You are supposed to prune your apple trees during the summer solstice. In the southern Hemisphere that’s around December 20th and in the Northern Hemisphere that’s around June 20th.
The reason for this timing has to do with the stages of growth of apple trees and their production hormones. Pruning apple trees during summer will help them develop more apples next year. When you prune it forces the growth downwards instead of upwards. That means instead of growing longer branches the apple trees will grow shorter fruiting spurs.
Prune the thin whippy branches growing up from the main branches, not the shorter fatter ones (spurs) which will produce current season’s fruit.
Don’t cut the entire whip off, find the “basal” leaves (the cluster of tightly packed leaves near the base of the whip and count 3 leaves up. Cut just above the 3rd leaf from the basal cluster. This will keep the tree small and encourage the tree to produce fruiting spurs below the cut.
Cut the whip just above the 3rd leaf along the same direction as the leaf is growing. And that’s it - If you trim like this and show no mercy you can keep your espalier apple tree in check and no taller than 1.5 metres to 1.8 metres tall.
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