How to Train Fruit Trees

If you think your garden is too small for a fruit tree, you may be wrong. Fruit trees are some of the most amenable plants — they can be trained along walls and fences and look beautiful and even fruit better when grown in this way.

Fruit Trees Trained Along Wall

Fruit Trees Trained Along Wall

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

When to Start: Late winter or early spring
At Its Best: Spring and fall
Time to Complete: 5 hours

Materials Needed:

  • several bare-root apple or pear trees, espaliered
  • bamboo canes
  • well-composted organic matter
  • shovel
  • wire, vine eyes and twine
  • mulch

Measure Planting Distances

Fix horizontal wires to the fence or wall at 24-inch intervals. Cordons can be planted as close together as 12 inches, depending on the effect you want to create. Decide on your spacing, and measure along the wall or fence, marking each planting spot with a cane. Dig holes large enough to accommodate the root balls easily.

Measure Space Before Planting Trees

Measure Space Before Planting Trees

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Plant and Trim Roots

Plant the cordon at an angle of about 45 degrees. Examine the roots of each plant and cut off any that are large or woody, to encourage new feeding roots, and thin those above the soil. Make sure the graft union (scar on the stem) is above the surface.

Trim Away any Woody Roots

Trim Away any Woody Roots

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Attach Trees to Canes

Firm in the soil around the roots with your foot. Push the canes into the soil at the same angle as the trees. Tie the cordons to the canes, and tie the canes to the horizontal wires. Make sure all of your plants are securely fastened and aligned.

Securely Fasten and Align Plants

Securely Fasten and Align Plants

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Apply Mulch

Water the trees well after planting and apply a mulch of chipped bark, keeping it clear of the stems, to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Water the trees regularly during their first year. Apply a tree and shrub granular fertilizer around the trees every spring, and replenish the mulch afterward.

Mulching Holds Moisture and Suppresses Weeds

Mulching Holds Moisture and Suppresses Weeds

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Routine Pruning

Remove the flowers the first year after planting to encourage strong roots. Prune cordons each year in late summer. Shorten all woody sideshoots to within a few leaves of the stem to help promote fruiting spurs.

Routine Tree Pruning

Routine Tree Pruning

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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