Espaliered Fruit Trees, Healthy Tomatoes and Green Manure
Tips for robust tomatoes, richer soil and growing fruit trees in small spaces.
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Master gardener Paul James shares tips for making the most of your fruit and vegetable harvests.
Espaliered Fruit Trees
Espalier is a technique where a fruit tree is trained to grow in different patterns flat against a support, such as a trellis or wall. Espaliered trees collect as much sunlight as a regular tree but take up much less room, making them perfect for gardeners who are short on space.
Once established, the maintenance on espaliered fruit trees is pretty easy. The benefits are many: You can pick without standing on a ladder, and you can spray the plant easier since it can be trained to grow at standing height. Pruning an espalier can be done year-round, not just in the dormant season.
Tip: To deter pests on fruit, such as apple maggots, slip pantyhose over the fruit. Although it may look weird, it keeps pests from destroying fruit while allowing the sun to get to the fruit and the freedom for it to grow.
Secrets for Growing Healthy Tomatoes
The secret to growing robust tomatoes is to plant them against a house or other building under the eaves, preferably on a southern exposure. The tomato plants won't get any rain that will cause early blight, and they get the reflective heat from the side of the house.
The other trick is to place tomatoes on a drip irrigation system and water them a little every day. Instead of getting watered once a week, water the plants 15 minutes a day. This will keep them from ever getting stressed.
Cover crops are typically planted for a specific period of time, then tilled into the soil to add nutrients and organic matter. Some commonly used green-manure crops include clover, vetch, oats, soybeans, rye and buckwheat. Each can provide specific benefits to your soil. For example, buckwheat fixes phosphorus in the soil, which is beneficial to phosphorus-loving tomatoes.
Although green-manure crops such as legumes provide nitrogen in the soil, you're also pumping in a lot of phosphorus valuable because rain leaches it out of the soil. You can either turn the cover crop into the soil with a tiller or pitchfork or you can add it to the compost pile.
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