Monday, February 04, 2008

My espalier system

I built this espalier frame during December, using three-quarter inch electrical conduit and fittings from chainlink fences. I've planted two kinds of tropical apples (Dorsett and two Annas) and one pear tree (Hood). The length of the trellis is about thirty-five feet.

On either end, I have grapes (Black Spanish and Nesbitt). Along the privacy fence behind the trellis, I have planted Bababerry raspberries and a Fry Scuppernong grapes.

That's four trees and two grape vines in a space that's about one-hundred square feet, or the space that's typically recommended for one tree in a commercial orchard.

You can't see it in this picture, but I've started to run heavy wire every couple of feet to trellis the limbs of the fruit trees, starting at one foot from ground level (for the micro-sprinkler irrigation line) and then about two feet, four feet, and six feet. (I've only run the first two wires so far.) The trellis is seven feet high, which is more or less the exact height of my comfortable reach. (I didn't use a tape measurer when building it, instead relying on my body to tell me how high the trellis should be built and how low the first wire should be strung. The first wire for the tree limbs is exactly as high as I can comfortably reach down, about two feet.)

The whole idea is a system of "human-sized" plants: I won't get on my knees nor will I climb a ladder. It's a rejection of the commercial orchard ethos -- I don't want to maximize production: Instead, I want to minimize inputs and maximize long and varied harvest -- the "backyard orchard culture" promoted by Dave Wilson. What's more, all my reading about tropical apples and pears indicates that horizontal growth and aggressive pruning is the way to maximize production.

Here is my inspiration...


Kim said...

Great idea! It will be exciting to watch the plants grow into their new home on the espalier.

snappy said...

I will check back to see how your Espalier system is doing!It looks good so far :)

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed looking at your espaliered tree photos. Anyone know where I might locate an espaliered Lemon tree in a tiered form?

Thanks in advance, Robert

Bruce said...

I am considering a conduit-based espalier framework in a similar location relative to a fence and am wondering if you might provide feedback a year plus into the use of your system:
1. Has the framework been as sturdy as you would like? Any changes you would make in retrospect?
2. Is the spacing between the fence and framing adequate in light of plantings along the fence? Would you change it in retrospect?
3. Any possiblity of posting a new photo w/ a year's worth of growth?
Bruce Thomason
Columbus, IN