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Espalier Fruit Trees

1 Aug

By Stacie Palmer of Dennis’ 7 Dees

What could be better than growing an orchard in the city?! Given that most gardens are limited in space and consist of a small urban lot, or apartment/condominium terrace, how in the world can we grow apple or pear trees? The answer: espalier apple and pear trees!

Espalier (ehs-PAL-yay) is a method of training woody plants by tying branches to a frame so that they grow into a flat, two-dimensional plane. Most often we see espalier shrubs or trees trained against a structure such as a wall, fence, or trellis. Not only does this method of training allow for smaller plants and greater crop yield at a height accessible for harvest, it also can take advantage of maximizing radiant heat for crop maturation (i.e. a plant trained on a trellis against a fence or building).

Because dwarf fruit trees are trained by growers into espalier form, they are genetically smaller in size, and thereby more adaptable to small spaces. Once the desired shape has been created, pruning is aimed at preventing excessive foliage growth, forcing the tree to instead focus energy on fruit production.

Both apples and pears have similar cultural needs.

1) A site in a warm, sunny location where the soil is well-drained and rich with organic material.

2) Good air circulation

3) Regular deep watering to supplement rain, as needed, while fruit is developing.

4) Presence of a minimum of two differing varieties of apple or pear for cross-pollination

5) Winter chill

6) Commitment to disease and pest prevention (and treatment, should the need arise)

When we put all of this information together, we get espalier 4-in-1 or 6-in-1 apple or pear trees! Growers have grafted onto a disease-resistant root stock, either 4 or 6 different varieties of apple or pear. Viola! That takes care of the need for multiple varieties for pollination AND the trees are already trained in espalier form. We can expect grafted espalier apple and pear trees to reach approximately 15 feet in height and 8 to 10 feet in spread/width. Just think of all the functions such a plant could provide: focal point on a warm house or shed wall, screen the recycling and garbage bins, living ‘fence’ between areas of the garden, etc. Imagine harvesting 4 or 6 different types of apples or pears, full of nutritious, sweet goodness from your very own orchard in the city!

With all good things comes a caveat: there is definitely a maintenance commitment. An espalier fruit tree must have its form maintained on a regular basis; the longer you let it go, the larger job it becomes. In addition to pruning, one must maintain a regimen for pest and disease prevention (and treatment, should the need arise). Keep in mind that maintenance of a fruit tree differs from that of other woody ornamental plants. Our staff, as well as OSU Extension Services are fabulous resources available to you.


Balcony Garden of Eatin’ – Part 3

12 Jul

By Linda Kay Harrison

The weather has been warming up, staying fairly consistently in the 70’s, so our balcony garden is growing like crazy.    Koby’s  buttercrunch lettuce has grown so well it is over taking the marigolds in the center.  Koby is ready to make a salad.

The radishes Koby planted are growing well too.  She was so excited to see those first green leaves poke up through the soil.  When I had to thin them out, she was quite concerned that I should not be pulling those tiny seedlings, but look at them now!  Another two weeks and we’ll get to add radishes to our salads!

We have also added cucumbers to our ‘garden of eatin’.  Because space on our tiny balcony is limited, we’re trying them in a Topsy Turvy.   That’s a nifty little item that is usually used for growing tomatoes upside down.  (Dennis 7 Dees has these available for just $9.99.)  I’ve used them for tomatoes and they work great.  So we’re going to give it a try with cucumbers.   We’ll keep you posted on the upside down cucumber progress!


Container Gardening on a Small Balcony – Part 2

27 Jun

by Linda Kay Harrison

My granddaughter, Koby, has been so excited about the raspberries and strawberries in our little balcony garden that I decided to add to it.  She loves to eat salad, so we added some buttercrunch lettuce, with pretty marigolds in the center.  I tore two small pieces of lettuce off one leaf and Koby and I both tasted it. She approved.   

Just a few days ago, we added radishes to our little ‘Garden of Eatin’.   Koby helped me plant them, … well, actually, I helped HER plant them. She loved sprinkling the tiny seeds, and poking them down below the surface of the soil.  As we were planting, she said, ”Lala, this will be a good sau-ad.”

Yes, I think it will.


Container Gardenin’ on a Small Balcony

18 Jun

by Linda Kay Harrison – Dennis’ 7 Dees Cedar Hills Garden Center

My 3 year old granddaughter, Koby, has been fascinated by the flowers and vines I have growing on the tiny balcony of our apartment.  It dawned on me that, being a city girl, she’s never experienced gardening, or even seen a garden.  To Koby, food comes from a grocery store, and flowers are often just seen from a distance.  So when I noticed that the strawberries at work, (the Dennis 7 Dees on Butner Rd.), had some big, almost ripe berries on them, I decided to grow some on my balcony for Koby.  So I chose two Quinalts and two Tristar strawberry plants because they are everbearing and tasty.  I also bought one Hood, because they are the sweetest strawberries I’ve ever eaten.  (It’s a shame Hoods are only a June producer, but they are so yummy I had to have at least one.)

When Koby saw that I had big red strawberries growing in a planter, her eyes grew wide with excitement.  “Mommy, look!  Grandma Lala has strawberries with leaves!”  To her, strawberries have always come in a clear plastic container from Albertsons.  She was pretty impressed that Grandma Lala could make them appear on plants.   We picked those first few ripe berries and she was hooked.  Knowing that my five little strawberry plants were not going to produce enough berries to keep a 3 year old’s attention, I also added raspberries.  Now, every day, as soon as she gets home from her daycare, she runs to the balcony to check to see if any berries have ripened since the day before.

Now, my little balcony garden , no… OUR little balcony garden has flowers, vines, strawberries, raspberries, and even a bonsai’d Virginia creeper.  I can’t believe how fun it is to share gardening with a toddler.

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