J. HOW TO GROW FRUIT

1.    How to Grow Soft Fruit

2.   How to Grow Tree Fruit

      a) Planting Tree Fruit
      b) Chilling Hours
      c) Pruning
     d) Training

3.   Fruit Trees A-Z

It would be very easy to start a diatribe about the benefits of eating fruit, with lists of vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants, fibre, etc. While all this is very important, it is easy when discussing food to forget the most important thing – the mere sensual pleasure and enjoyment of the beautiful taste and texture of fruit. I have known people who are so concerned about eating healthily that they have forgotten the simple, honest pleasure of enjoying their food. So, for our health we should have a good proportion of fresh fruit in our diet, but for our spiritual health we need to enjoy and remember to give thanks for all the many and varied tastes and textures that all these different fruits can give us.

I have divided fruit into the two categories, i.e. Soft Fruit and Tree Fruit. This is a useful distinction because Soft Fruits and Tree Fruits have to be grown and treated very differently. Soft Fruits have soft fruits, hence the name, and consist of:

  • Briars, like blackberries and boysenberries
  • Canes, like raspberries
  • Small bushes, like currants, gooseberries and blue-berries
  • Ground plants, like strawberries
  • Vines, like grapes
  • Climbers, like passion fruit

Tree Fruits are obviously small or large trees usually having fruit with harder skins that often store well, like apples and pears.

Different Climates:

Some of the fruit on this list will be suitable for a variety of climates. Others can only to be grown in warmer climates, and some will not be able to be grown in climates that don’t have enough chilling hours – however I have listed one or two varieties of apples, for instance, that can be grown successfully with less chilling hours in warmer climates.

Eco & Organic Fertilisers:

As with the section ‘HOW TO GROW VEGETABLES’ both Eco & Organic Fertilisers are referred to here. See the beginning of chapter 9 for descriptions and details and where to obtain Eco Fertilisers in your country.

1. HOW TO GROW SOFT FRUIT

It has to be remembered that most of the soft fruits are woodland-edge plants in the wild. In other words they grow on the outer edges of woods or forests or in forest clearings where there is sun and partial shade and some protection from the worst of the weather.

BLACKBERRY (Rubus fruticosus)

BlackberryI have always found that wild blackberries tasted better than the cultivated ones, but you don’t get the quantity and juicy size of the cultivated ones. Also, there are several thorn-less varieties, which make life a lot easier and more comfortable when handling the canes. The great value of blackberries is that they fruit late, after the raspberries and in time for the first apples – so you can make                                                                                         blackberry and apple pies!

Soil & Site:

They prefer full sun but will tolerate partial shade. All the briars prefer a deep rich soil, so digging in at least 2 buckets of well-rotted garden compost or horse manure to each square metre (square yard) will enrich both light and heavy soils alike and also improve its water holding capacity. They also prefer a pH of 6.0 or even a little below. If the pH is 7.0 or higher they can suffer from iron deficiency. Fortunately, iron deficiency can be corrected with a seaweed spray and a dressing of seaweed meal at one handful per square metre (square yard).

Rootstocks:

Blackberries are not grafted and grow on their own roots. Buy one year old plants.

Varieties:

Navaho: These thorn-less blackberry plants deliver all of the flavour with none of the prickles. Navaho in particular is a very upright variety requiring tying to a wire, fence or trellis. This is the variety we grow.

Black Satin: Another thorn-less variety with a good flavour. Black Satin is a slightly earlier to ripen than the Navaho thorn-less blackberry.

Planting:

They are best planted in early winter when they are dormant, when the soil still has some warmth in it to encourage some root growth before it gets too cold, but if they are container grown they can be planted at any time of year, although late autumn to spring is the best time.

The traditional way to plant blackberry plants was to dig out a trench 60cm (2ft) wide and one spade deep. Break up the bottom with a garden fork and spread a layer of well-rotted compost or manure 10cm (4in) thick in the bottom. Mix more compost or manure in with the soil as you refill the trench and it’s also good to sprinkle a handful of bone meal for every metre (yard) of trench for good root growth.

Plant them at 3m (10ft) apart, and cut down the canes to 15cm (6in) after planting.

Support & Training:

You can train and support the canes on a trellis 1.8m (6ft) high, allowing for the fact that the canes will grow 2.5-3m (8-10ft) in length. You can also train them on wires attached to 1.8m (6ft) posts. The first wire should be 1m (3ft) from the ground and then 30cm (1ft) between them till the top.

It is essential to train the canes as they grow. The best way is to train the new growths to one side and last years growth (which will fruit) to the other side, this makes it easier to prune and handle, especially winter pruning.

Maintenance:

Mulch: with 15-30cm (6-12in) of spray-free straw after watering or rain.

Feeding: Mulch with well-rotted compost or manure in late winter. Feeding with liquid seaweed, or compost tea with added liquid seaweed, every 2 weeks during the fruiting season will ensure heavy crops. If the plants show signs of iron deficiency with yellowing between the veins of the leaves, spray with a liquid seaweed and apply a dressing of seaweed meal at one handful per square metre (square yard), or spread fresh seaweed under the straw mulch.

Protection: You will need to net the bushes before the fruit has ripened, otherwise you will end up feeding the local bird population.

Pruning: After the fruit has been picked, cut all the fruiting canes (last years) down to ground level, leaving and tying in the new shoots grown this year to fruit next season.

