Garden jobs, First weekend of Winter 2019

So, Winter definitely came. For some reason, my husband and I decided that this coldest of seasons was the perfect time to start that retaining wall project we had been putting off planning for about three years.

Actually, we had no choice. A huge deluge of rain came through, and washed about a cubic metre of precious topsoil from our veggie patch down into our patio. The retaining wall suddenly moved up the list of jobs from “one day soon” to “urgent.”

While we were at the Big Green Shed buying a few tools, I decided that I was sick of waiting to build the trellis for the apple trees and boysenberry plants, and bought the wire and star droppers for that small but important job as well.

Trellises and Espaliering

I have two dwarf apple trees (Cox’s Orange Pippin and Early Macintosh) that I wanted to espalier. I have never done this before, but when I was at the Melbourne Flower and Garden Show in March, I saw a simple espalier technique on dwarf apple trees that I thought I could probably manage myself. It used zip ties to tie the tree branches to a simple wire trellis between two poles. Is it the most perfect, horticulturally approved way to espalier? No idea. My garden probably fails on that front many times over. But I did I think, “I can do that.” So I decided to give it a crack.

My apple trees are two years old, and I have to say they are not really doing much yet. I have had a couple of blossoms, and one tiny apple so far. Most annoyingly, they are supposed to cross pollinate each other, but one flowered much later than the other, so that was an epic fail.

I figure if I bugger up the espaliering of these trees, and they produce no fruit, I am not in a worse position than I was already. If it works and they produce a better crop, then the thirteen bucks I spent on wire and zip ties (which I also used on other projects) was money well spent.

My husband used his manly strength to hammer the star droppers in where I directed, and I tied trellising wire in at intervals that looked roughly about right. Then I tied the flexible apple branches down along the wire and zip tied them down. The Cox’s Orange Pippin seemed pretty happy to be tied down, but the Early Mac was not happy, Jan. Not at all. Not being glib, but it looks somewhat like a torture victim from a 14th Century painting of the Inferno. I hope that with time, and further growth, I can retie it and it will look much happier and nicer than it does right now, poor bugger.

Foreground: Cox’s Orange Pippin, Background: Early Macintosh. After these photos were taken I went back and re-trellised and re-tied these trees, so they look slightly happier than they did in these shots.

The boysenberry plants seemed much happier to be tied up in an orderly fashion. Boysenberries are a bramble, and if left to their own devices, they take over in pretty spectacular fashion. This was what happened to our two plants. They caught up all other plants (and people) in their wake, and I decided I wasn’t gonna take it anymore!

My husband and I built a pretty basic trellis out of tall star droppers and trellising wire, and I pruned back the boysenberry while trying not to stab myself. I failed at that. I call these vines collectively Audrey II – they like fresh blood, preferably mine.

Once I had them trimmed to three or four main canes each, I tied them in a fan shape using the trusty zip ties. My plan is that as other canes grow (they grow from the base of the plant), I will keep tying them in the fan shape, retaining some control of the Audreys and hopefully will pick many a delicious berry over the Summer months.

Once these two jobs were done, my husband and I made our plans to build a small, but relatively long, garden wall to keep tiny wights and rivers of mud out. After all, Winter is here.

Pics next week.

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