For many years I have been collecting various fruiting trees, vines, bushes and currently have a modest collection, which is only limited by the room I have for planting or container space.
When I come across a specimen that appears to be of interest I will obtain a plant and grow it in a container and see how it performs. If later I feel the plant needs more room I will up the container size or plant it into the garden. My goal is to have a range of nice tasting fruit, coming available at different times, giving a continual supply of fresh fruit for a good part of the year.
Growing many of the fruiting plants in containers means that the full potential of a tree is not reached and a smaller harvest is obtained without too much waste. When a fruiting plant does not perform well, or if I do not like the taste of the fruit the plant will be removed (if the space is needed for a better type) and given away to someone with more garden room.
Sometimes there pops up a fruiting plant, that for some reason I have overlooked and this happened recently; I live in a commercial industrial area where there are only myself and a neighbough next door, whom have the original farm house. A long iron fence separates the two properties and a range of natives and other plants are growing on their side of this fence. Likewise up to recently my side also had a number of natives hiding the iron fence. These were removed to make way for a concrete driveway and a new development of storage sheds. The removal of my trees allowed one to see the tops of the trees growing on the other side of the fence. A couple of these trees turned out to be Loquats with their bright yellow fruit, some of which were dangerously hanging over my side and well within reach. I had not seen a Loquat tree for many years and just had to pick the ripe fruit to remember what they tasted like. They have a deliciously sweet flavour with a nice little acid bite.
There were two stones in the variety growing, but some can contain up to 5 stones dependant on the cultivar. I am now endeavouring to germinate the stones, but will likely look around a few garden centres for an established plant or two. Here is a bit of history and information of the Loquat.
The loquat is indigenous to south eastern China. It was introduced into Japan and became naturalized there in very early times. It has been cultivated in Japan for over 1,000 years. It has also become naturalized in India and many other areas. Chinese immigrants are presumed to have carried the loquat to Hawaii. It was common as a small-fruited ornamental in the USA in the 1870’s, and the improved variety, Giant, was being sold there by 1887. Japan is the leading producer of Loquats, followed by Israel and Brazil. (It grows well in New Zealand in most areas)
The Loquat is adapted to a subtropical to mild-temperature climate. Where the climate is too cool or excessively warm and moist, the tree is grown as an ornamental only and will not bear fruit. Well established trees can tolerate a low temperature of minus 10 C. The killing temperature for the flower bud is about minus 7 C and for the mature flower about minus 1 C. Extreme summer heat is also detrimental to the crop, and dry, hot winds cause leaf scorch. The white-fleshed varieties are better adapted to cool coastal areas. The Loquat tree can be grown in a large pot and would look stunning as it is a beautiful tree.
The Loquat is very hardy and can be grown in any soil type as long as there is reasonable drainage.
Prolonged wet feet are the only problem and thus a container would be best for growing them in if this is your case. Virtually free of pests and diseases make for the Loquat as a perfect fruit tree.
The loquat is a large evergreen shrub or small tree with a rounded crown, short trunk and woolly new twigs. The tree can grow 20 to 30 ft. high, but is usually much smaller than this–about 10 ft. Loquats are easy to grow and are often used as an ornamental. Their boldly textured foliage adds a tropical look to the garden and contrast well with many other plants. Because of the shallow root system of the Loquat, care should be taken in mechanical cultivation not to damage the roots.
Loquat leaves are generally elliptical-lanceolate, 5 to 12 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide. They are dark green and glossy on the upper surface, whitish or rusty-hairy beneath, thick and stiff, with conspicuous parallel, oblique veins. The new growth is sometimes tinged with red. The leaves are narrow in some cultivars and broad in others. Flowers are small, white, sweetly fragrant flowers, borne in autumn or early winter in panicles at the ends of the branches. Before they open, the flower clusters have an unusual rusty-woolly texture. The fruit forms and ripens over winter making them the first fruit available, fresh from your garden in late winter or early spring. After establishing, feed the Loquat with animal manure, compost and potash.
Deep water them during dry times. I remember a friend of mine (many years ago) told me that often people did not like to grow Loquats for the fruit as they had big stones and only minimal flesh to eat. He produced big fleshy Loquat fruit by providing heaps of compost and manure plus potash.
The Loquat has interesting health benefits also and for more information see http://middlepath.com.au/plant/loquat.php
Organic NZ has an article in their recent issue (January/Febuary 2007) If you are interested in obtaining a Loquat enquire at your local garden centre and if not available place an order.
AROUND THE GARDEN
Had an email the other day that said, “Could you please tell us what Blueberries need? Ours is planted among camellias so gets an acid fertiliser, but the berries, although there are plenty of them, are small and don’t seem to grow.” My reply was: Blueberries only produce smaller sized berries though they are a bit larger in some varieties. They require a free draining, rich, moist, acid loam soil of 4.5 to 5.5 pH.Maybe apply animal manures such as chook manure with liberal amounts of potash.
Sprays of Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) over the foliage and soil will also assist.
Blueberries are very popular at this time, as the ripe berries are now available and this promotes people to buy a bush or two for their own home grown berries. Easy to grow in a 45 litre container that has a free draining compost mix. Berries ripen in a staggered pattern and can be frozen down for later use.
Protect the ripening berries with Bird Repeller Ribbon or Bird Netting.
Spider Mites have appeared in some areas now that the weather has warmed up a bit. The simple solution to control is sprays of Liquid Sulphur. Often one good spray, under and over the foliage is all that is needed if caught early. For well established mites, a second or third spray maybe needed to eradicate.
Neem Granules should be place in the root zone of tomatoes and brassicas to prevent the infestations of caterpillars and whitefly from getting out of control. This simple method can avoid the need to spray, by just sprinkling the granules over the soil about every 6 to 8 weeks.
Cooler moist weather has caused early outbreaks of powdery mildew in some areas. Most of us have the control for this disease sitting in our pantry; Baking Soda: place a heaped tablespoon of baking soda into a container and add one litre of warm water. Stir to bubble up and then add one mil of Raingard. Spray under and over foliage of affected plants and others prone to the disease. The mix kills the mildew in its tracks and prevents re-infestation for about 14 days (because of the Raingard). It will not harm any plants other than oxalis which it will burn the foliage off, especially on a sunny day when the ground is a bit on the dry side. (Who cares?)