Cordon fruit trees are grafted and trained to remain compact in height and width. Cordon trees are attractive, and using the technique makes even a beginning gardener look like a pro. Popular cordon fruit trees include apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, persimmons and figs. Best of all, cordon trees are planted no more than 12 inches apart. By using the cordon method, you can grow a mini-orchard in your own backyard.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- 2-by-4 fence posts
- Bamboo canes
- Cloth or plastic ties
- Bone meal
- Heavy-gauge galvanised steel wire
- Steel hooks
Select the type of fruit tree you wish to cordon. Consider popular choices such as apples and pears, or plant a variety of trees.
Call several nurseries to ask if they have fruit trees grown on dwarfing rootstock and set at a 45-degree angle so they are suitable to cordon.
Find a sunny spot in a garden along a fence, boundary border or the walls of a home or shed to encourage early and fuller fruit production from the heat that the walls radiate. Consider planting a cordon tree row in the middle of a vegetable garden to create a colourful combination fruit and vegetable garden.
Install 2-by-4 wood posts, 4 to 6 feet tall, into the ground at intervals of six to eight feet along the row of the planting site to form the main structure for cordoning. Use a minimum of three posts to balance the support system.
Run three horizontal rows of wire across the posts. Drill holes on the wood posts, starting 6 inches from the top of the posts, and spaced a foot apart. Screw galvanised hooks into the posts. Run wire to each hook, circle it through and then wrap it around the hook, from the beginning to the middle and ending on the last post. Make sure the line is very taut so it can support the weight of the fruit tree.
Dig the hole for the fruit tree rootstock according to the depth indicated on the plant label, and specific for each type of fruit tree you are planting. Increase the width by 6 to 8-inches to accommodate planting the root graft at the 45-degree angle.
Inspect the soil for weeds, stones and debris. Remove obstacles and amend the soil to assure proper drainage. Mix in each planting hole up to one bucketful of compost or horse manure, or a handful of bone meal.
Use 2- to 4-foot-long bamboo canes to support the fruit tree stem. Put the fruit tree into the hole at a 45-degree angle. Use cloth or plastic strips to tie the tree stem to the cane. Tie the cane to the post wire. Make sure that the scion, which is the wood of the stalk, is facing upward and that the tree stems are facing downward to train the plant to "fan" and espalier as it grows, rather than growing upright.
Water the plant thoroughly. Pack the soil down firmly after watering to set the root graft into the 45-degree angle.
Check the plant daily the first week or so. Adjust ties if and where needed, then less frequently once the fruit tree looks like it's adapting to growing as a cordon.
Tips and warnings
- Don't skimp on the wire. Use the best grade of wire possible and good quality fixings to create a cordoning system to last 30 years or longer.
- If the plant is not set at a 45-degree angle, it could grow upright or, worse, the stem could break.
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- Ashridge Trees: Growing Cordon Fruit Trees
- Garden Seeker: Cordon Apple Trees
- "Kitchen Gardener Magazine"; How to Grow Espalier Apple Trees; Ron Wade; February 1998
- Texas AgriLife Extension: Managing Fruit Trees In the Home Landscape
- North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service; Bunch Grapes in the Home Garden; E.B. Polling; April 1998