Up until a couple of years ago, I had no idea what espalier fruit trees were. I also didn’t really believe that we would be able to fit many (if any) fruit trees on our tiny little property. Fast forward a few years and we have not one, not two or three or four fruit trees, but five! Three of which are espalier trees and four of which have been spiced/grafted so that each of them carries four different varieties of fruit!
If you’ve done the math, you know that what this all means is, from five fruit trees, we are able to grow and harvest 13 different varieties of fruit! Not too shabby, ha?
Here’s how it breaks down:
Our two Apple trees are espalier. Each tree has four main, spliced/grafted branches and each branch carries a different variety of apples:
- Red Fuji
- Granny Smith
- Golden Delicious
Our Pear tree is also espalier and is spliced/grafted with four main branches and four varieties of pears:
- Red Bartlett
- Red Anjou
Our Cherry tree is not espalier, but it is spliced/grafted with four main branches and four varieties of cherries:
Our Apricot tree is simply a dwarf…No splicing/grafting, no espalier, just absolutely delicious when the weather allows for a bountiful harvest!
So, what does it mean to be an “Espalier Fruit Tree”?
Well, really all that it means is that the trees main branches have been trained to grow horizontally along a fence, wall, trellis-type structure. When first planting your tree, you place it 6-12 inches away from whichever structure it will be trained against and then, as it grows, you slowly train it in your chosen direction using twine or garden wire. Now, they do require quite a hit of pruning to keep them in check, but the benefits of espalier fruit trees in small spaces far outweigh any of the maintenance that has to go into them. Mother Nature News has an awesome run down of How to Espalier Fruit Trees
What’s the maintenance like on all those trees?
Water – We have all of our trees set up on drip irrigation during the warm months and, when our winters are exceptionally dry, we water them about once a month.
Pruning – Once or twice a year (spring and fall), we prune back our trees to maintain their shape and keep them all going in the right direction. Espalier trees love to shoot off branches that go straight up, so the trick is in keeping those off shoots in check and keeping the main branches heading horizontally.
Our cherry and apricot trees also get pruned regularly in an attempt to keep the trees at a height from which our fruit harvests are accessible with limited assistance (you know, ladders, chairs to stand on, etc.).
Would I recommend planting fruit trees on your property?
Absolutely! We are so happy with the trees we’ve invested in! The trees really don’t take up much space and, despite our funky spring weather (late hard freezes), our yield in good years has been impressive! There really is nothing like home grown fruit!
Now, if I could just figure out how to get a nut tree on the property, we’d be all set 😉