Step-over trained trees are useful for growing fruit trees where space is limited or as a decorative feature particularly to separate plots or borders in the garden. Step-overs consist of a short vertical trunk and a single horizontal arm extending one way or a single tier of two arms extending both ways from the trunk to form a “T” shape. The arms would bear short lateral branches or spurs on which fruit is produced. The shape is brought about by pruning and training. The horizontal arms would typically be 50cm (20 inches) above ground. Mature step-over trees would typically have a span of 1.5-1.8m (5-6ft).
Step-over trees need a set of horizontal wires for support. They also need appropriate summer pruning to maintain and develop the form. Step-over training is usually done with apple and pear trees. Plums, cherries and other stone fruit trees not suitable for step-over training.
There are two options available to you If you wish to grow step-over trees.
The first option is to buy a ready trained tree. We supply a large range of over 20 varieties of 2 year step-over trained apple and pear trees. This is a far larger range than any other nursery. Unlike most other nurseries which produce container grown step-over trees ours are field grown and supplied bare-root in the winter. As a result they are larger and more robust and establish better. Our step-over trees are “T” shaped with two horizontal arms extending either way from the trunk 50cm above ground. There is an alterntive form of step-over training used by other nurseries which is to have one arm extending in one direction only but we only use the "T" shaped form. Our apple step-overs are on M27 rootstock and pears are on Quince C rootstock. The normal planting distance between trees would be about 5-6ft (1.5-1.8m). As there is usually a limited supply of these ready trained trees and considerable demand we advise ordering early. Please click on the links at the top of the page for lists of available step-over trained trees.
The second option is to train you own from scratch. To do so you need to start with a maiden (untrained one year old) tree on a suitable rootstock. Two year old trees trained in other forms would not be suitable. Training your own tree gives the additional flexibility of choosing from a larger range of varieties The rootstock most commonly used for apples is M27 but M9 can be used for locations with poor soil or for longer or double step-overs. Quince C is the recommended rootstock for pears. Most varieties are suitable for training, but tip bearers should be avoided. You can find out if a variety is a tip or spur bearer by referring to the characteristics page for that variety on our website.