FRUIT TREES               printer friendly copy


In my upcoming book, this chapter contains a sizable amount of information on how to plant, grow, espalier, and maintain Apples and Pear Trees (Asiatic and domestic). It also includes a detailed account on how to successfully grow Grapes, Figs, Cherries, Apricots, Peach, Blueberries, Raspberries, Currant, Gooseberries and other edible delicacies, all grown organically. Below is a guide to my apple approach.


Most gardeners tend to order bare root trees; they’re easier to handle, less expensive and readily available in most good catalogue nurseries.

Soak them for several hours before planting, and don’t leave roots exposed to the sun at any time.
        Measure the height so the hole will not be too deep. The bud union or graft should be 2-4 inches above soil level, unless it’s an interstem grafting (M9/MM.111), in such case, it should be planted deep with only the interstem piece showing.
Check the width and dig hole accordingly—give the roots ample room to grow.   Dig a generous hole and reuse same soil when planting – do not use fertilizer at this point.
Remove rocks, roots, and save the worms, as seen in photo (plastic container) to put in your garden.

Grubs are a menace to your garden – if you find them while digging, dispose in a soapy water solution.
  Use a straightedge to see if the bud union will be at least 2” above the soil line before starting to refill the hole. Also spread roots before starting to add the soil.

The beauty of planting fruit trees is they produce eatable crops, can be trained to ones specification, and add interest to the landscape of a garden. Whether it’s trained in the Vase shape, Modified central-leader, Central leader or Espaliered, it has the owner’s signature, and the different sizes, from dwarf to full, will enhance the décor of a garden.

This little tree is now 17 years old and has been bearing delicious apples for years.

Espaliering seems difficult but it’s relatively simple once you get the hang of it.

Plant whip in a large enough hole so the roots are not bunched, and with the bud union of the grafted plant 2-4” above the ground surface after the soil has settled.

Do not leave depression around tree or fertilize after planting – wait until a good soaking rain has settled the soil.

During the first year growth, tie the two shoots from each side of trunk to the wire, and leave the vertical one to grow upward

Continue to fasten all shoots during the growing season to prevent breakage.

After having pruned the first year growth and securely tied it to second wire which should be 18” from the bottom one, rub off all new shoots on the trunk except 3.

Like in the first tier, train two branches to the wire, and have the vertical continue upward.

Repeat same procedure, except this time, the plant is apt to flower; remove all forming fruit to ensure it will not take nutrients needed for its growth.

All the branches should be secured properly.

This year’s growth should make the 4th scaffolding, and perhaps some of the flowers should be left to fruit.

When fruiting, the lower branches should be secured with a stronger fastener due to the weight of the fruit.

Continue to train as in previous tiers, but this time, take the liberty and leave more fruit –perhaps 4-5 in each branch.

It’s going to be painful to thin them out but it’s necessary for the health of the plant.

Congratulations, you have succeeded!

You now have an espaliered apple tree that will produce for many years to come. Keep the branches securely tied to the wires and do not overload young plants with too many fruit.

Use IPM – Integral Pest Management – a strategy or long term prevention to control pests through mapping, monitoring and scouting and by using applicable techniques to keep in check, not eradicate pests.

Horticultural oil (which I’m spraying in the photo) is safe, easy to use and effective, and can be sprayed during the dormant and growing season; other pesticides which derive from plants and are also safe and effective are: Neem, Nicotine, Pyrethryns, Rotenone and Ryania.

I find this method of fertilization is beneficial for many fruit trees except apricot, they need less fertilizer: Tie a string or rope (loosely) around trunk, and ring around each plant at drip line– with a pick, bar or pointed instrument make a hole about 4” deep by 1 ½ in diameter.

Place a stick in each hole, and continue every 3-4’ until it’s proportionate – Fill each hole with an organic mixture equivalent to 10-10-10, and water well.

Fertilize in early spring; if done in late-summer or early-fall, it might encourage excessive growth and will lead to winter injury.

Use horticultural oil before bud break and again at petal-fall, and continue throughout the season with a finer oil spray to insure a good crop.

Early spring is a delicate time for espaliered apple blossoms; cold and rainy weather often keeps bees and other pollinators from venturing into the garden.

And that’s when a homemade pollinator comes in handy.

It’s nothing more than a long stick with soft feathers; this one was made from seagull feathers scrounged from the nearby beach.

An excessive quantity of fruit is usually not recommended because it stresses the plant and affects the yield of the following year.

But who has the heart to remove the wonderful little apples when they’re the size of a marble?

Be vigilant when it comes to protecting your apple trees from attack.

Pests are quite adaptable to adverse conditions and the gardener is ultimately responsible for crop failure – there are many organic sprays, and horticultural oils that can be used on fruit trees, and are quite effective.

Contrary to what people might think, espaliered dwarf apple trees produce regular size apples.

If properly stored, they will last past the New Year, and since you grew them without poisonous pesticides and fungicides, you can enjoy them even more, and be healthier as a result.

……… and much more!



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