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Apple Tree Options for Small Spaces

Growing apple trees can be a viable option for people with limited space.

Benefits of smaller compact trees:

  • Saves space.

  • Provides easier access for pruning, picking and pest control.

  • Bears fruit at an earlier age.

Methods Displayed in the Curran Orchard

Basic Pruning Steps for Espaliers

Espalier is a technique of training trees through pruning and grafting that results in largely two -dimensional growth to create decorative patterns.

  • Use dwarfing root stock so the tree doesn’t outgrow its space.

  • Support trees with a wall, fence or wire trellis.

  • Train trees while branches are young and flexible.

  • Prune to develop a uniform structure and form fruiting spurs.

The Curran Apple Orchard sign along Grandview Drive is an example of Espalier, as is the Belgian Fence growing near the barn.

Belgian Fence

Slender Spindle

The slender spindle training system keeps a tree small and productive by managing height and pruning and positioning small lateral fruiting branches.

  • Use mini-dwarf rootstock.

  • Only prune shoots and branches growing in the wrong direction.

  • Provide a permanent support system. Ensure adequate moisture.

The High Density area of the Curran Orchard is an example of the Slender Spindle and V-trellis techniques. This area contains approximately 40 trees, on mini-dwarf rootstock, within an area previously occupied by two apple trees.

Slender Spindle

High Density Area

Apple orchards traditionally contained full size trees spaced 20-30 feet apart. Besides taking up a lot of room, these large trees required workers to use ladders for pruning and harvesting.

Many commercial orchards throughout E. Washington and the world started experimenting
with an easier way to grow apples using the espalier system. Espalier is a practical way of growing fruit using dwarf rootstocks which are trained along various types of trellises. Espalier systems are beneficial for many reasons:

* Excellent option for fruit production in urban locations with tight spaces
* Lower heights result in easy access for pruning, spraying and harvesting
* Better lighting and air circulation
* Dwarf trees produce fruit sooner than full sized trees and the yield per acre is greater

The Curran Orchard High Density area consists of 43 trees planted in an area previously occupied by two of the original Curran trees. There are 10 different varieties of apples which are all grafted on Bud rootstock.

Besides showcasing a “small space” example which people can duplicate at home, this area also proves a variety of apples for the orchard’s annual Cider Squeeze.

The row closest to Rock Road is trained in a V trellis style while the other two rows are trained in a Slender Spindle style. Apple varieties include: Akane, Dayton, Prima, Honey Crisp, Sansa, Burgundy, Prima, Queen Cox, Elstar, Sunrise and Alkemene.

Curran Apple Orchard Park Espalier Sign 

(along Grandview Drive)

An enchanting “Curran Apple Orchard Park” sign formed out of apple trees welcomes visitors to this unique park. Created by CORE member Fred Langton, this multi-varietal sign produces the following apples each year:

C – Pristine
U – Williams Pride
R – Akane
R – Alkemene
A – Jona Mac
N – Liberty

A – Jonagold
P – Pristine
P – Williams Pride
L – Akane
E – Alkemene

O – Jona Mac
R – Liberty
C – Jonagold
H – Pristine
A – Williams Pride
R – Akane
D – Alkemene

P – Jona Mac
A – Liberty
R – Jonagold
K – Pristine

Grafted Belgian Fence (near barn)

This beautiful diamond shaped Belgian Fence was donated and trained by CORE member Fredric T. Langton. It is a wonderful example of how you can obtain several different types of apples in a small space!

Fred grafted 19 different varieties of apples onto several Emla 26 root stock in March of 1997. In 1998, the trees were espalied in a Belgian Fence form.

The apple varieties (starting closest to the barn) are as follows: William’s Pride, Sayaka, Chehalis, Aroma, Wolf River, Fiesta, Cherry Cox, Pippin, Shay, Liberty, Winterstein, Cox’s Orange Pippin, White Angel,
Marachel, Prairie Fire, Hudson’s, Braeburn, Melrose and Enterprise.

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