The trellis or supporting structure is the key component to espalier, it defines the espalier pattern that you’re trying to achieve. Without it, you just have a tree.
The image above shows you the basic trellis that we built, for a three-tiered cordon pattern. As you can see our trellis will be used to support 4 trees. This trellis is fairly simple to build and can be built with minimal tools. All of the supplies used to build this trellis can be purchased at any good building supply store.
The following is a step by step summary of our building process for the trellis.
Step 1: First determine the best location for growing trees in the yard. Then layout the spacing of the trees and the vertical post of the trellis. We spaced our trees 11 feet apart and our posts 11 feet apart (Ref. the image at the top of the post). I used orange spray paint to mark the locations of my posts and trees.
Step 2: Once the locations are finalized, begin by digging the holes for the vertical posts. I dug all my post holes a little over 36 inches deep. Use a shovel to remove the sod and define the general size of the hole. Then using a post hole digger and a digging iron begin to remove the soil from the hole until you have reached the desired depth. I used the extra soil I removed from the holes around my property to fill in any low spots.
Step 3: Before I placed my post in the hole I place a few inches of gravel in the bottom of the hole. I added enough gravel to achieve the desired height of the post. For the posts I used pressure treated 4″ X 4″s that were 8 feet long. This made things simple. Since I wanted about 5 feet of post exposed above the ground, I dug my hole 3 feet deep to bury the rest of the post. I added a decorative chamfer on the top of the post (no practical purpose).
I drove two stakes into the ground around the post hole to secure the post to later. Then I placed the post into the hole and using a level made sure the post was plumb. Once the post was plumb I had my wife hold the post in position while I secured the post to the stakes using another piece of wood. When the post was secured to both stakes I double-checked the post to make sure it was still plumb. Now the post was adequately secured for Step 4.
Step 4: With the posts secured I mixed up several bags of concrete mix in a wheel barrow. Each post hole took about 1-1/2: 80 lb. bags of concrete. I then carefully placed the concrete around each post filling each hole. I did not completely fill each hole with concrete, I left a little space for some mulch. I allowed the concrete to cure for 24 hours before I removed the additional supports at the base.
Step 5: With all the posts secured the next thing to do is connect the posts together with a wire (8 to 10 gauge). I added an eye hook to one side of the post and to the other side a hook and turnbuckle. Then I secured a heavy-duty aluminum wire to the eye hook on one post and to the turnbuckle on other post. Then, using the turnbuckle, I tightened the wire until it was very tight. Remember this wire will support the limbs of the apple tree.
Now with the trellis complete the next thing to do is plant the trees.
Next Post: Espaliered Apple Trees: Part III Planting the Trees