Maintain step-over apples

Give them a check over and prune now to get them in shape

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There are various ways that you can train apple trees and one of the simplest is to grow them as step-overs. These low growing trees have gained popularity over recent years, but they have been around for a long time and were planted in Victorian kitchen gardens as edging around fruit and vegetable beds.

A step-over tree is basically two horizontal branches growing from a short trunk and normally they are trained to be between 30-45cm (12-18in) tall. They get their name because you can step over them!

As well is in a fruit garden, step-overs can be planted in other parts of the garden as a low hedge, with the bonus of producing a crop of apples. They are also very simple to maintain, with most of the pruning being done in late summer, by cutting back the long new shoots to produce short fruiting spurs.   

In the winter when the foliage has dropped, established trees should be checked over and any final pruning done to remove thin, wispy shoots. On older trees the clumps of fruiting spurs can become crowded, so you may need to thin them out to allow room for the fruits to develop. It’s also important to make sure that the horizontal branches are well supported so that they can carry the weight of apples in summer.