Hello! Well it’s been some time since I have sat down to blog on account of being so busy with other matters, but I have a few blog post coming up after this one, so stay tuned.
Today’s blog came about after I stepped out into the garden during the bank holiday weekend and had a look around at how all the plants were doing. I must say that doing that is one of my favourite things to do when I’m out in the garden. Sometimes when you (like I often do) have a long list of what needs to get done in the garden, you can forget to sit, relax and appreciate the beauty of each plant. Well I’m happy to say that things have looked after themselves very well in my absence. One of the plants that I planted earlier on this year was an apple tree and during my time having a wander around my garden, I noticed the blossom just beginning to bloom which was so lovely to see.
Now, this is not just any old ordinary apple tree (and not that there is actually anything wrong with any old apple tree, but I digress…), no – well, this apple tree has THREE different varieties of apple growing on it! I would love to say that I grafted these onto the tree myself, but no, that is something I would love to try at some point in the future but I purchased this particular tree from Thompson & Morgan (T&M). T&M have nicknamed this tree their ‘family apple tree’.
One of the reasons I chose this tree was down to the multiple varieties of apples on the tree, which is important because they will pollinate one another which should increase my crop yield. (Click the link above to read what varieties are on the tree). I doubt I will have many (if any) apples this year, so I may have to wait until next year or perhaps the following year before I get a good sized crop yield. Either way, fruit trees are some of my favourite trees because of the beautiful blossom they provide followed by equally beautiful fruit. I have a patio pear tree that is also blossoming at the moment and it has improved year after year so I’m hoping this year’s crop should be just as good. Now, this leads me on to the next point which is regarding size.
I firstly knew that I had a space behind the fruit and veg beds in the garden on the fence beside the strawberry tower. You can read about the strawberry tower here. This is what the space looked like some months ago once the strawberry tower was erected:
Now, following on with this theme of using vertical space in the garden to really increase my crop yield, I started doing some research into espalier trees and decided that was the way to go. I was also inspired by the beauty of the espalier and fan trained fruit trees we saw in all their glory at Tatton Park a few weeks ago:
So it was settled: I would espalier this apple tree to not only make it fit into the space I wanted it to be in, but also by espaliering it I should increase the number of potential fruiting spurs per branch (see the flowering/potential fruit bearing spurs on each branch in the photo above) therefore increasing my potential crop yield. It sounds like a win-win situation! I must also add that because our garden is overlooked from that side, the tree would eventually offer some privacy during the growing season.
Once I began researching fruit trees, I discovered that it is important to know what root stock the tree is grafted on because the root stock will influence the final size of the tree. The root stock of the apple tree I planted is MM106 which is a good rootstock to use for espalier trees because it is not too vigorous in growth habit. The T&M website has a handy guide that explains this in more detail which you can read here.
So here we are: this is how much the little apple tree has grown so far:
The left is just before planting and the right is now. I built a simple frame to support the tree whilst it is trained into shape. Eventually I could remove this support and the tree should support itself. I have used soft twine to encourage the branches into position for now. I am not entirely sure how I will train them as I have not espaliered a tree before. The matter is complicated somewhat by using three different varieties so we will see how it goes. If any of you have any experience or ideas on this matter please do let me know! For now I am training the main branches horizontal and then I thought I could create one main growing stem from each branch variety which I would prune to each new level and then train further branches out horizontally. Either way, with this training technique, it will take time before the tree starts to grow and look how I want it to!
That’s all for today, I’ll tell you all about other things I got up to this past weekend in more blog posts coming soon.
Written by Bethany Wright at The English Meadow