Harvesting & Preserving:

The fruit will not ripen all at once, so pick regularly as the fruits ripen. They will keep for a few days in a fridge before eating fresh or cooking. They can also be bottled, frozen or dried, or made into delicious jam.

Propagation:

In the wild, briars propagate by seed, but also spread by the tips of the new growths growing into the soil and rooting. The easiest way to propagate blackberries therefore is to select a strong young healthy cane that grew that year. In late summer/early autumn, bury the tip of the cane into the soil holding it down by tying the cane to the wires, or place a stone or brick on it or peg it down. It will not be long before the tip grows roots and pushes its way up forming a healthy young plant, which can be cut off in late spring/early summer and dug up for transplanting.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

First see the first part of section – ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ on how to encourage disease and pest resistance in plants.

Raspberry Beetle:

This is the most common insect to infect Raspberries, Blackberries, Boysenberries and Loganberries. The raspberry beetle isn’t very big – between 3.8 and 5mm (1/8-3/16in). It is pale brown in colour and has short hairs covering its body. You can often see them on the leaves in mid-spring. The beetle lays its eggs on the flowers. The larvae feed on the developing fruit and cause the fruit to appear small and shrivelled. The beetles also eat portions of the flowers and young leaflets. The larvae then drop to the soil and pupate 10-15cm (4-6in) underground and remain there until the following spring.                                    

Raspberry beetle

Raspberry beetle

Raspberry beetle grub on a raspberry

Raspberry beetle grub on a raspberry

                                                                                                                                                         

Control measures include digging-over the soil around bushes to expose the pupae for birds to eat. Traditionally organic growers used to spray Derris ten days after the blackberries have started to flower, but this also kills bees and other beneficial insects. As a result it has become increasingly unacceptable to use Derris. However one can spray with Pyrethrum in the evening, when the bees have gone to bed and the Pyrethrum will have mostly broken down by morning when the bees are about again. Unfortunately, Pyrethrum only kills the young bugs and not the beetles (See also section – ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – Home Made Organic Insecticides & Fungicides). You can also use pheromone traps to allure the beetles. These can be placed at regular intervals along the rows and emptied periodically.

For those who haven’t had a bad attack and are not too fussed by the worms, you can soak the berries in some salty water for about 5-10 minutes. This flushes the worms out and the berries can then be used after rinsing in clear water.

BLACKCURRANT (see: CURRANT)

BLUEBERRY (Vaccinium corymbosum & Vaccinium ashei)

Blueberry

Blueberries are definitely one of my favourite fruits. They are not as sour as many fruits and they have a delicious iron sweet taste. Like most purple and deep red fruit they are high in antioxidants. They are great eaten alone, but also make a welcome addition to any mixed fruit salad.

 

Soil & Site:

Blueberries must have an acid soil – a pH of 5.0 – 5.5 is ideal, so add as much peat as you can to the soil where they are to grow, and if necessary add flowers of sulphur to make the soil more acid. If your pH is 6.5 or above, mix in 30g (1oz) of flowers of sulphur per square metre (square yard). If the soil is heavy, add some sharp sand and peat to open it up. Raised beds in a sunny spot are ideal as you can create the ideal conditions, whatever the underlying soil is. Also, mix in 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic fertiliser per square metre (square yard).

Types:

There are three types of blueberries –

  • Rabbiteyes (Vaccinium ashei)
  • Highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum)
  • Lowbush (Vaccinium angustifolium)

Rabbiteyes are native to the southeastern United States. Supposedly they are called rabbiteye because the berries turn pink before they go blue, reminiscent of the eye colour of a white rabbit. Rabbiteye blueberries:

  • Are very easy plants to grow.
  • They have a long flowering to ripening period compared to other types of blueberries.
  • They are evergreen.
  • They require cross-pollination for fruit set and this will increase the yield.
  • They are less fussy about their soil requiring less acid soil than other blueberries, but still prefer free-draining soil with a pH around 5.5, and no lime.
  • They are reasonably drought tolerant but definitely benefit from irrigation during the development of the fruit.
  • They have a lower chilling requirement than Highbush varieties.
  • They will start producing fruit in 2-3 seasons.

Highbush blueberries are found in the wild in northeastern North America. The name highbush implies it might be the larger plant, but it is actually smaller than rabbiteye. Highbush earned its name because it is taller than lowbush blueberries. Within this group are the Southern Highbush and the Northern Highbush blueberries.

  • Northern Highbush requires higher chill hours than other blueberries of at least 700 hours per year.
  • Southern Highbush types require only about 400 hours or less.
  • Highbush blueberries are deciduous.
  • These blueberries are self-fertile but cross-pollination will increase fruit set, size and yield.
  • They are the earliest berries to ripen, and will crop in the 3rd to 4th season after planting.
  • Highbush plants average about 1.8m to 2.5m (6-8ft), though some may grow to 3m or 3.5m (10-11ft).
  • Highbush blueberry fruits are usually larger.

Lowbush are native to eastern and central Canada and the north-eastern United States. These are very cold hardy requiring high chilling hours, so they are not suitable for growing in New Zealand and other warm temperate areas.

Varieties:

Blue Dawn: Rabbiteye variety. Has delicious large dark blue fruit. 1.5m (5ft) tall.

Delite: Rabbiteye variety – 1.8-2.5m (6-8ft) high. Ripens in late December and January.  Occasionally the Delite blueberries will maintain a pinkish or red tinge even when fully ripened. Because of the delicious flavour the Delite blueberry it is best eaten fresh.

