If you’d like to grow fruit but think you didn’t have the space, why not grow some espalier fruit trees? Espaliers are grown on dwarfing root stocks that have their lateral branches trained horizontally, encouraging them to grow outward rather than upward. This means they take up hardly any room – ideal for smaller spaces.
You can plant an espalier fruit tree against a sunny wall or fence – or use several trees to create a beautiful, see-through screen in place of a fence or hedge. Find out how to create an espalier fruit tree screen, using apples or pears – or a mix of both – below.
It’s vital that newly planted espaliers develop a strong root system and top growth, for better fruits later on. David Hurrion explains how to do this by removing the fruit, plus his tips on helping them establish well:
You Will Need
- Garden spade
- Organic matter, such as well-rotted manure or garden compost
- Sharp grit
- Timber posts
- Bucket of water
- Tape measure
- Bare-root espalier fruit trees
- Steel hooks
- Barrel strainer
- Steel wire
- Garden twine
- Watering can
Prepare your soil well – the better the soil, the better the plants will establish and the sooner you’ll have fruit. Add lots of organic matter and some sharp grit.
Espaliers need to be trained to a wall or on wires fixed to posts. The posts need to be secured in the ground. We screwed timber posts to old fence posts that were concreted in.
To create a joined up line of espaliers, plant trees around 3m apart. Before planting, give the roots a thorough soak, submerging in a bucket of water for at least 10 minutes.
The horizontal branches on ready-trained espalier trees are usually at regular spaces. Measure the spaces, then transfer the measurements to the posts with pencil marks.
Drill a small pilot hole, then insert a steel hook. To this, fix a barrel strainer. Attach a length of steel wire to the strainer, and repeat on the opposite timber post. Tighten the wire.
Dig a pit twice as wide as the roots. If against a fence, position the trunk 20cm from the base; 30cm from a wall. Fan the roots out and ensure the graft (stem bulge) is above ground.
Tie the branches to the wire, by making a loop around the wire, then a second loop around the stem. This prevents damage or disease caused by the stem rubbing the wire.
Firm the roots in well using your heel, then water thoroughly with a full can of water. Water once a week during the first growing season, more during dry weather.