Planting fruit producing systems in small spaces
Last week, we looked at saving space in the garden and still grow fruit trees. One of the topics was grafting fruit tree wood on a root stock that supressed growth.
Some fruit trees are available as multiple-grafts: imagine a plum tree with two or three different varieties grafted on different sides of that one tree! You can add a pollinator and an extra variety for extended plum harvests.
You can get triple-grafted apples, nectarines, you name it.
Each variety tends to look slightly different in terms of leaves and branches. You can often pick exactly where the graft is – that is quite crucial for when it comes to pruning the tree (so you leave all varieties on the tree in roughly equal amounts of leaves and branches and fruiting spurs). For your balcony, you could get one of those multi-grafted trees and plant it in a large wine barrel on the 16th floor. Different ripening times stretch your harvesting season. Remember though: you can only graft apples on apples and nectarines on nectarines. You won’t be able to create a fruit-salad!
The multi-tree hole trick works nicely too.
Imagine you want to plant an apple tree somewhere, but can’t decide which of two or three varieties look like best. Well buy all three plants and chuck them in the same planting hole!
Angle them slightly outwards, so that when they start growing they’ll each occupy their own - roughly one-third – space. You’ll find that these three trees tend to share their hole quite well (unless you have a super-dominant variety amongst them that out-performs the other two; in which case you’ll have to discipline that one through more vigorous pruning).
Another way to save space with fruit trees is to plant them as a “Hedge”, close together and pruned carefully as a hedge. Take care to prune each plant right from the word “go”, so that the bottom branches are allowed to lengthen and fill up the base of the “hedge”. Imagine an apple hedge with different varieties, ripening at different times of Summer to late Autumn. A multi-varietal feijoa hedge is easy to keep going and it delivers fruit over a long time.
A variant on the “hedge idea” is to have a few fruit trees espaliered on a pre-contructed set of posts and wires; this could be in front of a wooden fence, or as a structure that defines a long pathway, which will in future be lined with a fruit tree wall.