Climax: Rabbiteye variety. Concentrated ripening season, small to medium sized fruit

Atlantic: Highbush variety. Large, wide bushes, December – January harvest, very large, dark blue berries, one of the best for full-bodied flavour. Continuous harvest for about 4-6 weeks. Bears medium crop, reliable.

Jersey: Rabbiteye variety. Large bushes – 2m (6½ft) high, prolific bearer of smallish, intensely flavoured dark blue berries.

Planting:

After preparing the beds as above, plant the bushes in late autumn or early winter, while the soil is still warm to encourage root growth before winter. Plant them 1.8m (6ft) apart, slightly deeper than they were grown in the nursery, then mulch with well-rotted compost or manure, leaf mould or peat.

Maintenance:

Mulch: 6cm (2½in) leaf mould, pine needles or peat.

Feeding: Mulch with well-rotted compost or manure every autumn, and in late winter apply, 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard).

Protection: The bushes will need to be netted as the fruit ripens to protect against birds.

Pruning:

  • In the first few years the tips of the branches should be removed in the autumn to thicken up the bushes.
  • In following years cut out any old or week branches and prune out any branches that are closer than 15cm (6in) apart to allow the free passage of light and air.
  • Both Rabbiteye and Highbush benefit from rejuvenation pruning after a few years, removing the oldest canes entirely as they get unproductive.
  • Rabbiteyes can get quite large, up to 6m (20ft) if allowed to grow unchecked. If you wish to keep them at a height where you can easily reach all the berries, you will need to prune vigorously after a few years of growth.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Highbush ripen about a month earlier in the summer. The fruit is juicier, with a thinner skin. The quality after freezing is quite high. Rabbiteyes are a little tougher and though they freeze beautifully, the skin becomes tougher after freezing. For eating fresh, the Rabbiteyes are a little sweeter. After freezing, the Highbush berry is tenderer than the Rabbiteye.

Propagation:

Blueberries root more easily by softwood cuttings taken from the new growths in late spring/early summer. See chapter 8, ‘Propagation Techniques’ for details.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Birds are the main menace, so cover the bushes with netting before the fruit has ripened.

Highbush varieties are more susceptible to diseases. Rabbiteyes are practically disease free, and they tend to have much longer productive lives.

 

BOYSENBERRY (Rubus. ursinus × Rubus. idaeus)

Boysenberry

For: Soil & Site, Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Harvesting & Preserving, Propagation, Possible Pests & DiseasesSee: BLACKBERRY

Varieties:

Tasman: A self fertile Boysenberry with almost spineless canes to make picking and handling easier. Medium to large delicious berries from December in southern hemisphere and June in the northern hemisphere. Crops well – reliable.

Mapua: Almost spineless canes. Large purple-black fruit with outstanding flavour

 

CAPE GOOSEBERRY (Physalis peruviana)

Cape Gooseberry

Cape Gooseberry plant

Cape Gooseberry plants

                      

 

 

 

 

 

The Cape gooseberry is a member of the tomato family, indigenous to South America. They have bright yellow round fruit about 2cm (¾in) in diameter encased in a papery husk. It can survive a few years, unless knocked back by heavy frosts, but they fruit better on new plants, so it is best to treat them as annuals or biennials and sow a new crop each year. They are high in vitamins A, B and C, protein, phosphorous and iron.

Soil & Site:

Shelter from heavy frosts. Will cope with a little shade. Prefers a light well drained soil, but will cope with clay if lightened with compost and is well drained.

They don’t like over feeding, but 1 bucket of garden compost plus 1 handful of seaweed meal per square metre (yard) forked in before planting is beneficial.

Varieties:

They are just listed as Cape Gooseberries.

Sowing:

You can buy plants, or get some self-sown seedlings from friends or family. Alternatively sow seeds in the spring in a seed tray or pot, transplanting out after the last frosts.

Planting:

Plant out 90cm (3ft) apart in a sheltered site. We grow ours up against a sunny wall. Pinch out the new shoots at planting to encourage a more compact bushy plant.

Support & Training:

Ours climbs up a trellis. You can also tie them to a stake like a tomato plant.

Maintenance:

Mulch: 100mm spray-free straw, or 4cm (1½in) grass clippings around the plants after watering.

Feeding: Spread a handful of seaweed meal, or washed fresh seaweed, around each plant in spring.

Protection: Shelter from cold southerly winds and sharp frosts.

Pruning: Cut back the stems after fruiting to maintain a bushy shape and encourage more fruit.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Make sure that the fruits are properly ripe – when the fruit is a deep yellow or orange colour and the husks are a pale colour, and the husks fall off easily.

Harvest in dry weather and the fruits will last for weeks if left in their husks. Eat fresh, dry them, freeze them or cook them and liquidize them as a topping for cheesecakes or as a sauce for fish. They can also be made into jam.

Propagation:

See ‘Sowing’. Let them self-seed then transplant the seedlings in the spring to a new site.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

The papery husks deter most pests, but they can get the dreaded psyllid – see: TOMATOES in ‘How to Grow Vegetables’.

 

CRANBERRY (Vaccinium macrocarpon)

Cranberry

I love fresh cranberries, dried cranberries and cranberry juice, so much so that I am going to build a small raised bed where I can grow some plants for our own use. Cranberries are low, creeping runners 2m (6½in) in length. They grow wild in acidic peaty bogs in the cooler regions of the Northern hemisphere. They have starry white-pale pink flowers in spring followed later in autumn by fruits about 1-2cm (⅜-¾in) in diameter.

