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First attempt at espaliering of eighteen fruit/nut trees into a living fence/chicken run.  RSS feed

 
                            
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I've bent and manipulated a couple of trees around the yard and am fairly confident I get the gist of the idea.
The book I briefly looked through about espalier said to top the tree just above where you want the first two horizontal branches to grow........... no way I was going to do that, lol.
I get the idea of it, and I'm certain if I wanted it perfect I'd do it that way, but I don't mind the branches being a little out of place for the sake of saving more wood

Things I learned. 
Be more careful with a flame throwing weed eater because wood chips will catch on fire.......
Don't pressure jujube branches, they are very delicate.  I may just let them grow a couple of feet before I try to do anything with them again.  Hopefully they grow again.......
Pulling fruit off new trees hurts my brain......

These trees have been in the ground about six months having come from three gallon pots, except the two back pomegranate which are two years older.

I'm using the Back to Eden style of wood chips for a covering.
Zone 8a, desert southwest, 8" rain per year.

I know nothing, so feel free to add your two cents.



 
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Espalier in just about any geometry works well with spur bearing trees (most apples and pears, probably also redcurrants & gooseberries).  Cydonia (European quince), peaches (incl. nectarines), and sour cherries invariably tip-bear or in quince flower on new growth.  (Plums, apricots, and sweet cherries have short-lived spurs, so intermediate behavior.  I have a hard time finding information on most other trees.)  Tip-bearers need a constant supply of new growth (technically 1 year old, except for quince which really is the current year's growth) to have good yields.  Informal "fan" espaliers can work well for them (though if space permits and a thermal mass is not needed for good ripening as it often is in dreary England, an open-center / vase "tree form" might be better) , but most other geometries (Belgian fence, stepover, palmette, ...), those based on a permanent branch framework, leave too little blooming wood.  (Spurs are tiny branches that grow out of the framework and bloom year after year, putting on a few leaves but focusing on reproduction rather than growth, so hardly elongate at all.   Hence they aren't pruned off when shaping the tree.)  How a plant flowers will dictate how you should prune it in the future.  Best wishes.
 
                            
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Thanks for the input, Eric.  You know MUCH more than me, and I will adjust as necessary, but I learn by seeing and doing......and I'm slow even at that.  haha

As for an update.  I'll eventually get around to making an video update of how the trees did/are doing.  I had losses     Sadly, and I have no idea why, but I lost every apple tree I planted, and they were in groups of two in three different locations (six in total).  I also lost the pluot......which was weird because it was growing the best out of everything, and then all of the sudden it just started to die off.  Also, the trees I planted in the front yard that were also espaliered (I can't remember if they're in this video) didn't do well at all.  Of the four trees out front (three persimmon, and one apricot), one persimmon for sure is gone, one is 99% gone, and one other is okay, but not looking very good.  The apricot isn't doing much better.   I think a lot had to do with their location.  I hadn't factored in the wind, and the beating they would take from it here.  We have very high winds in the summer occasionally, and when it's 110 degrees outside, humidity in the low teens.........they just didn't like that.  Leaves were stripped off, and the trees never seemed to be able to produce new growth without it being burnt up shortly thereafter.  In all honesty I didn't water enough.  Lot's of the issues were the result of my neglect, but all the other trees were behind a block wall (protected from the wind), so I think they were more forgiving for the same neglect.

I'm sold on the jujube.  Of all the trees it did the best, and I've been eating fruit off it every day for the last month or two.  It's still got a good amount on it.  Ironically it's the only tree I didn't espalier (I broke its branches off on the initial try when I did all the others, so I just left it alone, and never touched it again.  It bushed out pretty good up top, and looks great overall.  I love the fruit, and plan on replacing the dead trees with more of those when I can afford to buy some more.  Also the chickens love the fruit off of them.

I actually just made a really cool square foot container garden out of some roofing tin, and I'll have to make a how to video of what I did for that.  I've never seen anyone do it the way I did mine, and think it might give someone a good idea if they see it.  It's placed right behind the long row of espaliered trees (it's a little over 70 feet long/70 square foot garden spots to it), and I really like the way it looks.   I'll throw some pictures up of it since you can see how the trees did.  These pics were taken around the beginning of October of this year.

Thanks again for the input.  I'll link a video here of the update when I make it, so people can learn from my many mistakes. 



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36" X 11' heavy galvanized roofing metal
 
                            
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My internet connection is terrible, so I have to upload one at a time, or everything freezes.

