Friday, August 3, 2012

Espalier - The Belgian Fence...

For years, I was not quite sure what to do with one part of our garden.  It is a pathway between the front and the backyard, on the north side of our house, it is maybe 6 feet wide, and two of our bedrooms windows overlook it.  I wanted something pretty to look at but since I am all about edible gardens, it needed to be something edible but not too wide.  This is when it came to me: Espalier!
I decided to try my hand at this beautiful art.  My design choice was the Belgian fence.  There are many reasons why I chose that design, but the main one is because I can have more trees on a small area.
Here I went to my local Costco this past winter; they offered a great range of fruit trees at a very affordable price. I picked 4 different apple trees and 2 pear trees.  The reason of having so many trees is for succession harvesting (eventually).  So I have early, mid and late apples and pears. 
Going back to the espalier design, I planted all my trees along the fence, leaving about a foot between the fence and the trees and leaving about 18 inches between trees.  I then chopped all the trees to about 18 inches tall.  This last one was the hardest one since the trees were already a good 3 to 4 feet tall; I am always afraid I am going to kill the trees.  But it had to be done to encourage the growth of lower branches; the idea is not to have a tall trunk with branches along it.  It is to have a short trunk, usually 12 to 18 inches and then keeping only two branches.   
I built my support trellis as well, using two 4x4x8 non-treated posts on either side of the trees at each end.  I then added wire at 18 inches, 48 inches and 72 inches (linking the two posts).  Using 5 foot long bamboo sticks, I designed my Belgian fence along the wires.  Next I attached the two strongest branches of each tree to the bamboo poles: one branch on one side and one on the other side, each at approx. 45 degree angle.  I trimmed all the other branches not needed.
Et voila! Now I need to use patience and lots of pruning to get these trees stronger and growing nicely. 
I am pretty happy with the look already. In a few years, it should look even nicer and have fruit.