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Planting scheme for under stepover espalier apple trees

Hi
I have a narrow, long bed, approx 7m long and 30cm wide, which separates my flower garden from my veg plot. I planted stepover espalier apple trees last autumn to act as a low divider and want to add some planting underneath. This will need to be low so it doesn't detract from, or get in the way of, the apple trees. I like the idea of having some colour after the apple blossom is over and before the fruit (which I realise may not be for at least a couple of years!)

I am in southern Cumbria so get a lot of rain and cold weather in winter. The garden is east facing and gets lots of sun when it is out. The bed was completely dug out before planting and the soil replaced with a good mix of good topsoil and compost. The rest of the flower side of the garden was planterd up last summer and is a mix of shrubs and perennials with lots of colour and interest through the year with lots of plants that are good for pollinators.

Photos attached. Any suggestions would be very welcome Thanks

Posts

  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 8,327
    That's a very nice job you've done there - top marks!

    My first thoughts for underplanting are small spring bulbs (eg crocus, snowdrops) and perhaps some alpine plants - if you can give them decent drainage.

    You could also consider herbs, which would be a nice transition between veg and flower garden. I grow chives as edging plants. They get to about 8" high and I love the purple pom poms. Dead head them en-masse and they often flower again.

    I also grow curly leaved parsley, golden oregano and different thymes as edging plants - don't know how well they'd do where you are?

    Just to say I wouldn't be in too much of a hurry to put in anything which offers too much competition with your lovely new trees.
    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,831
    I'd sit some nice terracotta pots there, with either edibles or flowers, rather than planting anything.  That way they won't compete with the apple trees for food and water, as the others say.  You want as much energy for your trees to go into growing quickly and strongly, best that they don't have to compete with anything else.
  • Topbird said:
    That's a very nice job you've done there - top marks!

    My first thoughts for underplanting are small spring bulbs (eg crocus, snowdrops) and perhaps some alpine plants - if you can give them decent drainage.

    You could also consider herbs, which would be a nice transition between veg and flower garden. I grow chives as edging plants. They get to about 8" high and I love the purple pom poms. Dead head them en-masse and they often flower again.

    I also grow curly leaved parsley, golden oregano and different thymes as edging plants - don't know how well they'd do where you are?

    Just to say I wouldn't be in too much of a hurry to put in anything which offers too much competition with your lovely new trees.

    Thank you for your kind comment. I was thinking about low level herbs like various different thymes and oregano under the apple trees. I grow lots of herbs in pots on the patio so they are handy for the kitchen but more in the garden would be lovely. I may well wait to plant up until spring 2022 though to give the trees plenty of chance to establish well.
  • I'd sit some nice terracotta pots there, with either edibles or flowers, rather than planting anything.  That way they won't compete with the apple trees for food and water, as the others say.  You want as much energy for your trees to go into growing quickly and strongly, best that they don't have to compete with anything else.

    Thank you for the suggestion - I do want the trees to thrive so I may well wait to plant up until spring 2022 to give the trees plenty of chance to establish well.
  • Hi Sally, 

    I know your post is quite old - but I came across it and was wondering how you got on with them? 

    I'm quite keen to do it in my garden. How quickly have they established and have you seen any crops yet?

    Kind regards,

    Roisin
  • Hi Roisin

    The trees have established really well. In their first summer / autumn (2021) we only got 3 apples in total, but in their second year (2022) we got a really good crop from all of the trees. I planted several varieties, some early cropping and some late, so can keep picking over a couple of months. This summer we got lots of blossom and plenty of fruit, but it was so wet that some rotted and much of the fruit that didn't was munched by something. I can't work out if it was birds or rodents running along the wire the trees grow along, munching as they went! Very disappointing. I am going to try netting them after the fruits come next year, which I know isn't so pretty but might mean I'm feeding me and hubby and not the local wildlife!

    On the underplanting, I have gone for low spring bulbs: snowdrops, native fritillaries and ipheion, plus erigeron and helianthemum for after the bulbs have finished. My thinking was low level, so not growing up into the trees; plus not water guzzling so shouldn't steal the water from the apples.

    Good luck :)
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