Thursdays at 19.00 on BBC TWO Scotland

We grow the cordon fruit on a wall at the back of the main veg plot. Some of the cordon trees have been a part of Beechgrove Garden since the programme started back in the late 1970s. They were transplanted from the old Beechgrove Garden in the centre of Aberdeen in 1996 and moved to their new home in the current garden. Since then, we've added a few more varieties and replaced some as well.

Training trees to grow as cordons is an old method of growing apples in a tight space. The plants are two-dimensional really: they grow flat against the wall at a 45 degree angle and are spur pruned so they don't have protruding branches as such. The dwarfing rootstocks they are grown on restrict the vigour of the plants.

If you're picking a variety for cordon training, look for rootstock M27, M9 or M26 - all of which will help control the ultimate size of the tree. Also, make sure the variety will produce fruit on spurs (not tips).

Growing fruit against a wall means that the plants are protected from strong winds and they are kept a little warmer as the wall radiates heat soaked up during sunny days. This can help with borderline hardy climbers and shrubs too.


Tips for growing apples as cordons:

  • Put up a good wiring system. If you don't want to wire directly into a wall (or are growing in the open) then put up a sturdy frame work.
  • Select apples on dwarf rootstocks such as M27, M9 or M26. Dwarf rootstock will help control the ulimate size of the tree.
  • Choose varieties that produce fruit on spur growth, as opposed to tip-growth. The whole point of cordon growing is to keep the trees compact so they take up less space. A tree that is spur-baring will allow you to prune the tree and still produce ample fruit.
  • Remember, many apples are divided into groups, depending on their flowering time. The groups are numbered 1-4 indicating early - late flowering. The apples in these groups need to cross pollinate, so either look for two varieties in the same group (i.e. two varieties in group 3) or two varieties in consecutive groups (i.e. a variety in group 2 and a variety in group 3).