A Complete Guide to Dwarf Trees
If you live is a place where outside space is at a minimum, dwarf trees can be the answer to having a fruitful yard. In fact, the most popular dwarf trees are fruit trees, with the apple at the top of the list. With these smaller trees, you can grow all of your favorite fruits without needing a big yard, plus most dwarf trees produce heavy harvests.
Dwarf trees are also known as miniature trees. But, while the tree itself is quite a bit smaller than normal, the fruit is the exact same size it would be if grown on a normal size fruit tree. There are all kinds of fruit trees in this category. For instance, you can get an apple tree that is only three feet tall and if could produce as many as forty-five to fifty normal-size apples. These types of dwarf trees come in all varieties. You can produce as many as thirty peaches on a two-foot tree.
Another method of producing dwarf trees is to graft a particular variety of fruit tree onto a dwarf rootstock. That causes the growth of the tree to be controlled and produces a much smaller fruit tree. Different rootstocks are identified by a particular letter and number, such as M27 or M28, while others are known by their letters, such as Quince C for growing pears.
Dwarf rootstocks can get rather complicated. Some produce shorter trees, some taller. You could grow the same type of apple on a four-foot tree or an eight-foot tree, depending on which rootstock you used. Some rootstocks produce trees which are disease resistant but others do not. Some can give you a nice-looking tree on poor soil, while others need to have exactly the right amount of nutrients in the soil.
All types of fruit trees can be grown on dwarf rootstock--apples, peaches, plums, pears, nectarines, apricots, cherries, and more. If you plan to buy your dwarf trees from a nursery, ask them what rootstock was used to graft the tree. If you have a particular variety of fruit in mind, your nursery should be able to obtain just the right tree for you. Some nurseries graft their own trees while others order rootstock which has already been grafted with the type of tree. You should be able to see a lump at the graft site.
Dwarf trees can also be produced by controlled pruning. You can take any tree, whether you are growing it on regular rootstock or miniature rootstock, and produce a tree just the size you need by using special pruning techniques. These are known as espaliers or cordons. An espalier is where you grow your tree flat, on the side of a building using a series of wire. It can also be done between posts, much like a clothes line.
Cordons are made when you grow your tree angled against some type of supporting structure and you interweave the branches to make a fence pattern. The side branches are kept pruned back very close to the stem. Once again, any variety of fruit tree can be grown in this manner.
Dwarf trees can be grown in pots and this is an extremely popular technique. The pots can be set in the ground or just left out on top of the soil. To grow dwarf trees, you need pots that are at least fifteen inches across. Fill the pot with a really good starter mix, such as vermiculite or perlite and make sure to fertilize your tree regularly. Compost works great with dwarf trees. You can set a tree in a pot just about anywhere, even on decks and balconies.
Although the most popular dwarf trees are fruit trees, other kinds of trees can also be grown in a miniature or dwarf size, one such tree is the Japanese Dwarf White Pine. This is a tree that grows very slowly and never gets over three feet. It is in the family of evergreen conifers, and the needles are a sort of bluish-green color. A dwarf balsam fir is another choice you could make.