Following on from my blog on growing espalier apples, I thought I would share my other method of growing fruit trees in limited space.
This is for those that do not feel they want to go to the trouble or don’t have the time and skills to try an espalier system.
This space is 14m x 1.5m and in it I have planted six Ballerina columnar apple -“Pink Lady”, a mandarin, a Washington Navel and Myer lemon.
I have just harvested 40 kgs of apples off the six Ballerinas, regularly get 40 to 50 oranges in winter , many kilograms of mandarins in autumn and lemons on and off all year.
The ballerina columnar apples are quite compact only getting to about 2.5 meters tall and about 2m wide, though I keep them pruned to 2 x1.5 meters to accommodate the frame I have put over them to hold the bird netting.
The six apples are all “Pink Lady” variety which was all that was available when the Ballerina first came out. If I was planting them now I would choose different varieties to try and vary the harvest time. Flemings have five different varieties available in this form. Check them out here.
It is also a good idea to have a number of varieties for cross pollination which will result in more fruit. My Ballerinas are planted quite close to two espaliered apples, a “Granny smith” and a “Johnathon” which ensure plenty of cross pollination.
The three citrus are all on dwarf root stock and therefore should not get much above 2 meters. Again I keep them pruned to 2 x 1.5 meters to accommodate the netting frame.
As long as you are not pruning when the citrus are flowering then fruit numbers are not affected.
I maintain these trees in the same way I do the espaliers, just with less pruning.
Late spring (November here)
About two to three hours work.
Prune any growth that is outside the frame work.
Fertilise -with an organic low nitrogen fertiliser- high nitrogen fertiliser will encourage lots of growth at the expense of fruit.
Mulch – usually I use a mixed mulch purchased from tree pruning company.
Net – I use 10 meter wide netting and secure the sides to the ground with paves or lengths of old wood. This takes two people about ½ an hour. You can read about it here.
Water– if the season is extremely dry I will supplementary irrigate a couple of times during summer
Early autumn (March here)
Again about two hours work.
Prune – all grow outside of the net.
Remove net – roll up, label and store for use next year. Again easiest with two people.
Pick the crop
Fertilise again and re-mulch.
I give the citrus a liquid Powerfeed every couple of weeks as they are much heavier feeders then the apples.
The netting is off by the time the mandarins and oranges are ripe and the lemon tree is at the end of the row so is easily accessed when lemons are requires.
With only a few hours work a year you can have a really productive area.
So If you have a narrow space in full sun where you could plant some fruit trees why not try some dwarf varieties and reap the rewards in the years to come.