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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Orchard Chores: Espaliering The Apples

Fuh-fuh-fuh-freezing.  I'm freezing.  Too long outside and I'm chilled to the bone.

I went out to get a start on espaliering the apples today.  Maybe it was being out there for as long as I was- I don't know- I got the first espalier done but then got too cold to do any others.  Well- my fingers were too cold.  The rest of me was managing.

Tools of the espalier trade

It's not likely that I'll be able to work on the rest of the apples later this week because the weather is supposed to go downhill from here. But chipping away at things is how I usually get things done.  Not quite as slow as water dripping away at something, although it's just as effective in the long run.

One of the Bramley's, needing attention

But hey, I got one completed!

Bottom laterals, tied to lower wire; leaders pruned and tied to upper wire

Only three more sets of trees to go and then I'm done with Goal Number Nine, for this winter anyway.  Once the new laterals start branching out, they need to be trained along the wire.  I'm considering replacing the two Northern Spies and one of the Honeycrisp with new trees- I am not at all happy with what I received from Burnt Ridge Nursery and I'm not happy with the progress they have made.  Replacing them would cost around sixty dollars plus shipping, so I have to really think about it.  One of my Italian plums needs to be replaced because it croaked last year, so I need to think about that.  Now is tree ordering time though.

I think to get a really good home orchard going, your best bet is to find a local nursery that stocks quality trees, choose good sturdy trees, and then go ahead and pay the nursery what they want for them.  I wanted to get my orchard in last year because I felt very much behind in getting my little home farm going, but I've set myself back more than anything.  In hindsight, I should have only invested in a few better quality trees every year.  Live and learn, I guess.  If you're reading this and haven't started your home orchard yet, then please learn from my mistake!  And in addition, take your time figuring out where exactly they need to go.  I've had a lot of success moving dormant trees, but I've also lost a few, and let's face it; it's a pain having to move trees.

Something I learned was to wait until the weather is somewhat warmed up before planting trees.  I noticed a little frost heave on one or two of the trees I transplanted yesterday, which is definitely not good for a newly planted tree.   So if you're in an area that sees freezing temperatures in the winter, the dead of winter doesn't appear to be a good time for planting trees.  It always was where I grew up, which was California, and for Florida too.  I planted a few trees there.  But for everywhere else, new trees and shrubbery should be planted in the fall or early spring, and the fall is the preferred time, because it gives the plant time to establish roots before it goes dormant.

I just found out that Steve won't let me replace my three apple trees, because he thinks I'm looking for ways to spend money (which may or may not be true; I really just want my orchard to perform); he wants me to wait a year.  

But if I've managed to kill them anyway, I guess I'll be shopping for new apple trees next fall!


Rae said...

Have you ever been out to One Green World in Molalla? You can order from them online, and I think they are open on Saturdays if you want to go to the nursery. I bought two bareroot columnar apples from them a couple years ago and they've been great little trees (especially considering how badly I've treated the poor things). From what I remember, their prices are pretty decent.

Paula said...

No I haven't, but I've been planning on hitting them up this spring for my strawberries. I purchased five alpine strawberries and two Camellia sinensis (tea plants) from their truck at Concentrates in Portland last spring. I would like to go down to Molalla to the nursery, though.

When shall we meet?

Jennifer Montero said...

I reckon with Steve's interest in brewing, you've got some bartering room: hops for trees, maybe?

You're an experienced gardener if you can take a nursery-grown tree and prune it into an espalier. My hat's off to you! Espalier trees are beautiful, apples and pears especially. I look forward to watching them thrive under your care.

Joleen said...

A house in my neighbor hood grows apples this way and they were 'loaded' with apples this year! I think honeycrisp are the BEST!!

Toni aka irishlas said...

We've been adding two fruit trees for the last three years and we did berry bushes the first two years. And you are correct in saying go to a local nursery. You may pay a bit more, but, I've found you get better quality trees and great customer service.

You're right - live and learn. I know I've made some huge garden goofs and I'm sure there will be more to come. Comes with the territory, I suppose!

Rae said...

I'm down for a visit to the nursery. We should plan a trip this spring.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your tips, Paula. An orchard is definitely on my wishlist, so I appreciate your advice. I love the look of espaliered trees and am super impressed that you're doing this.