espalier questions

hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)April 25, 2013

I've long been interested in, but never tried, espaliered trees. I am planning to put in an orchard next year, probably about 10 trees total.

I've thought of trying to espalier. If I do, they'd be freestanding, as I don't need the extra heat or longer season of putting against a wall.

There are several reasons I'd like to try it.

First, frost protection. I'm a bit further inland & further out of an urbanized area than my fellow Marylander scottfsmith, and do get some late freezes he probably doesn't. As an example, there was a morning around the beginning of this month where it was 21F on my back porch. Therefore I want to at least be prepared, and I figure a 2-dimensional tree would be easier to cover than a globular one...

Secondly, harvesting & maintenance is easier.

Few questions:

1. Is there somewhere I can find a GOOD all-around guide to espaliering?

2. I know apples & pears can be done. What about peaches, plums, cots, and cherries?

3. For non-spurring trees like peach that bear on last year's wood, is it done differently?

4. Does it reduce per-tree yield to do this? I know on a per-acre basis it can increase it...but should I presume to plant more trees over a smaller space (row-wise, I realize on the plane of the espalier I'd still need sufficient branch spread room)?

5. Does it make it take longer to come into bearing?

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I'm not an expert and I've only worked on espaliered citrus and am now doing a pomegranate as well, but I did do a lot of reading before I started.

I suggest you do some Googling for both images and text. There are a lot of resources available. I don't think one place covers it all. That said, this is an interesting site with an unusual approach that would work with apples and pears but perhaps not with the others:

As for your questions, to the best of my ability:

1. see above
2 and 3. Yes, stone fruits can be done but most sources recommend fans or informal espaliers for these. For cherries there is a new method in which the leader is bent essentially horizontal and the branches tied vertically. called the U.F.O. system:

Other systems (like fans) rely on renewal pruning to generate fruiting wood. Again, lots of online resources on this topic.

4. I think it's safe to say that unless you have a really large espalier you might get a smaller yield than from a traditional tree. But think about many people are constantly trying to give away mediocre quality fruit from their trees which simply produce too much? This is also one of the ideas behind the back-yard orchard concept. It's nice to see trees perform so generously, but seriously, what are you going to do with all that fruit at once? (unless, of course, you sell it).

5. Not sure about this. I suspect it varies with the type of tree. The horizontal angles of a cordon-type espalier will certainly contribute to early fruiting. Between espalier training and directed pruning to build a good structure, it's probably a wash for many trees (with some exceptions like an owari satsuma which grows sooooooooooo slowly........)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 8:09PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

"I know apples & pears can be done. What about peaches, plums, cots, and cherries? "

I have seen plums done in the Dave Wilson Nursery videos. Traditional Espalier, 3 wire horizontal.
Cherries and peaches are often done in England as a fan. I read about the technique in "Growing Fruit"
by Harry Baker of the Royal Horticulture Society.
Yes it is done differently if no spurs. At least the fan technique seems to be a way to do it,
It's not super detailed in the book, but the technique is illustrated for you. It appears you develop replacement laterals for fresh fruiting wood. Old time peach cultivars may be better for this as they often produce fruiting wood on old branches, unlike many new cultivars. At least that is what I hear.
Anyway yes you can do this with sweet or tart cherry, peach, almond, etc.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 9:45PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Looks like the fan technique is essentially a "flat" open center. Rather than a "vase" shape it's a "V" shape kept relatively "flat" that accurate?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2013 at 9:24AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Yes, exactly, the book is good. You use bamboo tied to trellis to guide fan blades. Instruction for pruning each year. The Royal Horticulture series also has a book on pruning which may even be more detailed.
I want to do a red currant cordon myself. Maybe next year, too much to do this year.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2013 at 9:49AM
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