Pruning espaliered apple and pear trees

(Question)

My fruit espaliers are now 4 years old. How do I prune off shoots? How far back?

(Answer)

In August, when the trees’ growth is starting to slow down, cut new sideshoots growing from the horizontal leaders back to three leaves from the basal cluster, 7.5cm (3in) long. Shoots from previously pruned sideshoots should be cut back to one leaf from the basal cluster, 2.5cm (1in) long.

If any secondary growths arise after this pruning, cut them back to the base in September. Completely remove any sideshoots on the vertical stem.

If a great deal of  secondary growth appears after the August pruning, in the following year prune later,  in mid-September.  If this does not reduce secondary growth, you may need to prune in winter instead.

You might like to review the Royal Horticultural Society’s full instructions on espalier pruning, which you can find on their website at http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/profile.aspx?pid=319