Growing fruit trees is another dimension you can add to your edible garden.
Citrus trees are a versatile bunch! Whether you grow one single tree in the corner of your yard or you have a whole orchard, you will be surprised at their hardiness and unique character. They can be grown in pots or if you have a small space, you could select a dwarf variety to plant out. Most species can be hedged, topiarised or be a lovely evergreen feature tree. The key to growing citrus is that they all require full sun and lots of it. They do not like windy locations as this can damage the flowers and in turn the fruit production. Citrus hate a heavy soil so they need a very well-drained soil, but it will need to be highly organic.
They tend to like a soil with a pH of 6 – 7.5. When it comes to feeding them, they are heavy feeders as you can imagine it takes a lot of energy to produce those big juicy fruits. Normally it is best to fertilise them once a season with an organic fertiliser and you can then supplement this with a liquid feed in between.
All citrus like to have a deep watering. Once established, this means a big water less frequently than lots of short waters. The soil needs to be allowed to reach the dryer side of moist before giving them another deep watering. Over watering can also cause the trees to drop all of their fruit.
All citrus have shallow root systems so therefore you should keep them well mulched, however do not allow the mulch to touch the base of their trunks as this may encourage disease.
Most will tolerate some frost once established, although whilst they are young it is best to give them protection when a frost is predicted. In general, mandarins, oranges and grapefruit will tolerate more frost than lemons and limes. There are also some varieties within the same species that can cope better with a winter chill than others. Here in the Hilltops region, I would recommend planting the Lisbon Lemon or the Meyer Lemon, the Tahitian Lime, the Washington Navel Orange and the Australian Cumquat (also known as the Calamondin).
All of the citrus tend to flower through the Spring and Summer months with the fruit starting to develop in Autumn through Winter. The flowers alone are a lovely feature with a strong but enjoyable fragrance. All citrus will benefit from a light prune straight after harvest but don’t leave it too late as you will end up losing next year’s fruit. Older trees will need a renovation prune every 5 – 8 years or so. This will involve cutting back the branches heavily, thinning out the canopy and opening up the centre of the tree.
Fruit trees that develop a Pome fruit are all members of the Rosaceae family, for example apples, pears and quince. All forms are deciduous trees and all tend to have their fruit ripening in the late Summer to Autumn months. They also have the added benefit of gorgeous Spring blossoms.
In general, they like a sunny location with free draining soil and protection from strong winds. They prefer a slightly acidic soil of 5.8 to 7. If trees require pruning, this is best completed during winter whilst the trees are still dormant.
However, you need to be aware of when and where the fruit develops on the trees. For example, the fruit on many apples starts to develop on two year old or older wood so you need to ensure whilst you are pruning that you are not pruning off next seasons fruit. It is beneficial to ensure the trees like stone fruits have more of a vase shape habit with open centres so that sunlight can reach the centre of the trees and there will be good air ventilation around the branches. Allowing the sunlight into the centre of the tree will increase the number of flowers and therefore, fruit developing. It will also help prevent disease from developing. Most trees will need two trees to pollinate or you need to choose self-pollinating varieties. You need to select two species that will flower at the same time or at least overlap in their flowering for a period so that the trees can cross pollinate. They all enjoy a good winter chill to help bring on the fruit set however there are some trees that will still set fruit with less of a chill than others. These are the ones for you if you are living in a slighter warmer climate.
Fertilise trees in Spring, Summer and Autumn with a well balanced organic fertiliser and then use a fish or seaweed emulsion in between these times. There is no need to fertilise in the middle of Winter.
Stone fruits like the Pome fruits are all deciduous, they will give you some lovely Autumn colours, then go dormant in the Winter (this is the best time to plant them), then they develop beautiful blossoms in the Spring followed by fruit in the Summer months and early Autumn. Apricots, peaches, nectarines, cherries and plums are all stone fruits.
