How to Espalier a Fruit Tree
If you’re looking for an interesting way to add some flair to your garden, consider espaliering a fruit tree. In this guide, we will teach you how to espalier a fruit tree. We’ll go over the basics of the process, and we’ll give you tips on how to make your espalier look its best.
What does espaliering a fruit mean?
Espaliering is the process of training a tree or shrub to grow in a specific shape, and it can be a great way to showcase your plants. For fruit trees that are intended for espalier training, it is a gardening technique used to control the growth of a plant.
Espalier plants are grown in a flat shape along wires in a two-dimensional plane. The practice is often employed for aesthetic purposes. Espalier fruit trees are commonly used to increase the amount of usable kitchen space in areas with small yards or for commercial air conditioning concerns.
Espaliered fruit trees are typically grown in three basic styles: cordon, fan or espalier. Cordons are single vertical stems trained along a trellis or horizontal wires. Fans have two branches extending from the trunk at a 45-degree angle from the top and bottom of the trunk. Espaliers have multiple horizontal branches forming tiers of fruiting wood.
The fruit trees are often pruned to resemble a fan. The intent is to make them more accessible for harvesting and, in some cases, to reduce the space needed for the tree, which allows small urban “patios” to have a productive tree.
Why should you espalier a fruit?
There are a few reasons why you might want to espalier a fruit tree.
- For one, it can be a great way to show off your plants. If you have a beautiful fruit tree and you take the time to espalier it, it can add some extra interest to your garden.
- Espaliering is also a great way to control the growth of your plants. When you espalier a fruit tree, you’re limiting its growth in two dimensions so that it grows in a flat shape. This can be helpful if you’re short on space or if you want to make sure your tree doesn’t grow too tall.
- Because espaliered fruit trees are easy to care for and produce lots of high-quality fruit, they are perfect for small gardens and even containers on patios and balconies.
- Finally, espaliered fruit trees are easier to harvest than regular trees. With an espaliered tree, all the fruit is within easy reach, so you won’t have to worry about climbing a ladder to get to it.
Benefits of espaliering a fruit tree
Espaliering is an age-old horticultural technique that has been practiced for over 2,000 years. Some of its benefits include:
- Increased production per unit area.
- Elimination or reduction in pests and diseases, because branches are open to better air circulation;
- Reduced moisture retention due to improved drying winds.
- More even ripening of fruit
- Better sunlight exposure
- Improved pest control
- Taller and more interesting looking trees
What tools do you need?
To get started, you’ll need a few supplies.
- First, you’ll need a spade or shovel to dig the hole for your tree.
- You’ll also need some wire mesh and wooden stakes to build your trellis.
- You’ll need some pruning shears to keep your tree in shape.
- You should also get a measuring tape, so you can measure your tree and make sure it’s growing in the right shape.
- Pliers are necessary for attaching the wires to the stakes.
- A hammer will be helpful for pounding in the stakes.
How to espalier a fruit tree
Now that we’ve gone over some of the reasons why you might want to espalier a fruit tree, let’s talk about how to do it.
The process is similar to pruning a tree into a topiary shape. Espalier allows gardeners to grow fruit trees in small spaces, such as on balconies or along walls, where they might otherwise be impossible.
Espaliering is relatively simple, but it does take some time and patience. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
Choose a location in full sunlight with well-draining soil. The location should also be protected from high winds.
Dig a hole for the tree that is twice the size of the root ball and deep enough so that the root ball sits just below the surface of the ground. Fill the hole with water and allow it to drain before planting.
Soak the bare roots of large fruit trees for at least eight hours before planting. Trim any damaged or broken roots and remove any dead or diseased branches from the tree’s canopy.
Prepare a mound in the center of the planting hole using one-half of the soil you removed when digging the hole. Place the tree on top of this mound so that its root system is spread out around it in all directions, then fill in around it with soil until all of its roots are completely covered with soil.
Water the tree deeply and mulch around its base with a three- to four-inch layer of organic matter, such as compost, grass clippings, or shredded leaves.
Fertilize the tree twice a year—once in spring and once in summer—using a balanced fertilizer such as 20-20-20.
Tips for espaliering a fruit tree
- Choose a young fruit tree that is still growing. An established tree will be too difficult to train.
- Pick a spot for your tree. Make sure the spot gets plenty of sun and has good drainage.
- Drive two stakes into the ground, about two feet apart.
- Tie some string or wire between the stakes. This will be your training guide.
- Start pruning your tree. Cut off any branches that are growing outside of your desired shape.
- Be patient. It may take a few years to get the tree trained into the shape you want.
Enjoy your espaliered fruit tree. With a little care, it will continue to produce fruit for many years to come.
What fruit trees are good for Espaliering?
Here are some good fruit trees for Espaliering: apples, apricots, cherries, figs, grapes, lemons, oranges, peaches, pears and plums.
While most any fruit tree can be espaliered, it’s most commonly done with apple and pear trees. The technique doesn’t necessarily save room in your garden, but it does allow you to grow more fruit in the same amount of space.
Pruning an espaliered fruit tree
Once your fruit tree is established, you’ll need to prune it regularly to keep it in shape. The goal is to maintain even growth on all sides of the tree. You should also remove any branches that are crossing or growing inward so that the tree remains open and easy to harvest from.
It’s important not to let the tree get too overgrown, as this can make it difficult to manage. When in doubt, it’s better to prune too much rather than too little.
Here are a few tips for pruning an espaliered fruit tree:
- Start by removing any dead, diseased, or damaged branches.
- Next, remove any suckers or water sprouts that are growing from the trunk or roots of the tree.
- Finally, prune the remaining branches so that they’re evenly spaced and growing outward at a 45-degree angle.
Watering and fertilizing espaliered trees
It is paramount that you water and fertilize your espaliered trees regularly. Espaliered fruit trees need about the same amount of water as an un-espaliered tree, but because they are smaller in size, it’s easier to give them what they need.
Fertilizing is also important; use a balanced fertilizer like 20-20-20 or something similar every other week during the growing season.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it hard to espalier fruit trees?
No, it’s not hard to espalier fruit trees. With a little patience and some basic pruning skills, anyone can do it.
How long does it take to espalier a fruit tree?
It depends on the type of tree and how big you want it to be. Some people are able to espalier a tree in one growing season, while others may take two or three years.
What is the best time of year to plant an espaliered fruit tree?
The best time of year to plant an espaliered fruit tree is in springtime, after the last frost has passed. This will give the tree ample time to establish itself before winter arrives.
Do espalier fruit trees need support?
Yes, espaliered fruit trees need support. You can either stake them or use a wireframe to keep them in shape.
Can I espalier more than one tree?
Yes, you can espalier more than one tree. Just make sure there’s enough room between them so that they have plenty of light and air circulation.
How far apart should espalier fruit trees be planted?
Espalier fruit trees should be planted about two feet apart. This will give them enough room to grow without crowding each other.
Espalier is a design approach that was mainly used in the past to grow fruit trees and ornamental trees in confined spaces. Espaliered trees take up less ground space than conventional trees and are easier to prune.
Compact, beautiful, and practical espaliered fruit trees are relatively easy to care for and require quite a bit less pruning than standard trees. After some trial and error, it’s become clear that espaliering is a great way to grow fresh fruit of all kinds.