Soil & Site:

Cranberries grow better in nutrient-poor soils that are acidic – pH 4.5-5.5. For those of us who have rich soils with a neutral pH, then a special raised bed will have to be made filled with peat with some topsoil, or mix in 30g of flowers of sulphur per square metre (yard) to make the soil more acid.

They prefer full sun but will grow in light shade. They are very cold hardy but can also tolerate fairly hot summer temperatures and are wind tolerant. They do not need freezing temperatures but they do need about 3 months (very approximate) of temperatures that consistently fall down to the 20 to 70C (350-440F)range.

Varieties:

Crowley: Medium red fruit with a good flavour. The fruit are formed on the upright stems. This variety does not require such low chilling in winter than Bergman, so will probably grow and fruit better in areas with mild winters.

Bergman: Medium red fruit with a good flavour. The fruit are formed on the upright stems. Lower chill requirement than Crowley, so better in areas that have colder winters.

Planting:

Plant in the autumn, spacing plants ½m (1½ft) apart. Plant into acidic soil or work in peat into the soil. Keep young plants moist until established.

Maintenance:

Keep weed free. They do not tolerate dry soils, and need careful watering in hot weather.

Mulch: Mulch heavily with pine needles, leaf-mould or fine bark to reduce weeds and keep the soils acidic.

Feeding: Cranberries prefer nutrient-poor soils, but one or two sprays of liquid seaweed every year in the growing season will keep them healthy, without overfeeding them.

Pruning: Fruit is borne on previous year’s growth. Little care is required apart from reducing tangled growth and trimming to encourage strong dense growth.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Harvest mid-autumn. Harvest when the berries are bright red in colour and they bounce when dropped on a hard surface. If left on the vine the early frosts can sweeten them. Will store for 5 months due to the waxy surface.

Propagation:

Starting cranberry vines from seeds is an exercise in extreme patience and is not recommended. Softwood cuttings root readily in mid-summer – (See: chapter 8, ‘Propagation Techniques’ for details).

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Cranberries have very few problems.

 

CURRANT Black (Ribes nigrum)

Black Currant

The humble Black Currant has recently been claimed as the new ‘Super Food’ because of its very high levels of anti-oxidants – much higher than Goji berries, Boysenberries and Blue Berries.

Antioxidant activity is measured using the ‘Oxygen radical absorbance capacity’ (ORAC).

 

 

ANTIOXIDANT ACTIVITY COMPARATIVE VALUES

  • Blackcurrants         12,881
  • Boysenberries         7,239
  • Blueberries              6,341
  • Goji berries              4,500

They are a rich source of vitamin C, with 4 times the amount of vitamin C as oranges, and they provide significant amounts of vitamin E and carotenes and potassium. They also have anti-inflammatory properties.

Soil & Site:

Blackcurrants are gross feeders with a high nitrogen requirement, so they need a rich soil, with an ideal pH of 6.5. Plant where protection can be given from afternoon sun, but the plants love the morning sun as well as shelter from hot drying winds. Too much salty air damages their leaves.

Prepare the soil by forking in at least 1 barrow load of horse or cow manure and 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser plus 1 handful of fishmeal and 1 handful of seaweed meal per square metre (yard), this may sound excessive but they are heavy feeders.

Varieties:

Magnus: A vigorous grower with large fruit ripening mid to late summer.

Sefton: This is an early variety that is pleasant to eat fresh.

Planting:

Early to mid winter is the best time to plant, at 1.5m (5ft) between them in rows 1.8m (6ft) apart.

Support & Training:

Blackcurrant bushes need no special support or training.

Maintenance:

Blackcurrants have very shallow roots, so do not cultivate between the plants.

Mulch: 200mm of spray-free straw is ideal to suppress weeds and retain moisture.

Feeding: Every year in early spring sprinkle 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser plus 1 handful of fishmeal and 1 handful of seaweed meal per square metre (yard) on top of their straw mulch and water to wash it in. Two sprays of liquid seaweed during the growing season will keep the plants healthy.

Protection: Netting against birds will be necessary before the fruit has ripened.

Pruning: After planting, prune young bushes back to two buds above the ground and allow to grow; then do not prune for two seasons. Thereafter, prune to maintain size by removing old stems to a new low bud, removing at least 1/3 of the old canes, removing those that are drooping on the ground first, so as to keep the bushes as upright as possible. Aim to have 8-10 shoots per bush. No cane should be in place longer than 3 years. To encourage as much young wood as possible cut down old wood to new buds in winter.

NEVER summer prune blackcurrants, as you will cut out next years fruiting buds.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Harvest in mid to late summer, when the berries are firm and easily picked. Expect a few berries in the second year after planting, then heavy crops by the fourth year. They will be in production for ten years or more.

Propagation:

Blackcurrants are one of the easiest plants to grow from cuttings. The success rate is more than 50%, they need no protection or care when growing from hardwood cuttings – (See the section - PROPAGATION TECHNIQUES’ for details).

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Pests:

Currant borer: does its damage on the inside of the cane. The larvae feed on the pith, then emerges as a moth in the spring. A tell tale sign of borer damage is the tip of canes wilting and dropping their leaves. Cut out affected canes then burn the infested wood.

