Where space is limited, or the local climate unpromising, the use of walls and fences comes into it’s own. Almost any aspect can be utilized to attractive and productive effect. Walls and solid fences give shelter and reflected sunlight and warmth which results in heavier crops and better flavoured, sweeter fruit. They can accommodate fruits and varieties that might otherwise struggle without this shelter. By growing tree fruits as fan or espalier trained the growth can be restricted to the available space.
Given todays rootstocks used and better growing methods, the area need not be a large one. Generally a width of around 6’ is adequate to a fan or espalier, and a height of 7 or 8’ is desired. Although often requested, trees on very dwarfing rootstocks do not make good trained trees in this way so if you haven’t even got the above space then you don’t have the room for a fan or espalier trained tree. You could however accommodate some cordon grown soft fruits or a compact blackberry. If you are short on height, low walls and fences can be given extra room for manoeuvre by the addition of trellis at the top.
The aspect of the wall or fence will decide what can be grown there. The warmer and sunnier it is then the more choice you have but even North or East facing walls and fences can be utilized.
South and West facing
Is suitable virtually for anything. Peach, Plum, Apricot, Greengage, Nectarine, Apricot, dessert apples and Pears, Sweet Cherries, Blackberry, Kiwi vines, Grape vine, cordon soft fruit and Quinces can all be grown there.
North and East facing
A much more restricted list but it is still possible to use this space effectively. Cooking Apples, Damsons, Morello Cherry, Blackberries and Blackcurrants will all do well here.
You will need to attach wires to the wall or fence on which to train your tree or tie in your climbing Vines. Horizontal wires of 14 gauge and preferably rubber coated should be used. For fans and espaliers make sure the height of the wires coincides with the placing of the branches. Tiers for espaliers usually begin 15” from the ground and are set 15-18” apart up the stem but this can vary slightly according to individual specimens and variety. For fan trained trees should have horizontal wires every 6” or so, or two bricks apart.
Buying plants and trees
The principals in buying and planting only good, healthy stock apply just as much as they would with any other fruit planting project. Ready trained espalier and fan trees can be brought, and give instant effect but they are expensive – double the price of a younger tree, the range of varieties will be limited and they tend to sell out earlier in the season. If you don’t mind training yourself and starting with a young tree, you will have a better choice of varieties and availability and will not have to pay nearly as much. It is also said that trees trained in situ meld to their surrounds better than ready trained trees. The difference in time to cropping between the two is not as great as one would imagine because the younger tree establishes more quickly. Older trained trees usually receive a check in growth after transplanting and first year is lost through re-establishment.