateral shoots to the wires with plastic ties. Repeat this process again in another four to six weeks. Continue to tie the vertical growth down the rest of the season.
This is the basic design plan for a simple apple tree espalier. While the process is pretty straightforward, there are few hints that will help you be more successful in your gardening endeavor. One, make sure not to bury the graft of the tree in the ground. Making this simple mistake can cause the death of your tree. Second, when tying your branches off always make sure to tie them off in the middle. This will keep the branches from bowing. Three remove any suckers as soon as they appear and eradicate any growth on the truck between the branches. If the growth is very young, this can be taken care of by simply rubbing the trunk with ones finger.
While espaliers can look complicated, they are really quite simple. All it takes is patience, time, and a simple three-step process.