Having converted one-quarter plus of our suburban back yard into a raised bed vegetable garden we wanted to keep the rest in grass (and moss) to play badminton and bocce ball but we also wanted one or two fruit trees. While wandering through the new spring arrivals in the local garden centre we came across a few espalier fruit trees and these looked like the solution to our problem.
As the fruit trees were already espalier with each tree having 3 lateral branches on either side of the main stalk we decided to buy an apple and a pear as it seemed like a quick and easy option over purchasing full or dwarf size fruit trees for our limited garden space.
Espalier Growing requirements are minimal
- Full sun – which means at least six hours of direct sunlight per day
- Require fertile well-drained soil
- A mulch is recommended
- Training of branches as the trees grow
- Annual pruning
- Dig a hole twice as deep and twice as wide as the original pot (about 30 inches deep and 3 feet round for our trees)
- The main stem should be at least 10 to 12 inches from any wall or building so as not to hinder root growth
- Fill the hole with fertile soil and a mix of compost to the height of the bottom of the container
- Before placing the tree in the hole add a handful of bone meal to the hole
- Plant the tree so that the final soil level is the same as in the container in which it was purchased – this is important
- In the last few inches of soil add rich compost
- Finally a layer of mulch to keep the roots moist (we purchased fir mulch)
- 4 x 8 foot posts (which were five feet apart)
- Three lengths of galvanized steel wire about 40 feet long
- Turnbuckles and screw eyes
The surprise for me was that the fruit trees grow in less than zero degrees F in our area. Another interesting feature was that the apple tree space requirement was 8 to 15 feet but the pear tree space requirement was an amazing 20 to 35 feet. Sideways that is!
We look forward to picking fresh fruit with our grandsons especially knowing there are no chemicals used in our garden and these espalier fruit trees fit perfectly into our small yard space.
- For safety reasons we needed to fence the top wall of a terrace with a 5 foot drop – so espalier fruit trees were the perfect answer to cover the fence
- We chose pear and apple trees simply as they are favourites and these two varieties are well suited to espalier type growing
- Cherry, Asian pears, peach an plum espaliers are available and you can always train your own
- The pear had three varieties grafted on one trunk – Bartlett, Bosc and Red Bartlett
- The apple tree had six varieties grafted on one trunk – Gala, Fuji, Red McIntosh, Yellow Transparent, Yellow Delicious and Gravenstein
- We purchased two-year old root-stock so do not expect edible fruit for another two years even though there were abundant blossoms on both trees
- Pruning requirements (we hope) will be minimal as the branches run parallel to the ground at the 1, 2 and 3 ft levels – very easily reachable and even wheel chair accessible
- From lawn to planting including fencing – two persons – 7 to 8 hours and fence wire 4 hours
- To train your own espalier fruit trees can take many years and be a lot of fun – for us time is of the essence
Links & References
- History and general espalier information
- Bocce Ball Rules from Wikipedia