Meet the new additions

22 Sep

As mentioned in my last post, I’m constructing a wall of espaliered citrus varieties.

We trekked out to Dural (North-West Sydney) today to buy the trees because they have specialist citrus grower Engalls out there.

I have a very understanding family!

In the end I only bought one of my trees there because the trees were all a bit too good! I plan to start my espalier quite low to the ground, so it was important that the trees I bought were still pretty young and whippy. If they are too established then they won’t be ‘bendy’ enough for me to manipulate them into the shape I want. Engalls sold beautiful established trees – too strong to bend to my will.

I’m planning on using the KNNN method championed by Bob Magnus. Thanks to Bek for the link.

Bob says I need to use dwarf trees for the KNNN method. I like breaking rules, and given the low-light situation a bit of ‘rapid growth’ might be just what I need.

I had a chat with the lovely and helpful guy at Engalls, and he quickly shot down the idea of a grapefruit. Apparently you really need a full-sized tree to support fruit that size. He also tried to dissuade me from a mandarin because their structure doesn’t suit espaliering very well. He said that I should absolutely get a Tahitian lime because they are the best suited of all, and a Meyer lemon because they are close behind. Apart from that, oranges are also well suited.

I mostly listened to him, but ended up pushing my luck a little.

So I bought:

A Tahitian Lime and a Meyer Lemon

An Imperial Mandarin and Eureka Lemon

And a Nagami Cumquat and a Tarocco Blood Orange

According to the expert, I’m going to struggle a little with the cumquat and the mandarin, but I’m willing to take a risk. I can always transplant out to another location (maybe even where the mulberry currently lives!)

So I spread them out along the fence to get an idea of placement. Gosh – that backyard is a mess!

And I’m struggling a little with the decision. The trees at the right will get the most light. I think the first 3 from the right will do pretty well. The last 3 will be under the tree and will struggle more. So, should I give the most promising varieties (Lime, Meyer Lemon, Eureka Lemon) the prized positions and let the others struggle, or do I give the ones that are more likely to struggle the most light, and perhaps fail at the lot?

Next step, sledgehammer. The beds are coming out!

And once the banana fruits, it is too.

14 Responses to “Meet the new additions”

  1. Michelle September 23, 2012 at 12:31 am #

    My 2 cents – give the weaklings the best positions. My Meyer lemon only gets a couple of hours of weak late afternoon sun in the winter and the thing fruits like crazy and grows like a weed. I have a potted variegated Eureka that gets half day sun year round and grows and fruits fairly well in spite of a fair amount of neglect and a rather heavy load of scale. I started to feed it more regularly this year and it has responded by growing and fruiting. I have a potted kumquat that gets minimal sun and pretty much just sits there, surviving but not growing much in spite of regular feedings and it hasn’t bloomed since I brought it home 2 or 3 years ago. That baby is getting repotted and moved when I have time to deal with it.

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney September 23, 2012 at 8:17 am #

      Thanks Michelle, that sounds good. There is a very good view of the weak positions from the house, so it would be great to have lovely Meyer lemons there, hanging in view. I think it is the most attractive of all the lemon trees.

  2. Louise September 23, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    Welcome to the land of espalier! My two espaliered fruit are both Tahitian limes and they are doing very well. I think you will be very happy with them espaliered. Being a citrus fancier, I am totally envious of your mix of types.

    Now I am not an expert at all, I am not knowledgeable of the method you have chosen to use and I have no sense of the scale of your yard… were you thinking of putting them all along that fence? I might be wrong I wonder if you will have enough room for all those trees?

    Mine have 1.8 meters of space each to spread and that seems to work well in the classic ‘u’ shape (and never having read anything about it before I did mine, I have no idea of this is a good amount of space , except that it works. How much space does it recommend for each tree with the method you are using?

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney September 23, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

      The method recommends 2 metres between each tree. In the picture here I have them spaced at close to that, probably a shade under. When they are planted out the banana (at the far right) should be gone and there should be at least 2 metres between each – I think from the chicken coop to the side fence is about 12 metres.

      A more pressing issue is the difference in size between these trees. The cumquat is likely to be quite small compared to the larger trees. Do I still keep the spacings equal?

