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Would you espalier fruit tree against this house? (Pic)

 
Mariamne Ingalls
pollinator
Posts: 166
Location: NE Ohio (Zone 6a, on the cusp of 6b) 38.7" annual precip
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Hi All-

I am working on a plan for my suburban lot, and realized that my south-facing brick facade wall gets sun all through the year.

So, my thought was to put an espalier fruit tree against that wall!
The warmth would mean that I could maybe even put se a fruit tree that wants a little warmer climate than ours!
But I might just start out with an apple rated for our zone 6.

Then. I wondered if a fruit tree could damage the foundation (We do have a basement).
Then. Da-da-da-DUM! I remembered that the water supply comes in just under that wall, and it's probably just 6 feet below grade!

So:
1) Do you agree it's a bad idea to plant an espalier 6-8" from a foundation wall? Even if I didn't have a water pipe right there?
2) As I'm reluctant to plant it anyway, now, because I don't want it mucking with the water supply, can I put a dwarf tree in a pot, next to the wall?
And then go ahead and espalier it?
3) Would you ditch the whole fruit tree espalier idea and find some other way to use the stored heat of the wall? Grapes on a trellis, perhaps, Or cold frames up against the house?

Thanks!
Mariamne

[Edit: Chg'd subject line]
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My brick wall
 
Jeremy Hutchins
Posts: 27
Location: Northern Virginia (zone 6b/7a)
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1) That sounds like a great use of space and thermal mass. I definitely share your concern of planting too close to the house in terms of possible damage to the foundation. I don't think I'd be too concerned about damage done to an underground water pipe by the tree, especially if it's 6ft underground, but if you ever had to dig up your water line, I'd be worried you might inadvertently kill (or at least severely maim) the tree by damaging the root structure. I found a similar thread on Garden Web here that might be of help to you.

2) You could certainly plant a dwarf in a pot espaliered or not. My understanding is that you might stunt the growth of the taproot, that way, though. Which could mean more work on your end keeping things watered and fed.

3) All good ideas. I think any of those would work - you'd need to be the judge on what you're looking to grow, though. You might be able to squeeze out some warm loving plants you couldn't normally get, like artichokes. It would take some experimenting. Maybe the first year you could plant a variety of things you're interested in and see what does well, so you have more information for next year?

 
Mariamne Ingalls
pollinator
Posts: 166
Location: NE Ohio (Zone 6a, on the cusp of 6b) 38.7" annual precip
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Hi Jeremy-

Thanks for your post! Yes, that link was great!

I've posted to a local permaculture forum here, and also asked the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.

Although those replying don't have direct experience growing espalier fruit trees, they have seen figs grown here.

Now that I've had more time to think on it, I agree, re: the water line. I'm not as concerned about it, as I was. And I think I'd be willing to take the chance: if we had to dig and couldn't save the tree, oh well! We just dug there, and so should be good for awhile (knock wood!).

Thanks for your help!

Oh, and welcome to permies!
Mariamne
 
Jeremy Hutchins
Posts: 27
Location: Northern Virginia (zone 6b/7a)
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Thanks! And good luck!
 
John Elliott
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Here's a thought -- plant a pyracantha hedge. They are supposed to be hardy in zones 5 & 6, so you could cover up the wall, if that is your goal. Unlike an espalied tree, the pyracantha will have some depth to it and you can trim it to a block that is 12" or 18" or 24" deep.

Taxonomically, they are relatives of the apple, and they are similar in taste. Although they are too small and full of seeds to eat straight from the bush, they are great for making sauce or jelly, where you can strain out the black seeds.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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I don't think I'd grow a fruit tree right up against the house due to the foundation issues. I've had cracking in my foundation due to fig tree roots and the fig isn't even right next to the house.

That is an AWESOME microclimate in your zone though. I would think it would be perfect for growing Mediterranean plants, especially herbs as they would glory in the additional heat. Cold frames is another excellent choice. You could plant a couple of apple trees further away from the house and espalier them on a fence or wires as an edible enclosure to this area (grapes might work for this as well. Apples also lend themselves to being "stepover" trees around the beds. (google "stepover apples" for pics and info)

As for pyracantha - they are a lovely hedge. I've eaten the berries straight off the plant and found them to be "meh". Jams/jellies are good. My parents have a bunch of these shrubs as they do well in Phoenix. They are great attractors of wildlife and thus my parents have coveys of quail hanging about all during the fall and winter when the berries are ripe here. Looks quite Christmas-y for the desert! (our version of a "partridge in a pear tree")
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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I'd also consider using the wall to train things like thornless blackberries, runner beans, other climbing things that handle your climate...
All have lightweight root systems that wouldn't damage infrastructure.
I would absolutely keep figs away from pipes and foundations; they'll tear things apart like few other trees!
 
Mariamne Ingalls
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Location: NE Ohio (Zone 6a, on the cusp of 6b) 38.7" annual precip
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Thanks, too, to John, Jennifer and Leila!

I used to have a pyracanthus there, actually! But we let it get overgrown, and took it out. I had NO idea that the berries might be edible?! I see the Wikipedia article lists the berries as not edible unless you crush and wash them under water? I wonder what variety we had: it didn't flower as much or bloom as much as the pics in Wikipedia. I'm sure it was one, because an expert identified it.

The soil has been replaced since the pyracanthus thrived there: the area was excavated to do some basement waterproofing. So I have a big debt to the soil to repay there: to make sure it's fully alive.

Thank you for the feedback on the figs: OK: x-nay on the ig-fay.

My goal is to grow some of our own fruit. And thus, I know that our tastes should dictate the short list.

So, considering apple, pear, apricot (I have to look at the hardiness of the apricot). Thornless blackberries sound good, too. I'm considering grapes, but have to read more about them: I am only familiar with their "tree strangling" properties. However, I bet pruning a grape vine is no more work than an espalier!

BTW, Jennifer, re: herbs: to the left of this picture, I do indeed have rosemary and thyme that are doing great, and they have been overwintering AOK: I've picked them in the snow for holiday dinners. I will be considering your call-out of the Mediterranean angle.

As suggested: may be best for me to try a few things, and see what "sticks". You've all helped me count some things "in" and some "out.

Thanks again, all!
Mariamne

 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Mariamne - that is so cool that you have those herbs in that spot and that you can still pick them for the holidays - SWEET!

I like Leila's thoughts on using trellised plants that like the warmer temps and putting them on that wall - Scarlet Runner beans would look divine against your house. Or hyacinth bean vines - the lovely purple flowers taste just like green beans (the bean pods themselves are a lovely purple but some people have a hard time digesting them - I only eat the flowers).

It occurs to me too that trees that are kept small, as in picking height of 6-8 ft. or espaliered probably have less extensive root systems than if they were left to grow larger. I know my arborist friend always tells me not to cut more than 1/3 of a tree back in a season because the roots also die back accordingly and pruning more severely can damage or kill a tree. Just something I was thinking about....

But yes - definitely keep figs away from the house!

Keep us posted on what you do with this area - it will be fun to see it develop.
 
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