Apple Espalier - multiple new tiers in one year?

I have a new (to me) apple espalier that went in over winter last, and was purchased as a two tier espalier. It has grown strongly since, so much so that I actually topped the leader as it went over the fence.
I know that the general wisdom, and all of the advice, is that you build the espalier incrementally, adding a tier per year and pruning back the leader to the level you want next year's tier at. I am just wondering if anyone knows what the reasoning is behind that advice? In the picture below you can see two existing tiers at the bottom, plus the beginnings of tier three (a little higher than I wanted, due to lack of branching). At the very top (level with the fence) I want another tier eventually, and I have actually have two decent branching candidates now. I am also thinking about having an intermediate tier between levels 2 and 3 (still a 10 inch spacing between tiers), which also has some nice branch candidates. Would it be crazy to just tie these in now, or is there some reason to restrict growth now? On the one hand it would be a lot more growth than a single tier, but on the other hand it would still be quite a small amount of new branches compared to a normal apple tree growing in three dimensions. Any input would be great.


  • purplerallimpurplerallim LincolnshirePosts: 2,117
    I presume you want the last set of branches at fence hight? Yes I would use the cluster of branches mid tree to make new levels. Then let the row above grow in on the left to match the right. As for the top set cutting the top back to three squares below the top will make growth start there and give you the arms for the top set. It looks good at the moment and is growing well, I have found apples grow quite fast and my tree has only taken three years to reach the shape I wanted. Good luck with yours and show us what happens next year.😁
  • matt_fendermatt_fender Posts: 144
    Thanks. Yeah, it is growing strongly at the moment but if I was following the formative training advice to the letter I would let the new tier (tier 3) grow but cut back at the top to the level of tier 4, which I would let grow next year. Thing is, I already did cut back the top because it was a foot over the fence, just thinking that it would help divert growth to the areas I wanted. Now I have two quite nice young branches at the top at the perfect level for my final tier, so I figure I might as well just tie them down (once they are a bit longer) and let them go for it. Likewise the mid "2.5" level tier. That would mean 3x new tiers this year which I think I will chance, but was interested to hear if there were any sound reasons against such insanity!
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 56,594
    My understanding is that you grow the tiers in year by year because each year the new tier should be the most strongly growing points.

     If you allow branches above to grow before the branches below have filled their space the ones above will grow more than the lower ones which  will not grow strongly enough to form nice long lateral branches. 

    It’s not a job to rush. 
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • matt_fendermatt_fender Posts: 144
    @Dovefromabove thanks. This was the precise concern that I had, and why I asked. Having said that, I do wonder though whether the fear of not growing strongly at lower levels is a little overplayed? My existing lower tiers have continued to grow/extend very well this year despite having further tiers above them and, although I am not in any particular rush, the main trunk has now broken so well and the branching growth is so vigorous that I am of a mind to simply let them go. Perhaps I will allow the intermediate tier and see how the tops are looking when I go in for the cut back in August.
  • purplerallimpurplerallim LincolnshirePosts: 2,117
    I had no problems and mine was even more complicated as there are two varieties on one root stock. This is mine after three years.
    Not a good picture as it cuts off the top tier. The two frames hold a variety each.
  • matt_fendermatt_fender Posts: 144
    @purplerallim looks great - so you obviously did add more than a single tier in a season? How many did you go for at once?
  • purplerallimpurplerallim LincolnshirePosts: 2,117
    No more than two
  • purplerallimpurplerallim LincolnshirePosts: 2,117
    But that was governed more by growth rate and position. 
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