seeking advice on pruning three older espallier fruit trees #778188 - Ask Extension


seeking advice on pruning three older espallier fruit trees #778188

Asked November 21, 2021, 3:11 PM EST

Hi. We have three espallier fruit trees about 25 years old. The trees are not providing as much fruit and we need expert advice on pruning this years' growwth for obtaining more fruit spurs in future years. Rik Huhtanen 541-554-9112

Lane County Oregon

Expert Response

I shall need more information. Type of tree,  cultivar and a picture of the espalier with trees. Thank you.

Pat Patterson Replied November 22, 2021, 3:31 PM EST
Hi Patricia
    Thank you for your response. Here are pictures.  All three are shown  in #3405. 
     We are  not expecting miracles. We just would like to see if we can make the  trees produce a  just little bit better.  Is a site visit by a master gardener expert a possibility?
    The left hand tree (3406) is an Asian pear with 4 different varieties which produces abundant fruit each year.  Apparently we are  doing ok with  this one.
     The middle tree (3407) is an apple with four different varieties, not producing very well at all, but still healthy.
    The right hand tree (3408)    is a healthy  multi  variety apple that does not produce.any apples at all. 
    One issue to consider is there is shade over the entire right hand  tree (3408), and partial shade  over the middle tree (3407) all summer long from a nice magnolia that hangs over the fence from our neighbor’s yard.  The magnolia looks great, but could this shade  be making our apples less productive?  We have the right to trim the portion of the magnolia that is growing over our fence if necessary.
    We also have  a grape trimming question.  No  picture attached. Our concerns would be easily explained in a site visit.
    We do not know  the  policy  of the master gardener program, but  are willing to pay someone with  very good confidence in their tree trimming judgment, someone with a whole lot of experience, preferably someone who has examined and then pruned a whole lot of fruit trees of all ages.
    Thanks so much.  We appreciate how  quickly you got  back to us.
Rik  Huhtanen Karen Scholler
2419 Nixon  St, Eugene, OR  97403
Sent: Monday, November 22, 2021 12:31 PM
To: riki
Subject: Re: seeking advice on pruning three older espallier fruit trees (#0048119)
Rik Huhtanen Replied November 22, 2021, 4:24 PM EST

Unfortunately a site visit will not be possible. Fruit trees require pretty much full sun in order to set fruit buds and fruit. I also see two other things that would slow production: on an espalier there should be no straight up shoots. Probably the poor tree is reaching for sun, the source of its life. A second is that it appears that the mulch is piled against the tree. There should always be an 8-12" clear area at the base to prevent rodent damage and bark rot. Also, only spur-bearing apple varieties are well suited to espalier.  Summer pruning is to restrict growth (after all an espalier is a restricted form) and to let in light to help the fruit ripen. The light also encourages buds for the following season. Best time is July-August. On older well-established trees, winter pruning is to maintain the structure and keep open areas for sun and air to increase the fruit buds. This following information comes from Stark Bros. Nursery

"You may need to prune two or three times per season to keep the tree in shape. The first pruning should be after it blooms in the spring. The flowers will indicate where the fruit will be, and you can prune accordingly. (Always use very sharp, clean shears that have been dipped in diluted bleach solution, or wiped down thoroughly with an alcohol wipe, rinsed and dried after each use to prevent potential disease spread.) While it usually takes about four years to get the full artistic effect of your efforts, you may actually see fruit as soon as the second year... but if you want the most from your espaliered tree, remove that developing fruit for a year or two. Then keep an eye on it, nipping off vertical shoots, and removing suckers and water sprouts. Shorten the horizontal branches to encourage the development of a fruiting spur. Because there will be more fruiting spurs produced along the horizontal branches than the vertical trunk, eventually you will have many fruits setting on your espaliered tree, so make sure your support is strong."

I hope this helps. You do need to give the trees at least 6 hours of full sun during the growing season.

Pat Patterson Replied November 22, 2021, 8:46 PM EST
    This was very helpful. Thank you so very much!
Rik Huhtanen
Sent: Monday, November 22, 2021 5:46 PM
To: riki
Subject: Re: seeking advice on pruning three older espallier fruit trees (#0048119)
Rik Huhtanen Replied November 23, 2021, 11:22 AM EST

You are most welcome. I am happy I could help.

Pat Patterson Replied November 23, 2021, 8:44 PM EST

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