Currant fruit fly: Wormy fruit is the work of the currant fruit fly. Infested berries will have a discoloured area where the egg was inserted by the female fly. The damaged fruit falls to the soil, then the maggot burrows into the soil and emerges as a fly in spring. Control by removing all fallen or damaged fruit.

Diseases:

Mildew: can be a problem in mid to late summer but regular once a week sprays of liquid seaweed will help to avoid this. If it becomes a problem, spray with Trichoderma viride in water, or use homemade organic fungicides – (see the section ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – Home Made Organic Insecticides & Fungicides).

 

CURRANT Red & White (Ribes rubrum)

Red Currant

Red Currant

White Currant

White Currant

Red and white currants are quite different from black currants, in that they fruit on older wood, so they can be trained as vase-shaped bushes on a short leg, or trained as cordons. Our favourite is the white currant, because it is sweeter and less tart than the red currant and most people are happy to eat white currants raw like little grapes. We like them rapped in a pancake and drizzled with maple syrup and a squeeze of lemon.

Soil & Site:

Red and white currants are not such hungry feeders as blackcurrants, but they do love soil rich in organic matter, so incorporate 2 buckets of garden compost plus 1 kg bone meal and 2 handfuls of seaweed meal per square metre (square yard). The bone meal is a slow release fertiliser for good root growth and the high potassium seaweed and all its trace elements are good for fruit production and healthy plants.

Varieties:

Laxton’s No 1 Red Currant: is an early fruiting variety with a fine flavour.

White Versailles: This is the best white currant we have come across with a fine sweet flavour.

Planting:

Bushes: Plant the bushes at 1.5m (5ft) apart with 1.8m (6ft) between the rows.

Cordons: Single cordons should be planted 30cm (1ft) apart, double cordons 60cm (2ft) apart with 30cm (1ft) between each ‘arm’, and triple cordons 90cm (3ft) apart with 30cm (1ft) between each ‘arm’. After planting tie the ‘arms’ upright to the wires and mulch round plants with 15cm (6in) spray-free straw.

Support & Training:

Vase-Shaped Bushes:

Freestanding bushes need training to produce a strong, vase-shaped bush with eight main branches and an open centre on a 15cm (6in) stem. To do this the young rooted cutting is encouraged to produce four good branches on a 15cm (6in) leg by pruning back to four outward pointing buds 15cm (6in) up from ground level. In the first winter these four branches should be cut back to within 10cm (4in) of their base – the cuts being made just above an outward pointing bud at an angle of 300 in order to form a bowl-shaped bush.

For the next three years, when the leaves have fallen, prune back these branches by half to an outward pointing bud and the side growths (laterals) cut back to 2.5cm (1in). This type of pruning should continue for the first four years resulting in good strong branches with short side branches or ‘spurs’ which will produce the flowers and fruit.

After the first five years cut back the leaders or end growths of each branch by about ¼ resulting in eight or nine branches, each of which will be like a cordon with short fruiting spurs all the way up. The aim is to have the branches spaced about 18cm (7in) apart.

If any suckers should develop at the base of the bush, these should be cut out as soon as seen.

Summer pruning is called ‘brutting’ – this is done, by breaking off the laterals or side growths with the back of a knife to within 15cm (6in) of their base when the currants are starting to colour. This will let in light and air into the centre of the bush helping the fruit to ripen better, and also encourages the production of fruit buds at the base of the laterals for future production.

Cordons:

Single Cordons should also be grown on a 15cm (6in) bare leg, rubbing out any buds below that. Immediately after planting, cut back the leading shoot by a third of the growth it made that year and cutting back side growths or laterals to 2.5cm (1in). In the summer, ‘brutt’ the side growths with the back of a knife to 15cm (6in) of the base.

Every winter prune back by a third until the final height is reached, then prune to that height each year.

Double & Triple Cordons – Cut back the rooted cutting to two or three buds just above 15cm (6in), rubbing out any buds below that. As the two or three shoots grow bend them out and upwards and tie them to the wires at 30cm (1ft) apart. Winter and summer prune each branch as single cordons above.

Maintenance:

Mulch: Mulch with 10-15cm (4-6in) of fresh spray-free straw, or 7cm (3in) leaf mould every spring adding the old mulch to the compost heap.

Feeding: Red and white currants require a lot of potassium, so in early spring each year, when renewing the mulch, apply 2 handfuls of seaweed meal per square metre. Symptoms of potassium shortage are a browning of the leaf edges, which can be solved reasonably quickly by spraying with liquid seaweed.

Protection: Currants are very susceptible to bird damage, from flower bud formation onwards. Cover the bushes with garden netting as soon as the buds appear until after harvest.

Pruning: See above in the training section.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Pick the sprigs of currants from the bush remove the individual currants later with a kitchen fork over a bowl. They will not store fresh, but they can be cooked, frozen, bottled and dried.

Propagation:

Hardwood cuttings are best – (See for details).

Possible Pests & Diseases:

See ‘CURRANT Black’ for details.

 

GOJI BERRY (Lycium barbarum)

Goji Berries

Goji Berries

Goji Bush

Goji Bush

The Goji is a small slightly thorny deciduous weeping woody shrub, originally from China, which belongs to the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes and potatoes. It typically grows 1 to 2 metres (3-6½ft) tall when cultivated and pruned, but will grow taller if you let it.

Goji berries are high in anti-oxidants, but not as high as blackcurrants. However they are tasty with a pleasant sweet-sour taste and are well worth growing. I always include soaked dried ones in my Kefir smoothies.

