Now is the time of the year that sees the arrival of this seasons deciduous fruit trees, into garden centres.
There is a very good reason for deciduous trees to become available in winter because in the cold months, the trees are dormant and easier to lift from their nursery plots and relocated to your gardens and containers. Trees are normally bagged or held bare rooted in bins of wet sawdust to keep their roots moist. It can be fatal if you allow the roots of bare rooted trees and roses to dry out, so be careful to keep them moist at all times.
There are so many great reasons to grow a wide range of different types of fruit trees as possible; the fruit harvested each year is virtually free (allow for initial outlay and care). You can grow your fruit without harmful chemical sprays and fertilisers in your garden which means you are not eating poor quality, low in nutritional fruit. These days much of the fruit grown commercially does not have the health benefits that fruit had 40 to 60 years ago. Organic certified fruit is second best to what you grow yourself but you still can’t beat home grown in my opinion.
Fruit trees grown with natural products such as animal manure and good quality compost will be less prone to disease and pests.
You achieve this by adding to the soil or growing medium minerals from Ocean Solids and Rok Solid as a yearly dressing, this will ensure your fruit has the maximum amount of nutritional value and provide further protection against diseases for both the trees and the fortunate people who consume the fruit.
Often gardeners say to me that they would love to grow a few more fruit trees but do not have the room in the gardens for any more. There is a very simple way around this problem and that is to grow your fruit trees in larger type containers. To prove this point I currently have 7 citrus trees, 1 apple, 1 avocado, 2 cherimoya, 3 feijoa, 2 grapes, 2 loquats, 1 passion fruit, 1 persimmon, 1 guava, 1 cranberry, 1 blueberry, 1 tornless raspberry, 2 pineapples and 2 tamarillo growing in 45 to 100 litre containers.
The big advantage with container grown fruit is you can move them around, take them with you if you move house (Which I did last year when I relocated) and they never get too big as the container restricts their root size.
The disadvantages are they take a bit longer to produce when compared to open grown specimens and you do need to root prune them every few years. Plastic rubbish tins come in various sizes and these are ideal and reasonably priced; with a few drainage holes drilled in the sides just up from the base.
Another method is to have 4cm holes drilled in the base of the container so that some of their roots can venture into the soil or lawn that they are sitting on.
If you can find a business that has used 200 litre plastic drums for sale or free then these drums cut in half to make excellent containers for growing fruit trees in.
When growing fruit trees or other plants in containers, don’t use any kind of potting mix, instead make up a mix of compost with about 10% clean top soil or worm casts mixed through.
The reason for adding soil or worm casts is to bring soil life into the mix making for a more natural growing medium. I always add a few worms to the mix as they will keep the soil/compost more open and prevent it from compacting over time.
Never use straight soil in a container as it slumps and can kill the tree or plant. For additional food I use old fowl manure placed on the top of the mix along with a sprinkling of Fruit and Flower Power (the later applied once a month during the flowering to harvesting period)
A yearly application of Ocean Solids and Rok Solid, Rock Dust for the extra minerals and a drench plus a spray of Magic Botanic Liquid with Mycorrcin every so often.
If any of the trees get attacked from insect pests then a spray of Neem Tree Oil takes care of them safely.
Liquid Copper is also another handy spray to control various disease problems such as citrus tree diseases, bladder plum and curly leaf. The same copper is also ideal for pear slug control.
Existing deciduous trees should be sprayed with Lime Sulphur at this time as it kills any diseases and pests harbouring over the winter. For curly leaf problems a spray or two of Lime Sulphur now will reduce the problem in the spring when the leaves start emerging.
The worst problem with fruit is the birds getting into a crop when the fruit is coming towards maturity.
A few lengths of Bird Repeller Ribbon takes care of this at that crucial time.
My favourite Feijoa, Unique will grow very well in a 45 litre container. (Larger is better)
They grow quickly to about 3 times the original potted height and will produce large fruit very quickly obtaining a small crop in the first year or so.
Another quick grower to fruit are tamarillo potted into a 45 litre container they can grow to just on 2 metres tall and start fruiting. Its a good idea to place the container under the eaves and spray with Vaporgard Frost Protector, to prevent damage from winter by frosts.
There is a newer form of Tamarillo called Tango are now available from garden centres. This form which was developed by Hort Research NZ has fruit that is supposed to be sweet rather than the more acidic taste of the common tamarillo.
I added a specimen to my collection and its also doing very well in a containers.
I found that the yellow fruit is not sweet and my red variety is actually sweeter though both are acidic.
Existing fruit trees can be pruned at this time but do not prune on a cool moist day as this can allow Silverleaf disease to enter the wounds. (Do not prune passion fruit vines in the winter, they should only be pruned when they are actively growing in the spring.)
A spray of Liquid Copper and Raingard over any of your fruiting trees or vines would not go astray at this time.
Deciduous trees do not need any feeding while dormant but when the buds start to swell in the spring a good layer of rich compost can be applied along with Fruit and Flower Power.
If you have existing container planted fruit trees that have been in their pots for 2 or more years, then winter is a good time to lift them and cut the bottom one third of the roots off with a cross saw.
Place fresh compost in the base of the pot to the depth of the amount of roots removed and simply pop the tree back into its pot.
This action should be taken about every two years but in some cases an annual root prune will help produce a bigger and better crop.