Best fruit trees to espalier against a south facing fence?

peachymomo(Ca 8)April 30, 2013

The only place on my property with enough sun for fruit growing is about 50 feet long but only 8 feet wide, along a south facing fence. I want to start practicing espalier, both because it's cool looking and because it will allow me to fit more fruit into my small space. I'm trying to figure out what the best use of the space will be, and which fruits will be best suited to the spot.

I've read that heat loving fruits such as figs and peaches can be helped by the radiated heat from a south facing fence or wall, does the same heat negatively effect apples?

I want to have three espaliered apple trees, but I'm not sure they will be okay against my south facing fence. I live in Sonoma County where in the summer most of the time we have cool, foggy mornings and evenings with warm or hot days. But the winds usually shift at least once or twice a year, giving us 100 degree temperatures without the nice cool down. Would a day like that ruin apples espaliered against a south facing fence? I've read that they can become mealy if they get too much heat when ripening.

If the heat will be a problem, how far would the apples have to be away from the fence to not be affected? Would a foot be enough, or should they be farther away?

I would like to plant three apples, two apricots, one fig, and a couple of grapes along the fence, and then have some blueberries and a little vegetable bed in front of them. But the arrangement I have drawn up only works if the apples won't be hurt by the extra heat from the fence.

What do you think?

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

In Sonoma county you will probably be OK with apples by the fence. I know they don't like extra heat here but applenut does fine with the right varieties in Riverside. It also depends somewhat on the type and color of fence. Wood probably won't affect much but masonry might.

Here sunburn is a worse problem than going mealy. My apple trees in hot microclimates don't grow well and the fruit is small. But maybe I haven't figured out how to grow them yet. I'm finding I need more water than I thought.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 2:29PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

That's good to hear, it's a redwood fence and it gets shade by the late afternoon or evening so hopefully there won't be any problems.

Thanks Fruitnut!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 5:06PM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

Previous occupant planted a Fuji here right against a dark brown west facing concrete block wall. We have 100+ days for weeks on end in summer, definitely hotter than you. And there was a stake chafing the main trunk. Poor tree was not doing well. I moved the tree this winter, and it's doing much better now. Grafts of pink lady and gordon flowered, and look like they'll bear fruit if I let them. The whole tree is leafing out much better than last year.

The wood fence should not be a terrible problem, as wood is an insulator rather than a heat sink/radiator. A coat of lighter colored paint would also make a big difference in terms of heating up, but I understand the aesthetics of redwood might outweigh that.

The dark concrete block was bad, bad news. I will be planting moringa and some other tropicals that are marginal with our winters where the fuji was before.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 12:16AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

After thinking about it more I've decided to have two rows of espalier, with heat lovers against the fence and apples, grapes, and currants 4 (or 5?) feet away. That way I can squeeze in more fruit and I can try some things that don't normally ripen well in my climate.

Figs grow here but it seems like one year in three we get a really good harvest and the other two it rains before the second crop is ripe, pomegranates usually don't get enough heat to get sweet, and apricots average one good crop every ten years or so because of frost and storms during their bloom time. I'm hoping the reflected heat from the fence will be enough to help the figs and poms ripen, and espaliered apricot trees will be much easier to protect from inclement weather during their bloom time. With luck I'll be able to enjoy fruits that would otherwise be impossible for me to grow, and also the beauty of espalier, which I am quite taken with. I wish I had an area to make a Belgian Fence privacy screen, but I don't.

I'm having trouble choosing which fig to grow. My go-to nursery for fruits has a thing kind of like a 'read this' list in a bookstore, cultivars that have been grown by staff and proved to both do well in our area and have tasty fruit. I am quite taken with Tiger (Panache) but the description says it's best for hot climates and it doesn't come with a recommendation, while Violette de Bordeaux does come with the recommendation but is just not as exciting to me as a green striped fig. Should I pick the proven winner, or go out on a limb?

This post was edited by peachymomo on Wed, May 1, 13 at 11:31

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 11:30AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Do you want to look at the fig or eat it? Figs aren't much good if not properly ripened and for some that means lots of heat. Have you considered the inaptly named Desert King? That is the fig recommended in western WA state. It ripens early because the crop of choice is the early breba crop.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 12:52PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I had never heard of Desert King, but it looks very good. I wanted a green fig because there is a large and productive (in a good year) Black Mission fig at my Mom's house, so a green would be a nice contrast. Now I'm off to find a nursery to order a Desert King from, thanks!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 5:20PM
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