Goji berries need a little time to get going, so patience is essential – it takes around three years for them to fruit properly. Although the plant will grow, it’ll sulk if its feet are too wet – the main areas for goji production in China are semi-arid, desert-like climates that have high light levels, so long summers and well drained soil are essential.

Soil & Site:

They prefer light soils, but as long as the soil drains well and has plenty of organic matter incorporated in it to open up the soil, they will grow well. As a pH of 6.4 is ideal for most cultivated crops, so it is for Goji. They are actually quite remarkably heat and cold tolerant, but will prefer a site in full sun with some protection from cold winds. Avoid planting near tomatoes and potatoes, as they share diseases, like blight.

Varieties:

Goji are just the wild variety as far as I can gather.

Planting:

The plants should be spaced 1 to 1½ metres (3-5ft) apart.

Support & Training:

I usually suggest training fruit bushes and trees in a vase shape, but Goji are usually limited to one single main stem, from which the side branches droop down.

Maintenance:

Mulch: Mulch with 10-15cm (4-6in) of fresh spray-free straw, or 7cm (3in) leaf mould every spring adding the old mulch to the compost heap.

Feeding: Two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard) in spring and again in early summer mixed into the mulch, plus an autumn dose of garden compost, at one bucket per square metre, to replace the summer mulch.

Protection: See Soil & Site.

Pruning: Because the fruit is borne on the current year’s wood, mainly from the spring and autumn growths, the goals of pruning Goji bushes are to encourage the formation of lateral branches to maximize fruit production, by cutting back canes to produce more laterals and higher yields. Pruning should also aim to limit plant height, improve ease of harvest, and encourage light and air penetration into the bush.

Winter pruning is done to remove spindly canes, remove dead and damaged wood, improve plant shape, and shorten laterals. Summer, pruning is done to head back growth, encourage lateral formation, and remove unwanted new shoots.  One of the most important goals of pruning is to produce an open canopy structure that allows in plenty of sunlight.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Plants will begin fruiting two years after seeding, or the year after planting if one-year-old transplants are used.  Full yields will be reached four to five years from seeding. The fruit needs picking carefully as they bruise easily. They can be eaten fresh, bottled, or made into juice, but the most common way to preserve them is to dry them.

Propagation:

Goji are grown from seeds, however they should be fresh seed

Possible Pests & Diseases:

The most obvious pest and resultant disease would be potato psylid, if you live in New Zealand or North America – see section – ‘HOW TO GROW VEGETABLES‘ – TOMATOES for how to prevent psylid.

 

GOOSEBERRY (Ribes uva-crispa)

Green Gooseberries

Green Gooseberries

Red Gooseberry bush

Red Gooseberry bush

           

Gooseberries are so called because they were made into a acidic sauce for eating with roast goose to counteract the greasiness of the goose, and in France they are called groseilles à maquereau (mackerel currants, or mackerel berries), because mackerel is also very oily like goose and they serve mackerel with a gooseberry-béchamel sauce. I have made a traditional gooseberry sauce for serving with mackerel, that a friend caught, and it was the perfect accompaniment.

There are two types of gooseberry – Cooking and Sweet Dessert. The cooking varieties tend to be hard and sour and the dessert varieties can be eaten like grapes when they are fully ripe. We have tended to only grow the dessert varieties that can be both eaten fresh and picked unripe for cooking.

Soil & Site:

They prefer a site where they have morning sun, shade in the afternoon, and shelter from strong winds. Ideal pH of 6.5. Fork in 2 buckets of garden compost and 2 handfuls of seaweed meal per square metre (yard).

Varieties:

Invicta: This cooking gooseberry is one of the more mildew resistant and heavy cropping varieties. It produces large clusters of classic green fruit. A slow growing, small deciduous shrub that is very prickly but fairly low maintenance.

Monarch: The Monarch gooseberry bush is a good upright vigorous growing plant with slightly reddish dessert fruit. It is very prickly.

Farmers Glory: is arguably one of the best-flavoured gooseberries for cooler climates. When ripe they are a beautiful sweet yellowy-green fruit and the unripe fruit also makes perfect pies and flans. It is a very prolific growing plant that needs a nice open, sunny position.

Planting:

Free-standing bushes are planted at 1.5m (5ft) apart, with 1.8m (6ft) between the rows.

Single cordons should be planted 30cm (1ft) apart, double cordons 60cm (2ft) apart with 30cm (1ft) between each ‘arm’, and triple cordons 90cm (3ft) apart with 30cm (1ft) between each ‘arm’. After planting, tie the ‘arms’ upright to the wires and mulch round plants with 15cm (6in) spray-free straw.

Support & Training:

I have uncomfortable childhood memories of getting pricked trying to pick wild gooseberries from large prickly bushes, and in my late twenties struggling to prune prickly unruly bushes, like prickly octopuses, which were also difficult to net from birds.

As a result we decided early in our gardening and farming career to grow them as double cordons. This ensures having two-dimensional plants that are easy to train and prune and also much easier to net from birds. Whether on wires or up against a wall or fence, they only take up a 20cm (8in) wide strip of ground, ideal for small gardens. We have also found over the years that cordons produce much larger and better quality fruit. (See: ‘CURRANTS Red’ for details on training soft fruit cordons).

Free-standing bushes do not need support. Train the young rooted cuttings by cutting back to three buds 15cm (6in) from ground level to create a short leg. For the first few years cut the main branches back by a third to sidewise facing buds – this will produce more branches, preferably eight or nine with an open centre. Once the main branches have reached the height you want, cut them back to that height each year.

