Answer: You plant grafted, dwarf, espalier (es-pal-YAY) trees! Well, at least that’s my answer. So far so good, between last fall and this spring I’ve planted 12 different types of fruit trees in locations of my yard that were either neglected or just hard to plant. Last fall I planted 3 trees in the backyard, and in the past few weeks I’ve planted 3 trees across my front yard to make a “living fence” (consider this post a teaser – I will go into detail on these projects in a future post). I purchased my trees already grafted and espaliered from my local nursery, each was $50, a bargain considering all the expertise and labor that went into developing these special trees.
Grafted and Dwarf: Grafting is basically attaching one or more plants together – in this case fruit trees. The scion is the upper portion of the grafted plant that will produce the plant’s shoots, leaves, stems, flowers. The stock (or rootsock) is the lower portion of the grafted plant that produces the roots. (see image below for this is just one type of grafting) When you graft more mature trees this can create a “dwarfing” effect on the final tree. Some advantages:
- Faster time to first fruit since the grafted trees started out older. This can reduce the first fruiting time from 9 years to 2 or 3.
- Built-in cross-pollination since grafted tree can pollinate itself instead of requiring a minimum two separate trees. Cross-pollination is essential to fruiting.
- Same size fruit as a “normal” tree but from a much smaller tree.
- Allow for more variety of trees to be grown in the same amount of space as a single tree
Espalier: The word espalier is French but it comes from the Italian spalliera, meaning “something to rest the shoulder against”. It used to refer to the trellis or frame on which such a plant was trained to grow, but over time it came to be used to describe both the practice and the plants themselves. It’s been around forever. In Europe in the middle ages it was used to produce fruit inside the walls of a typical castle courtyard without interfering with the open space. Today you can see it most commonly in vineyards. Some advantages:
- More energy of tree goes into fruit production instead of trunk and branch growth
- Space saving since it can be grown on a 2-dimensional plane, also allowing for planting in spaces that might otherwise go unused (i.e. hot sunny walls)
- Visual interest. There is almost no limit to the types of designs you can create.
- Alternative to traditions fencing that also supports wildlife. My new mason bees are going to be thrilled!
My Current Orchard: So far I’ve planted 8 types of pears (5 grafted trees), and 4 types of apples (1 grated tree). Stay tuned for future posts where I will go into details on my trees, the process of the planting them, and how the trees I planted last fall are progressing!