      I paid more attention to the amount of sunlight they receive today. The worst position got about 3 hours. The best was only 6. This should improve in summer, but it’s still going to be marginal.

      • Louise September 23, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

        Gosh, then the space is deceptive! It is a long fence line! I would, on reflection, have spaced mine at 2 mts each, but the 1.8mts works anyway, I wouldn’t space less than that. I take the point about the relative size of the trees. Cumquats being smaller will grow well in pots so one option could be to pot up the cumquat and espalier the others? I am seriously envious of the blood orange, gosh they are such lovely fruit!

        The 3 hour sun allowance is a bit of a concern – being equinox it means that it could be a lot less in winter (and of course more in summer). You could consider putting your more cold-tolerant varieties in the shadier spots? Meyer is more cold-tolerant than other lemon varieties, blood orange much less cold-tolerant, so that could help determine the arrangement from less sun to more?

        Anyway, I am sorry if I am over thinking this from a distance – it is a little silly of me not being on the spot. I am kind of thinking aloud forgive me if it is too much cogitation. I am actually going to have to consider similar issues when planting citrus in my frosty farm!

      • L from 500m2 in Sydney September 23, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

        Over-think away! You know much more about this than me! We actually made a slightly alarming discovery today about the spot – the area is lined with concrete! We dug down a few inches this afternoon when cleaning up, and there is a concrete slab down there. I’m pretty sure it is there to prevent root intrusion from the massive lilli pilli, but now I need to decide whether to leave it there or break it up. I’m sure the trees would be more successful in the ground than in a planter, but maybe not with the nutrient competition from the lilli pilli? I think If we construct the large planter that we are planning (perhaps 50 or 60cm wide and maybe 75cm deep) kinda like this then it would let the trees grow pretty big, even without them going straight in the ground. That way I could give them them plenty of food without big trees competing. Your thoughts?

      • Louise September 23, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

        Hmm, this is a tough one your discovery of concrete. On the one hand good drainage for citrus is essential,. on the other hand they are generally shallow rooted. I am afraid that I cant offer much more here to help solve the problem. It is hard isn’t it ? Sometimes gardening in the ‘burbs has legacies under the soil we have no idea about like your concrete and the legacies over the fence like the giant lilli pilli.

        I guess one option is to build the soil up as much as you can and leave the concrete where it is?

  3. Veggiegobbler September 23, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    Ooh how exciting! I’ll be watching how you go. No idea which to put where.have fun with the sledgehammer. I have a spot for some espaliering but not for a few years yet. My boy uses the wall to kick a soccer ball against. But I have plans.

  4. Daphne September 23, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    Well we can’t grow citrus here so I have nothing to help you. But how exciting. I always love planting new trees. They have so much promise.

  5. Liz September 23, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    I reckon I’d put the one you want the most fruit from in the best position and go down from there. Can you rank citrus? Or is it like saying one of your kids is your favourite -ie an absolute no go area?

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney September 24, 2012 at 11:14 am #

      No, I reckon I could rank ’em. I reckon I could rank the kids too, but that would change daily. I’ve had poo on the floor this morning, so little D is definitely bottom rank today 🙂

      So I think according to your reasoning I should put the lime at the right. I’m pretty sold on putting the Meyer lemon at the left because it has the best view from the house and Michelle thinks it might fruit there. And combined with Louise’s input that the blood orange isn’t very cold tolerant and I want mandarins to be sweet, I think the lime, mandarin and blood orange will have to get the top 3 spots. The Eureka lemon will have to cope right under the tree and the cumquat next to that.

  6. Bek September 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    Very exciting. I had never heard of espaliering citrus until I read about Louise’s lime. I look forward to hearing how it goes. I would definitely be getting rid of the concrete, as painful as that task will be, as I expect even if the plants could get enough root growth in the space there would be a risk of poor drainage and flooding if you get heavy rains with would make them sulk if not die. As for placement, I’d go with the toughest in the poorest spots, and give preference to the more sensitive plants. Looking forward to hearing and seeing how it goes!!!


  1. Citrus Espalier – Stage 1 « 500m2 in Sydney - September 29, 2012

    […] Last weekend we bought the trees, but the backyard is not yet ready to take them. We still need to break up some garden beds, cut through some concrete, construct a huge planter box and erect some espalier supports before we can do that. […]

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