Out of all the stone fruits, the cherries will need the longest amount of winter chill to develop good fruit. Stone fruits enjoy a deep, well drained soil which has a high organic matter content with a pH of 6 to 7. Ideally, they like to be planted on north facing slopes where the drainage is good and they can get protection from strong winds. All stone fruit need reliable moisture especially during the hot, dry Summer months when the fruit is developing.
Peaches, nectarines and apricots are all self-pollinating whilst plums and some cherries will require more than one tree for the tree to be pollinated. Enriching the soil with compost and decomposed manure before planting and continuing to add compost in the Spring and Autumn months will ensure the trees have access to good organic matter. It is also best to keep all trees well mulched.
They make gorgeous evergreen trees but you will need the space to accommodate them. Ideally, they will need a sheltered sunny location with deep, organic soils with a soil pH of 5 – 6. Avocados will need full protection from frost in the first few years however once established, they will tolerate frost. Here in the Hilltops region you will need to plant varieties that can tolerate more cold than others.
Another consideration is that whilst they do self-pollinate, you will have more fruit if you plant two trees in the one area. Each of these will need to be an A and B Type. All Avocados are categorised into A and B types, this refers to their flowering times. Avocado flowers botanically speaking are “bisexual”, which means they have both male and female reproductive organs.
The trees are classed as an A or B type depending on when each of the flower types open. For example, type A avocados will have flowers that open ready for pollination in the morning and then in the afternoon the blossoms will be releasing their pollen to pollinate other flowers. With type B avocados the flowers are doing the opposite. Ideally to get good fruit production, you need to select 1 out of each group. For the Hilltops region I would recommend the Bacon from the B type and the Hass from the A Type.
Their fruit will ripen in late Autumn to early Winter. After harvest, you can give the trees a light prune to maintain a vase shape. Avocados like to have a nitrogen rich fertilizer applied each month through the Summer season.
Pomegranates are beautiful flowering small trees or large shrubs which are deciduous. They love a hot Summer but still need a strong chill in the Winter months. Flowering through the Summer months with their fruit ripening through Autumn. The bright orange to red coloured flowers are a lovely feature of the tree. These develop into the large, red fruit that contains hundreds of jewel like beads which are the seeds that you eat or you can juice them. Always ensure that you remove the white pulp from around the seeds as this is quite bitter and not at all enjoyable. In your garden, you could grow them as a feature tree or in a pot or even as an informal hedge.
Pomegranates are highly drought resistant, however you will get better fruit if they receive some watering especially whilst they are establishing. They enjoy a full sun location with a very well-drained soil, with a pH of 5.5 – 7. They naturally grow in rocky, gravel like soil in their native Iran and Northern India, so they can cope with poor soils.
Pomegranates are self-fertile, the pollinating insects will do all the work for you, however like with most fruit trees the more flowers (trees) you have, the more fruit you will get. If you have the space, try having two plants at least. There are also dwarf cultivars that are well worth investigating.
A deciduous, small to medium sized tree, these fruit trees are beautiful as an ornamental tree with the fruit being an added bonus. The most commonly sold variety, “Fuyu” is a non-astringent variety. Always check what type of persimmon you are purchasing as the astringent varieties will need to ripen a lot more and some are not as appetising as others.
The astringency refers to the number of soluble tannins in its flesh, these will directly affect the flavour of the fruit. The non-astringent varieties can be eaten whilst the fruit is still firm, whilst the astringent varieties will need to be left to become soft before they are appetising. Persimmons can grow in a variety of soil types, however they do like a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. They like a sunny location and they will need good moisture through the warmer months.
Here in the Hilltops region, I would recommend planting them with protection from the western sun. You will also need to give them a cool root run whilst they are establishing with reliable moisture. They can be quite slow to grow, however it is important whilst the trees are young to give them some formative pruning and training.
The astringent varieties are mainly self-fertile, so you will only need one tree for pollination to happen, however the non-astringent varieties are best planted with two trees to ensure you have a good production of fruit. Fruiting normally happen through Autumn into early Winter.
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