Mary Lowther has her fruit trees espaliered on a south facing wall. (file photo)

Mary Lowther has her fruit trees espaliered on a south facing wall. (file photo)

Mary Lowther column: Espaliered fruit trees make efficient use of little space

I was careful to plant my fruit trees against a south facing wall on the sunny side of the house

By Mary Lowther

If we were meant to eat only vegetables then why does fruit taste so good? There’s nothing like trotting out to the garden midsummer to browse on fresh raspberries, unless it’s late summer when we pick the warm nectarines. Our clever foremothers figured out ways to grow fruit on very little land by trimming them into two dimensions along a fence or wall.

Berries don’t take up much room either, and can fit into a small yard like mine. Our yard is 0.17 acres and more than half of that is wasted on the house. Half the remainder gets only six hours of sun in the height of summer, but my raspberries and blueberries produce abundant sweet fruit there as long as I cover the blueberries with mesh to keep out those ungrateful birds that I feed all winter.

I was careful to plant my fruit trees against a south facing wall on the sunny side of the house because they require as much sun as they can get. They are dwarf varieties David bought at Dinter’s and we planted them close together because we’re greedy; five trees for a 30 x 2 foot bed. As a result their roots have spread out too far sideways, interfering with my vegetable beds, so I have to dig out these beds to cut off the roots every couple of years. So far this amputation hasn’t seemed to bother the trees or affect the crop.

According to fruit tree guru Bob Duncan, espaliered fruit trees should be seven to eight feet apart in rows that are about six feet apart. He has a novel way of training his cherry trees which I intend to try out some day but mine are already entrenched into the traditional style, running along wires that hold them a foot away from the house.

I fertilize and water my fruit trees and bushes the same way as vegetables but because they’re perennials they have their own beds.

Did I mention my grapes? They take up a third of the greenhouse and David installed wires to hold them up, too. I find that here in the wilds of the Upper Cowichan where we don’t get as much sun as those southern lowlanders in Victoria, grapes grow much sweeter in the greenhouse although they can be grown outdoors. In sunny Sooke the gardener at Royal Roads had a window put into the greenhouse to allow a branch of a grape vine to grow through. The grapes on this branch ripen later than the rest of the vine inside, extending the season.

I’m not good at pruning my grapes yet because last year we didn’t have any. I think I pruned them too hard, emulating a fine grape grower in Oak Bay who trimmed his grapes down to one foot high each fall and every year the vines filled his greenhouse with bunches of grapes that dripped from the walls and ceiling. One evidently has to make compromises with the climate, so this winter I’m leaving a bit more on each vine to see what happens.

Down in the subtropics of North Saanich, Bob Duncan has lemons ripening outside his front door as we speak. Full sized lemons on a dwarf tree, six feet high, heavy with fruit, outside! He also grows enough orange trees in a greenhouse for his wife to make and sell marmalade with, but that sounds like too much work to me. I’ll grow the trees, but David can make the marmalade.

That’s assuming I can spare him from the big garden we are clearing in the acreage across the street, where I will have an acre and a half of space and 600 feet of fruit trees. If that keeps him too busy I will have to decide which grandchild to invite for a visit.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kyle Topping  skates for the Cowichan Valley Capitals during the 2015-16 BCHL season. (Citizen file)
Former Caps make news in pro ranks

Kyle Topping and Laurent Brossoit mark achievements

Duncan’s City Hall will get a seismic assessment this year. (File photo)
Duncan City Hall to get seismic assessment

City hopes grants will help pay for seismic upgrades

Vandals damaged a picnic table at Spectacle Lake Park with a chainsaw earlier this month. (Linda Mills photo)
Editorial: Vandals make victims of us all

It is infuriating when people target public property for vandalism.

Vees' Jack Barnes picked up his second goal of the season in the team's 5-0 win over Merritt on Saturday. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Cowichan Capitals in deadline dilemma with 20-year-old players

Hard decisions loom when BCHL may or may not resume play

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
Island-raised musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah closes out the movie

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing escalates to stabbing in Nanaimo

Victim, struck with coffee cup and then stabbed, suffers minor injuries; suspect arrested

A battery electric-hybrid ferry, pictured here, is expected to make its way to Vancouver Island in late 2021, says B.C. Ferries. (Submitted photo)
Hybrid ferry for Gabriola-Nanaimo route launches in shipyard in Europe

Two hybrid vessels to replace MV Quinsam by early 2022, says B.C. Ferries

The Pacheedaht First Nation is planning a $1-million expansion to its campground in Port Renfrew. (Pixabay photo)
Expanded camping announced for Pacheedaht Campground

$1-million project is part of the B.C. Rural Economic Recovery program

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

The Port of Nanaimo has signed a 50-year-agreement with DP World around short-sea shipping operations at Duke Point Terminal. (News Bulletin file photo)
Lease ‘important first step’ in $105-million Nanaimo port expansion project

Port of Nanaimo and DP World sign 50-year shipping operations agreement for Duke Point

A BC Ferries worker out of Swartz Bay has tested positive for COVID-19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Swartz Bay ferry worker confirmed to have COVID-19

Employees in direct contact with worker now isolating

Most Read