The month has already changed from July to August, but I forgot to mention that my green apple espaliers brought us a nice harvest in time for our annual 4th of July celebration. My daughter Emma, has mastered the art of pie crust making (thanks to YouTube!) and treated us with the most delectable pies and apple turnovers using our Anna and Fuji apples.
If you'd like to plant an orchard, but only have a limited amount of garden space available, you might want to take advantage of the ancient practice of espalier (es-pal-yay). The custom of training trees to grow flat against a wall, fence, or trellis seems to have originated with the Romans, then spread around the world for anyone intent on making the most of their garden space. The French and Spanish typically grew peaches, oranges, nectarines, limes, lemons, apples, pears and quinces using this innovative method.
You plant an espalier just like you would any other fruit tree. I bought my trees at the nursery in January when other dormant, bare-root trees have arrived and are ready to be planted. The trees had already been trained into three tiers and were potted with a support trellis. Unless you are really patient, this is the best way to get started, it takes two or three years off your waiting time. I chose to plant mine against my wrought iron pool fence for the added privacy that the apples trees would provide. You will need to plant the trees about 10-12 inches from your fence, then provide some support until your tree is well established.You could sink two posts about a foot deep and string galvanized wire between them, planting your tree in the center, then tie the whips or young branches to the wire. As the trees grow and new branches appear, prune away any branches that are straying outside the conformed design, or gently bend and tie the branches you want to cultivate, then wait. It does take regular pruning to keep your trees within the planned boundaries. It's easier to prune when branches are small and easy to control. Using compost, mulch around the base of the plant, water to a depth of 12 to 18 inches and keep your pruners handy. Espaliers are a practical, common sense way to increase the bounty and beauty of your garden. You are creating a work of art that will provide you with one more fresh fruit option from your garden.
My husband and I have been gardening for many years, not so much for the food security, but for the beauty, satisfaction, and peace that gardening and growing things bring you. We started small, a couple of tomatoes, a few zucchini, and lots of flowers. It didn't really matter how much we harvested. We really didn't eat from our garden. We didn't know how. The lettuce was always a little bitter . The tomatoes always had holes in them and there was a Safeway just down the street. The important thing was that we were having fun. We loved working together with our children beside us. There is something comforting about watching your kids play in the dirt or happily run down the brick paths with nowhere to go. Our garden was the center of the earth ,we were firmly planted there and that was all that mattered. A couple of years ago, something important started to take place. A shift began to take shape, not only to us , but to our communities. The meaning of food began to change. Where the food came from, what was in it and how it nourishes us. Perhaps the connection between what we eat and how we feel finally began to set in. For us, it was time to get serious. It was time to eat from our garden.
" I am a mad gardener. I mutter and rant, and at night I shake dry seeds out of my unruly mane of hair. The garden is in my bones, in my gut, and in my hands. "
Wendy Johnson , Gardening at the Dragons Gate
Inch by inch, row by row Gonna make this garden grow Gonna mulch it deep and low Gonna make it furtile ground
Inch by inch, row by row Please bless these seeds I sow Please keep them safe below 'Till the rain comes tumbling down
Pullin' weeds and pickin' stones We are made of dreams and bones Need a place to call my own 'Cause the time is close at hand
Grain for grain, sun and rain Find my way in nature's chain Tune my body and my brain To the music of the land
Plant your rows straight and long Season them with prayer and song Mother Earth will make you strong If you give her love and care An old crow watches hungrily from his perch on younder tree In my garden I'm as free as that feathered bird up there