Riddle: How Do You Fit 12 Types of Fruit Trees on 1 Average City Lot?

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

Stem Cutting Grafting

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!

Trellis Espalier

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!

Bryce Stree Orchard

4 thoughts on “Riddle: How Do You Fit 12 Types of Fruit Trees on 1 Average City Lot?

  1. I saw some of these grafted trees last year and wondered if all the fruit managed to keep their individual qualities and flavor years down the line. I can’t imagine a Granny Smith, grafted with a Golden Delicious or Gala, maintaining a true Granny Smith flavor say, 5 or 10 years down the line. Don’t you think that at some point the differences in the varieties would be “muffled” by all growing and intermingling on the same tree? Not to mention cross pollination! Just curious.

    1. Hmmm…good point regarding the flavor…I would think they would be impacted each other too…I’ll put it on my list to research….and hopefully I’ll get fruit to test as well!

      1. I’ve been looking into this and I can’t find any information that indicates the fruits take on the characteristics of each other since the “scions” are not connected to each other…they are connected to the common root stock.

        “Grafting is the process of growing two individual plants then fusing them together, once they reach seedling stage. One of the plants (the root stock) is strong and vigorous, bred for disease resistance and increased growth. The other plant (the scion) conveys the characteristics of the final fruit, whether it’s round and sweet or yellow and tangy, etc.”

      2. Very interesting! I don’t know much about grafting, more about pollination and cross-pollination, and I always enjoy learning something new! I was looking at fruit trees yesterday and am considering giving one of the grafted/multiple ones a try for our plums. We all like a different variety of plum and I don’t want to buy 3 different trees!

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