So the first picture is of the raw roofing metal bent at the already creased/ribbed lines in the sheet metal.  I paid $80 for almost 20 sheets of this last spring, and had no idea what to do with them.  I later saw them at home depot for almost $30 a sheet, so it isn't cheap to do it new.  I used seven pieces in total.  It was very difficult to bend them, these are not like the flimsy sheets I've seen a lot of other people use.

This picture is of the 1"X2" firing strips placed on top.  I had no plan when I was doing this, it just kind of evolved as I went about it.  The wood is necessary for the stability of the whole unit. 
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Here are all of the sheets overlapped, drainage holes cut out, and hardware cloth covering the drainage holes.
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Here is it finished.  I filled the bottom few inches with wood chips as a filler.  Then I almost completely filled it with cheap compost from my county landfill's recycled yard trimmings.  I watered that all in, and tamped it down so it left about six inches to fill with my own homemade compost mixed with some other things.
I ran a drip line to each square foot, and painted it with some cheap discounted paint from home depot. 
It was a lot of work, but it's doing great now, and it's loaded with tons of winter veggies. 

Some benefits that I THINK it will have.  The nutrient runoff/extra water goes directly to the fruit trees.  In the summer, the trees will shade the plants which I need here (it might be too much shade, I'm not sure yet.)   It looks way cleaner, and now I have the area completely blocked off so the chickens can use the area to free range in where the woodchips/trees are planted.  I did put a piece of hardware cloth up to prevent my two new puppies from getting into the square foot raised bed.  It's not ideal, but it's working.  I'll snap a picture later today of all the growth coming from it.

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Dang Scott that looks great! Nice job!
 
                            
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Thanks James!  I didn't expect it to turn out as well as it did, and I am very pleased with it as well.  It's especially nice that it keeps all the wood chips from spilling over onto the driveway now, plus, I can pile the wood chips up against the back side of the planter to hopefully insulate it from direct sun/frost.  We occasionally get into the teens (f) here, so I'm not sure how it will fair during the colder months (I also don't know if the block wall will prevent the sunlight from getting to the planter the later we get into winter.  It's already almost already to the top of the planter as of now.

Here are a bunch more pictures of the trees.

This is the long shot of everything as of today.
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Here it is starting from one end to the other.  The pluot is dead and behind the bushy horseradish plant in the very first square foot.   The next tree is the first apricot.
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Here is the next apricot and to the far left the first peach tree.  I should add that I never ran drip lines to the trees out of sheer laziness on my part.  I probably was watering them once every week or two......and it was HOT here this summer.  A week of 115, and most of June through September 100-105.  Very little monsoonal moisture this year, ie. no rain.  If not for the wood chips, everything probably would have died is my guess.  My bad.
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Next peach tree.

Oh, and there are herbs, brassicas, strawberries, carrots, peas (actually I planted two peas in the back of each planter 140 in total, maybe 100 came up), some pak choy, turnips, radish, spinach, some onions, and maybe some other misc. along the length of the planter.  Each spot is exactly one cubic foot.  12"X12"X12".

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Next peach tree.

All of this is 100% organic as well.  I sprayed neem once in the spring, and then nothing else.  There are zero pesticides on anything in the planter or trees, neither organic or otherwise.  I have been mixing 4 cups of fish emulsion to a 55 gallon drum of tap water, and letting that sit for a couple of days as the only fertilizer.  I've done that twice.  Most everything was started from seed, except the first 10 spots, and two spots of walla walla onions, everything else was started from seed.
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I think these are the two pear trees.
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Here are two of the jujube.

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Here are the two apple trees that died (I lost four more, but they were planted in other areas).
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Here are the first two almond trees.  The one behind the shed is thriving, the one closer is not doing so good.  The closer of the two did not like its branches bent.  Although they did not break, they died from the bending.  I think I will let them grow natural, and stop espaliering all of them from here on out.

Oh, there were a ton of sunflowers I planted behind the trees so as to give a little shade for them this summer.  I'll dig up a picture of when they were all thriving, and the garden I had in front before the planter got built.
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Here is where I had a ton of tomatoes growing directly in the soil.  They were doing great until about mid July, and then death, lol.  I lost all of them, but it was the most successful I've been with tomatoes so far.  The wood chips made a difference for sure.

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And here it was at about its peak before the 115f weather hit.  Some of the sunflowers got to about 13' tall and had huge heads.  I'm now growing microgreens with all of the seeds. 

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Last one!  Here is just a behind view of everything again probably during July or so.

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