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New Season Fruit Trees

Its this time of the year that new season fruit trees are available from garden centres and it is also the best time to plant them, as they have the rest of winter and all of spring to establish before they hit their first summer. I love fruit trees and other fruiting plants, having gathered a nice collection of various types, over a period of time.


When choosing what fruiting plants you are going to grow it is important to select the types of fruit that you and your family most enjoy and then to pick the cultivars that are most suitable and productive for your locality. It is a waste of time buying say an apricot that needs a cold winter followed by a warm spring if these climatic conditions don’t exist in your region. It is better to buy one that bears well without a real winter chilling. A number of fruiting trees require a suitable pollinator to obtain good crops, which means you need to buy two different cultivars to ensure that you have a good fruit set.

Now days we can find plums for instance that have a double graft, meaning that two varieties of plums will be produced on the same root stock. The varieties chosen for the grafting will often be the pollinators, so only one tree is needed but two types of plums will be harvested.

For a time some nurseries were producing triple or more varieties onto the same root stock. These were more difficult to produce and often one graft would fail in preference of the other two. Even if the 3 did take nicely it would mean some complicated pruning to ensure that the 3 parts preformed equally and in many cases one would ultimately fail. I not sure if these multi-grafted trees are still available and in many ways they can be a waste of time and effort. Even with a twin graft one has to monitor the two aspects to ensure both are growing equally well without one superseding the other.

In the likes of apples and some other grafted fruit you may have the choice of the type of root stock such as MM106 etc. The root stock type will help determine the ultimate size of the tree and thus the amount of fruit it can bear. These are MM106, 4 to5 metres MM793, 3.5 to4 metres and EM9 2.5 to 3m.
The later is also referred to dwarfing root stock. This can be a great advantage for people with smaller sections.

Some types maybe labelled ‘Self Fertile’ which means you have no need for another tree as a pollinator. Others may have their name on the label along with recommended pollinators. These are important aspects to consider when you are buying any fruiting tree. Self fertile will produce good crops but better again if there is a second suitable cultivar or the same species planted nearby. Another tip, because of the lack of feral bees in parts of New Zealand, if you plant your fruit tree down wind (prevailing wind) of your pollinator, you will likely have a better fruit set due to pollen being breeze carried. Having a small section myself, I now grow any new fruit trees as container plants.
There is many advantages to this, you can grow many more trees in containers than you could ever grow in open ground. The containers restrict the root system making for smaller trees, no matter what root stock they are on. Smaller trees are easier to manage, spray, and been in a container, less loss of nutrients from leaching.
Crops are smaller but minimal wastage, as you tend to eat all the fruit produced.
They are easier to protect from birds as the fruit ripens. If you move house you can take your fruit trees with you without too much of a hassle.
For those that are interested in this method here is how I do it. Firstly choose the largest plastic rubbish tin you can find. (About 76 litres or more) Avoid black plastic ones, as they can cook the roots if in strong direct sunlight.
Drill about 40-50mm wide holes in the sides of the bin about 100 mm up from the bottom for drainage. This leaves an area at the base, for surplus water in the summer.
Some of mine I partially dig into the soil and if I want the roots to enter into the soil I will place about 4 holes 40-50mm wide in the bottom as well as 4 at the cardinal points on the sides. (If you move you can easily wrench the tree and container from the ground) I have used this part buried method, for  my citrus trees and passion fruit vines to avoid root rots in winter.
Now for a growing medium to fill the containers, don’t waste your money on potting mixes as they lack the long term goodness that a tree needs. Instead use a manure based compost. There are organic mulches and composts available from most garden centres, that are made of bark fines, composted with animal manures. Add to this a few handfuls of clean top soil, mixed or layered through. I also add in worm-casts and worms from my worm farm. The worms help keep the heavier composts open and also supply a continuous source of nutrients. You can if you like add in sheep manure pellets and blood & bone. Plant up your tree so that the soil level is about 100mm below the rim of the container. This allows for easy watering and feeding. I mulch the top of the mix in spring with old chook manure and apply Fruit and Flower Power (Magnesium and potassium) once a month during the fruiting period.
Other foods can be applied as needed such as Rok Solid and sprays of Magic Botanic Liquid.
If the roots are not allowed into the surrounding soil, you will need to lift the tree out of the container every 2-3 years and root prune by cutting off the bottom one third of the roots with a saw. New compost and a bit of soil is placed in this area vacated and the tree put back in the container. This is best done in winter when the tree is dormant.
As mentioned before, garden centres now have their range of fruit trees in. If you cant find a particular specimen there try www.findaplant.co.nz a sister site of landscapedesign.co.nz

5 comments on “New Season Fruit Trees

  1. Can you recommend a compact crab apple? We want one to grow up to 3.5m H x 2.5m spread. We don’t plan to harvest the fruit (like to watch the birds enjoy them), so crop size isn’t important. We’re in a frost-free part of Hawkes Bay.
    Thank you!

  2. Barbara Bowyer on said:

    What is the best apple to espallier for both eating & cooking?

  3. Barbara Bowyer on said:

    I purchased two feijo trees – the garden centre said they should be different varieties for pollination purposes. Is this correct?

  4. Wally Richards on said:

    Hi
    In regards to the crab apple and the apple consult with your local garden centre for choice of types.
    No point me recommending any if you can get them.
    If a feijo is self fertile such as Unique then you dont need a pollinator if not self fertile then a recommened one is needed for better fruit set.
    Wally Richards

  5. Lisa Milsom on said:

    Hi, I need to move several young fruit trees, apples, pears, peaches and also olives that were only planted in January of this year, when is the best time and how much space do they need between them as the new area is a smaller one they will go into, many thanks.

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