This is part III of backyard fruits for Chattanooga. Keeping fruit to a manageable size provides benefits. Space in the yard is limited. Having feet on the ground while harvesting is easier than using a ladder. Covering trees with bird netting and protective sprays is simpler with trees that are shorter. Yesterday’s post suggested increasing the distance between the ground and the first level of leaves for disease resistance. So there’s a balance. A fruit tree should to be tall enough so that leaves are not near the ground but short enough to manage. Espalier and Dwarf trees can achieve this.
The manageable size of a dwarf tree is a clear advantage. But disadvantages come with dwarf root stocks. A shorter lifespan is one. Dwarf fruit trees normally live for 1/3 to 1/2 as long as full-sized trees. Dwarf trees also usually require more fertilizing since their roots lack the vigor of larger trees. And dwarf trees have less disease resistance. For example, a Kieffer pear on a full-sized root-stock will likely produce well without fungicide applications. A dwarf Kieffer pear would likely do better with a protective spray. There are fungicide applications that are OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) approved.
My preference for keeping trees to size is an espalier. This involves pruning to reduce height. It does go against the nature of the tree. They want to grow tall and reach more sunlight. When upright growth is cut, the tree responds by producing several upright shoots to replace what was cut. So persistent pruning is required. The shape of an espalier is formed by attaching branches to a fence, wall, or trellis. The material used must not be sharp or abrasive. Wind will blow the branches to rub against the trellis repeatedly. A metal wire can scrape off bark and be an entry point for disease.
For photos of what an espaliered tree can look like River Road Farms of Decatur, Tennessee has a website: http://www.espaliertrees.com. I have never done business with them but their website looks impressive.
Tomorrow (April 11, 2015) is when my workshop on backyard fruit will happen. It is scheduled for 1:00 pm at Crabtree Farms. My post workshop posts will contain my evaluations of easier and more difficult fruits to grow in Chattanooga.