noobgardener
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Overgrown Espaliered Apple Tree - How to Save?

So I have this severely overgrown apple tree that the previous owners of our house were trying to train to an espalier. I would assume it is at least 3 years old.

My problem is that I want to keep the tree but I don't think there is enough room for it to grow apart from the espaliered form. Unfortunately, the tree was left so long that much of the growth is very high up and the branches that are trained against the espalier are very thin. Is this tree salvageable? It looks kind of sad now because it had a bunch of vines taking it over. I pulled all of that out and was left with this.

Also I am zone 7a.

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Southern VA
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Overhauling an overgrown garden.

JONA878
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Re: Overgrown Espaliered Apple Tree

That tree is fully salvageable Noob... You will have to be rather strict though in some hard pruning.
Those very strong uprights will have to come off so that the smaller branches that will still bend over and tie in can take over the structure of the tree.
Once the largest of the uprights have gone and the rest tied down the tree should calm down in its growth rate and start to look the part.
You will have to summer prune it next season though to keep vigorous new upright growth in check. Not before the end of July though.!!
Good luck.
An apple a day.....keeps me in work.

noobgardener
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Re: Overgrown Espaliered Apple Tree

Thanks! When can I take those uprights off? Should i keep the smaller, whippet branches that are horizontal now or cut them off?
Southern VA
Clay soil
Overhauling an overgrown garden.

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applestar
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Re: Overgrown Espaliered Apple Tree

Wait for JONA for the final word, but I think you could cut off 1/3 of the length of the "uprights" -- one or two, maybe! Definitely not all at once -- NOW, then cut the entire upright at the trunk around early-mid February. I think I would do this one at a time for such a small (overall) tree -- probably the one that's sticking out frontward out of the 2-D espalier plane would be the first to go.

Mine weren't as developed as these, but I did something similar on my apple tree with 1 - 2" diameter neglected limbs that needed to be cut off. If remember correctly, I cut off three at once, but my tree was a semi-dwarf and had many more branches.

The "whips" are the branches that can be trained to espalier so you need to be very careful about choosing which ones to keep and which ones to remove entirely.... and which ones should be stubbed for fruiting spurs. Don't be hasty. :wink:
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JONA878
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Re: Overgrown Espaliered Apple Tree

Agree with star about cutting the uprights down two thirds straight away to help promote the whips which can then be tied into the correct position for espalier shape.

One other thing I would add.
When you finally cut the large branches off, do not make a cut that is flush to the trunk...as all the text books tell you to do. Cut horizontal across the branch so that a small triangular stub is left behind. The top of the stub being horizontal and flush to the main trunk and the bottom sloping into the trunk. The whole stub being about an inch in size.
This is called a 'Dutch cut'. The idea being that the lower part of the stub will be in the perfect position to break a dormant bud and produce a side shoot that is as near to horizontal as is possible.

Try it out.
We prune nearly all our braches using this cut so that there is always a steady supply of replacement branches being formed in the correct positions. You can always cut superfluous off...but getting wood in the correct place can be a devil at times.
An apple a day.....keeps me in work.

DoubleDogFarm
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Re: Overgrown Espaliered Apple Tree


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