Do you love fresh, organic, local fruit, but lack the yard space, or even live in an urban environment with little room for growing? You might want to consider growing an espalier fruit tree. No, this isn’t some new exotic type of fruit, rather it is a method for growing trees in a hedge-like manner that enables people with even the smallest yards to be able to grow fruit trees.
The definition of espalier is “a trellis or framework on which the trunk and branches of fruit trees or shrubs are trained to grow in one plane”.
Essentially what it means is progressively pruning your tree to grow in a flat plane along a fence, side of a building, or existing hedge. This approach will take several years of continuous pruning as the tree grows, as well as yearly maintenance when you perform your winter pruning and late summer thinning, but will leave you with a space efficient tree that should produce an abundance of fresh fruit.
Imagine the possibilities! You can replace the traditional hedge in your front yard with a hedge that produces oranges, lemons, or even seasonal fruit such as peaches, pears or apples. Keep in mind that if you intend the espaliered fruit trees to be used as a screening or privacy hedge, use evergreen fruit trees such as citrus, not peaches, cherries, or apples which will drop their leaves in winter. You can utilize just a few feet of space along a fence to have a productive backyard that can potentially provide year round fresh fruit (in a warm climate anyways).
Remember that the best time for heavy and structural pruning is winter (January and February) prior to buds forming on the trees. You can also do light pruning and thinning of small branches after the fruit has been harvested. Many articles on the web give great specific instructions on how to prune, but just keep in mind that you can trim your espalier fruit tree like any other plant that you are trying to train.
Some of the fantastic side effects from growing your own fruit in your backyard, is that it can’t get more local than stepping outside to pick your fruit for the day, and if you’re growing it, you know exactly whether or not it’s organic.