Maintenance:

Mulch: Every spring remove last seasons mulch and compost, replacing with 15cm (6in) of fresh spray-free straw, after removing any perennial weeds. This will maintain moisture and smother annual weeds.

Feeding: Apply 2 handfuls of seaweed meal, bone meal, or one handful of rock phosphate per square metre (yard) when you have removed the old mulch and before re-mulching.

Protection: Netting against birds before the fruit is ripe is essential.

Pruning: Prune immediately after harvest.

  • Free-Standing Bushes – After harvest, cut back all side shoots to five buds and train the bushes as above.
  • Cordons – After harvest cut all side shoot to 7cm (2¾in) and cut back any secondary shoots to 2.5cm (1in).

Harvesting & Preserving:

For cooking pick the berries when they are ripe, but still firm. For eating fresh, pick when well ripe and starting to be soft.

Over the years we have bottled them and frozen them for cooking and pie making during the winter months. The best way to freeze them, is to top and tail them, then lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer over night. Next day put them in a large slip-lock bag and store in the freezer until needed. This way they won’t be all stuck together. This method can be used for raspberries and other soft fruit.

Propagation:

Hardwood cuttings are best – (See section ‘PROPAGATION TECHNIQUES’ for details).

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Gooseberry Sawfly:  If the fallen leaves are carefully removed from the ground in the autumn and burnt, and the surface of the soil turned over with the fork or spade (careful of the roots). As a result, most eggs and chrysalides will be eaten by birds, or die of exposure.

Mildew: The main disease is the Gooseberry Mildew that is brought on by humid conditions and drought stressed conditions. Keep well watered but not over watered. Fungicide spray Trichoderma viride, from flowering onwards is a preventive. See section ‘PESTS & DISEASES‘ – The New Generation of Biological Products as well as Home Made Organic Insecticides & Fungicides.

 

GRAPE (Vitis vinifera)

Grapes

Grapes fall into two categories – Dessert Grapes and Wine Grapes, although some are good for both. If you are interested in growing grapes for wine making you will have to do your own research into varieties etc. This section is all about dessert grapes for eating fresh and juicing.

Grapes have high levels of antioxidants and vitamins C and K, and also good levels of vitamins A, B1, B2 and potassium.

Soil & Site:

They must have full sun and long hot summers, but need winter chill as well. In cooler areas you can grow them against a sunny wall that will provide protection and absorb heat in the daytime, radiating it out at night; or you can plant them just outside a glasshouse, a Polytunnel, or outside a conservatory, training them in through a hole to grow inside in the warm, as we did in the UK very successfully; making sure that in the winter the temperature goes down to at least 50C (410F) on a regular basis inside the glasshouse or conservatory.

Ideally they need fertile, dry, stony soils, but they will thrive on poor soil as long as it’s well drained and has plenty of organic matter and a pH of around 6.4. Ours do well on our well-drained deep clay soil overlying gravel.

Too much nitrogen will cause lots of leaf growth and not so much fruit; so don’t use animal manures or organic fertilisers, like blood & bone, or fishmeal.

Fork in 1 bucket of garden compost and 2 handfuls of seaweed meal per square metre (yard), and if you have a very heavy soil you could also add some sharp sand.

Varieties:

Niagara: Niagara grapes are an excellent choice for the organic home gardener. A very early white dessert grape, sweet with a lovely mild flavour. Ripens late summer. Easy to grow with reliable heavy crops.

Thomson’s Seedless: The Thompson Seedless grape vine produces large bunches of sweet seedless green grapes. It is a popular commercial table grape in California but the reason I have included it is it makes great raisins, because it ripens early in the season and has a high sugar content it is good for making sundried raisins.

Niagra: This is a very fragrant great tasting green table grape with very few small seeds. It has a sweet-tangy, sharp flavour. It is a vigorous and healthy grower, bearing large bunches of fruit mid-season.

Albany Surprise: This is one for those who want a black grape. A very sweet black table grape of sweet traditional flavour. Not seedless.

Planting:

Plant in the autumn or early winter while the soil is still warm, so that some root growth will occur to establish the plant. Plant next to one of the upright stakes, water, then mulch with spray-free straw, 10cm (4in) thick.

Support:

Whether planted against a fence or wall, or freestanding, the vine will need strong wires to support them. You can train them on two or three wires. We have a two-wire structure, the bottom wire at 60cm (2ft) above the ground and the second at 1m (3ft) for the vine to grow on with another wire at 1.6m (5ft), to support the garden netting at fruiting time against birds. The wires are supported by 2m (6½ft) waratahs (metal Y posts) hammered into the ground 2m (6½ft) apart and 1.5m (5ft) waratahs at a 450 angle supporting the end posts wedged into a slot in the uprights. You can also use 5 x 5cm (2in) square, or other strong wooden posts. Then strain 2mm (AWG 12) (SWG 14) wires, the first at 60cm (2ft) from the ground, the second at 1m (3ft), and the third at 1.4m (4½ft).

If the wires are against a wall or fence, they need to be held 8cm (3in) out from the wall by galvanized metal brackets and eye-loop strainers at the ends to tension the wires, to hold the vines away from the wall to allow air circulation and to make pruning and training easier.

