You don’t have to be a Master Gardener to have beautiful espalier fruit trees in your own backyard. Depictions of espalier fig trees have been found on the walls of Egyptian tombs and throughout the art of the middle ages. But in the 21st century, espalier fruit trees are popping up more and more in the back yards of Americans.
The art of espalier is when trees and branches are pruned and trained to be on one plane. They’re commonly found up against a wall or fence. Not only is the look a classic focal point in your landscape, but it helps to maximize your growing space. Espaliering can help keep your fruit trees in check while still providing you with a bountiful harvest. Implementing an espalier tree still requires maintenance throughout your growing season, but no more than any other backyard fruit tree.
To begin the process, plant your tree 6-10 inches from a wall or fence. If your tree is bordering a walkway, you will need to build or purchase a frame trellis and train your tree to it.
There will be 2 major times you’ll be pruning your espalier fruit trees. In the winter (when your tree is dormant), you should be performing your major cuts and pruning your fruit tree back. This will stimulate growth and bud production in the spring. You will also prune in the spring, but for the purpose of creating your tree “shape”; and as the tree grows in the summer, you will make sure the branches are following the pattern you want. This will take up to 4 years of training and extreme pruning to have a great looking tree and a bountiful fruit harvest.
Keep in mind these basic pruning principles:
1) always cut back to a bud, a lateral branch, or to the main trunk
2) avoid leaving a stub of a branch
I love to espalier the following edibles, all available at Stark Bro’s:
One main trunk is grown in a horizontal direction or multiple tiers of branches are trained horizontally along the wall, fence, or support. Great to use with grapevines along a short fence or a fruit tree against a wall. The Lattice pattern is best accomplished by planting multiple trees close together, depending on the amount of space you have and the size of the lattice you want. Then branches are trained to intertwine in a lattice pattern. This is a perfect pattern to try with fruit trees as a border along a walkway, or as a hedge along a short fence.
One main trunk with branches trained symmetrically to grow at a 45 degree angle. This style is perfect to use with a pear tree up against a wall.
So as long as the ground hasn’t frozen where you are, order your trees from Stark Bro’s and get them in the ground so you can have fresh fruit and a great looking garden.
Enjoying the fruits of my labor,
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