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Squeezing fruit trees into tight spaces with espaliers, trellises, hedgerows.

With land prices higher and lot sizes smaller, finding garden space for deciduous fruit trees can be a real challenge. But with some advance planning and an unconventional planting scheme--espaliering, hedgerow planting, or trellising--you can squeeze more fruit into the garden than you might imagine. Five examples are pictured here.

Espaliers are best used for training drawf apples and pears, since those fruits bear on the same spurs for 20 years or more. (Figs bear only on new wood.) You can buy a started espalier or make one yourself from a young tree (an unbranched yearling is best; a two-year-old will do). Either way, first put in a trellis or wire-and-post fence on which to train the plant. Posts should be 10 to 15 feet apart, crosswires about 18 inches apart.

Plant the tree between the posts. If you use a 1-year-old, cut its top off just above a bud at about 18 inches. In spring, allow three buds to develop from this whip: the topmost one will become the new trunk, and a pair of buds on opposite sides of the trunk will develop into the lowest set of arms. As the lateral buds grow into shoots, tie these loosely to the lowest crosswire, then pinch off all other buds. If you use a 2-year-old, choose one with opposite branches growing out about 18 inches above the roots; cut the leader off at about 30 inches.

As the two side branches develop, allow them to grow secondary branches every 5 to 6 inches. In early July, prune these back to within three or four leaves of their bases. In winter, cut them back to 1-inch stubs (this encourages them to become fruit-bearing spurs).

In winter, you'll also prune terminal buds on the leader and side branches back just to the last side bud of each. These will become the new trunk and side branch extensions the following spring, growing more vigorously than the branch ends you removed would have.

Develop subsequent tiers of side branches as you did the first, one new tier per year. When the espalier has many tiers as you want, nip off the trunk flush with the top tier of branches, and keep branch ends pruned to 1 inch from the last side bud. For maximum exposure to the sun, orient your espalier so lateral branches point east and west.
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Date:Jan 1, 1984
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