by Nik Magnus | © 2024 Woodbridge Fruit Trees |


Stepover growing in France

Step-overs are usually a row or hedge of an apple, pruned to a height that can be stepped over -usually about 50-60cm. Its a normal apple variety grown on an ultra-dwarfing rootstock, and trained on a low wire - pruned yearly to stay just at that level.

They are often seen making an edible hedge in a vegetable plot or productive garden, as a separator between beds or along a pathway.  Their success is totally dependent on growing them on an extremely dwarfing rootstock, which wont respond with excessive vertical growth unlike non dwarfing rootstocks if pruned that low. Instead, the stepover is content to stay short and still flower / fruit prolifically. If left unpruned, this will make a small tree 1.5m tall. Typically they have shallow root systems, so they do best in a well cultivated garden, with little competition, good fertility, regular watering and a supporting trellis of some kind.

To make a step-over hedge, follow the first level of a horizontal-T system of espaliering. Create a trellis at about 60cm high using posts and strained fencing wire, or a rigid horizontal eg. connected Bamboo, or a length of steel rod that can be bent to conform around a curved path. Plant your stepovers between posts, at a space of about 1.5m so the stem is vertical. Once planted and settled in, prune just below the wire or horizontal. Once the leaves come out in Spring, and growth occurs, fertilize and water well encouraging some branches to emerge where the cut was made. Dont prune until next winter, allowing the leaves to make plant food from sunlight the remaining growth season. In winter, select two branches, one to bend left and the other to bend right and tie down to the horizontal wire.

The Method

Plant vertically 1.5m apart and cut just below the horizontal wire.

In ensuing years the only pruning (in late January - February) is removing the upward growing annual growth. The growing tip is tied down onto the wire.

The resulting growth occurs at the cut. Hopefully at least two shoots grow. If more than two branches grow, leave them until winter. In winter, tie down the left and right leader onto the wire, and then prune the remainder of the growth.

The upright stubs quickly convert into fruiting spurs and the tips finally overgrow the next tree and it becomes a dense fruiting hedge.<

In subsequent years, vertical growth will occur along the horizontal branches, prune these back in winter to three buds - these will form fruiting spurs.

At present we’re growing later maturing varieties and fruit that is highly coloured for ornamental effect - they hang on longer well into Autumn. The fruit grow to normal size and flavour.

Bend the vertical growth growing at the ends of each horizontal branch and tie down to extend the length of the plant. Once it touches its neighbour, keep it pruned or allow it to overlap a little.


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Step-over Apples

Step-over Apples

What are step-overs? It’s not a very gracious name for an extremely dwarf apple plant that is grown typically as a fruitful hedge or border to an ornamental vegetable garden, a potager garden. Their success is totally dependant on growing them on an extremely dwarfing rootstock. If this tree is left to grow to it’s full size it may