Fruit Walls

I was checking out my google+ and I came across this shared article. It talked about these wonderful things called fruit walls. They were the precursor to the greenhouse and allowed people to extend their growing seasons and helped their blossoms survive hard frost times. If you have read my previous post about frost turning into a bigger problem than we originally thought, you will know how happy this idea makes me. Something totally doable for us, and more sustainable than a glass or plastic greenhouse.

“Initially, the quest to produce warm-loving crops in temperate regions (and to extend the growing season of local crops) didn’t involve any glass at all. In 1561, Swiss botanist Conrad Gessner described the effect of sun-heated walls on the ripening of figs and currants, which mature faster than when they are planted further from the wall.

Gessner’s observation led to the emergence of the “fruit wall” in Northwestern Europe. By planting fruit trees close to a specially built wall with high thermal mass and southern exposure, a microclimate is created that allows the cultivation of Mediterranean fruits in temperate climates, such as those of Northern France, England, Belgium and the Netherlands.”

Fruit Walls: Urban Farming in the 1600s

Unfortunately there is not much information I am finding on how to actually make the most of a fruit wall, or how to build it. According to one of the things I am reading (and possibly understanding), is that the walls should be thicker at the base than at the top, and need not be more than 8 feet tall.

I am heartened by what I am reading regarding the various successes of growing fruits like peaches, which don’t grow very well in our climate, or apples, which we have been told only produce once every 3-5 years in our area. If we can build fruit walls and grow our trees in this manner, I have high hopes for our success rate.

The biggest obstacle will be the cost of the walls themselves. Fruit was are masonry walls, usually brick, which is costly.

I am wondering about the use of gabions to build a “sort of” fruit wall. Not sure the heat absorption will be enough for a truly extended growing season, but maybe enough to keep the frost off? or at least  offer protection from animals, and structure for frost coverings.

A gabion is a metal basket that traditionally you fill with rocks to form many different structures from retaining walls, to furniture, to garden beds. The uses are endless. Our property also offers an almost endless supply of, you guest it, ROCKS! So since we have more time than money, I will spend many many hours digging out rocks from various places than need rocks dug, and filling gabions where I want walls. Win Win!


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