Fraudulent Farmstead Garden Roundup, February 22, 2016

Espalier | Fraudulent Farmgirl

Helen Yoest over at Gardening with Confidence does a weekly roll call on her blog, recapping what she’s done each week. It’s a genius idea, especially for those of us who seem genetically unable to stick with a garden journal for more than a month.

So I’m steal…um, borrowing this idea from her in an effort to keep myself honest in the garden.

Farmstead 2-22-16 | Fraudulent Farmgirl
Fraudulent Farmstead, February 22, 2016


Freezing temps early in the week gave way to a balmy weekend. Saturday and Sunday temps were in the high 50s. Great for pruning; less great for my sinuses.

What I Did

I took the Spotts crew on a pruning odyssey on Tuesday. We pruned my established dwarf apple trees. Then I walked them through pruning my apple espalier in the back.

Turns out if you ignore an espalier for a year, it grows out of control. I cut back the ‘Fiesta’ apple to under the second tier in an attempt to establish better second-tier laterals.

Fiesta apple espalier cut back | Fraudulent Farmgirl
I cut this ‘Fiesta’ apple back hard to encourage new laterals, because last year’s growth wasn’t right for the form.

Although these were planted as whips at the same time in 2014, the ‘Enterprise’ on the left is now at least a year ahead of the ‘Fiesta’ on the right. I grow the laterals at a 45-degree angle for a year, then tie the laterals to the wire in their second year of growth.

Espalier in training | Fraudulent Farmgirl
The ‘Enterprise’ apple espalier on the left has its first-tier laterals tied to the wire. The second-tier laterals are being encouraged to grow at an angle; I’ll tie them down next year to the second tier of wires.

Later in the week, I finished up fine-tuning the pruning. Also, I whacked back a 2-year-old cherry. I did not cut it short enough when I planted it last year, so I took a risk on a corrective cut this year. I cut it back to about knee-high. If it responds well, great! If not, I’ll pull it out and plant something else.

2nd year cherry | Fraudulent Farmgirl
I hope this ‘Lapins’ cherry manages to put out new lateral branches, even though it’s already been in the ground a year.

In other news, I took advantage of the weather to start clearing last year’s out-of-control growth (largely redbuds and mulberries) in the back garden. It’s going to take a while.

What I’m Reading

Grow a Little Fruit Tree, by Ann Ralph. Ralph advocates using a combination of winter and summer pruning to keep your fruit trees small, instead of planting on dwarfing rootstock. You prune in winter to take advantage of the vigorous growth (and establish scaffolding), but use summer pruning to rein in size.

Grow a Little Fruit Tree

Using this technique allows you to keep fruit trees grown on full-size root stock at 4′ to 6′ tall and cram a lot more variety in the same space. You can imagine how that warms my 5’1″ gardener’s heart.

Using these principles, I’m going to plant a hedgerow of stone fruit in the front garden, planted on 3′ to 4′ centers. I am so excited.


Fraudulent Farmgirl
I teach garden and homesteading skills—the stuff your great-grandmother knew how to do. But if there's a faster, cheaper, or easier way to do it, I'll find it!By day, I design earth-friendly gardens for Spotts Garden Service. By night, I don my Wellies to become the Fraudulent Farmgirl. On my small urban homestead, I've ripped out the front lawn to plant vegetables and fruit trees, turned the garage into a chicken coop and grown enough strawberries to feed half the neighborhood.

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