Training:

Three Wire System

1st AUTUMN/WINTER

1. Plant next to one of the upright stakes.
2. Immediately after planting if there is more than one shoot, reduce to the largest one.
3. Cut back the main shoot to thee strong buds, level with the bottom wire.

1st SUMMER

1. The following summer the three buds will grow up. Tie these as they grow to the stake.
2. During the summer cut back any side growths to three leaves.

2nd WINTER

  1. Cut back the main shoot to three buds at or just below the second wire.
  2. Tie the two other shoots to the bottom wire, one either side of the stake and prune them back by one third. If there are more than two cut out the weaker ones.
  3. Cut back all the side shoots right back to one healthy bud only.

2nd SUMMER

  1. The central shoot will again produce three shoots, tie the top one to the stake and train and loosely tie in the other two to the second wire, either side, as they grow.
  2. Pinch back any side shoots to two leaves after each flower, allowing only one bunch of grapes for each side growth.

2nd AUTUMN

  1. Cut back the main shoot to two buds at or just below the top wire.
  2. Cut back each of the main side stems growing on the second wire by a third and finish tying them on.
  3. Also cut back the two bottom stems by a third until they have reached the right length in future years.
  4. Cut back all side growths and ones that fruited right back to one healthy bud.

3rd SUMMER

  1. Train and loosely tie the top two shoots out along the top wire either side, and cut back all side growths to two leaves after the first flower.

3rd WINTER

  1. Cut back all new stems back by a third, and those that have grown further than is required, and cut back all side growths to one or two buds as usual.

Obviously if you want only a one or two wire system stop at one or two wires and cut back the main shoots each winter by a third.

You can also train the vines up and along a pergola, but it is more difficult to net against the birds.

In the UK we grew our vine in a 10m (33ft) long glasshouse. The single stem was attached to a single wire stretched 25cm (10in) below the central roof pitch.

Maintenance:

Mulch: Take away old mulch each autumn, weed and feed the plants and spread fresh spray-free straw 10cm (4in) thick around them.

Feeding: Before re-mulching once every 4 years spread 1 handful of bone meal, or 1 handful of rock potash every square metre (yard).

Protection: Net against birds before the fruit is ripe.

Pruning: Each summer keep cutting back all side growths to two leaves. They will try several times to grow again, so keep cutting back to two leaves and one bunch of grapes per side growth during the growing season.

A two-layer grapevine before pruning

A two-layer grapevine before pruning

Grapevine after pruning

Grapevine after pruning

Grapevine pruned - detail

Grapevine pruned – detail

For the fanatical amongst us, you can also thin out the small growing grapes in each bunch when they are about 6mm (¼in) in diameter, by cutting out every other grape with some nail scissors so as to get a bunch of big, well spaced grapes.

If there are too many young bunches, cut out some so there is space between them. As the grapes begin to ripen cut off some of the leaves that are shading the bunches, to expose them to the sun to encourage ripening.

Each winter cut back all stems to required lengths, and cut back all side growths and the ones that fruited right back to one or two buds.

Harvesting & Preserving:

In dry weather, cut off the fully ripe bunches with scissors leaving a small length of stem. Leave the other bunches to ripen before cutting.

Eat them fresh, make into juice or freeze for winter desserts.

Propagation:

Harwood Cuttings – See ‘PROPAGATION TECHNIQUES’ for details.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Powdery Mildew: is the most common problem in mid to late season, forming a powdery greyish mould on the leaves and then on the fruit and young shoots as well. Vines that are well mulched are seldom attacked with mildew. Spacing out the laterals and thinning out growths to allow air in also helps. Spraying with weekly sprays of liquid seaweed from mid summer onwards will also help to avoid this problem, both feeding and strengthening the plant’s resistance and also acting as a mild fungicide. If you still get mildew, spray with diluted urine – 3 parts water + 1 part urine, which is a good natural fungicide – and stand upwind whilst spraying!.

 

GUAVA Cherry (Psidium littorale)

GUAVA

Cherry Guavas are woody upright bushes. They are self-fertile. Guavas are highly productive shrubs whose fruits have an exotic perfumed flavour. Although Guavas are a tropical looking fruit, they are frost hardy. If you live where there are cold winters that often drop below freezing, then it is best to grow them in containers and bring them into a glasshouse or conservatory during winter. Guavas are rich in vitamin C. They are delicious eaten fresh, and can also be cooked in pies and made into jam.

Soil & Site:

They like a rich soil, so add 2 buckets of garden compost per square metre (yard) and fork in. Plant guavas in full sun – though they will tolerate some partial afternoon shade. Protect them from strong winds. Guavas grow well in large containers or half barrels, which means you can put them in your sunniest spot.

Varieties:

Red Cherry: rounded red fruits with a tangy, sweet flavour. Very productive plants – good for making jam.

Yellow Cherry: produces round greenish yellow fruits that are slightly larger than Red Cherry Guava. Sweet tasting.

Planting:

Add one bucket of garden compost per square metre and fork in before planting plus a few handfuls of seaweed meal.

Maintenance:

Do not let the plants dry out too much especially when planted in full sun.

Mulch: Mulch with 8cm (3in) spray-free straw.

Feeding: Apply 1 handful of seaweed meal per square metre (yard), or spread fresh seaweed every spring when replenishing the mulch. For container grown plants add three handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser in the spring.

Protection: Plant in a protected area from wind.

Pruning: Not much pruning required. After fruiting you can cut out suckers from the base of plants, remove stems to improve shape of open growing plants, remove dead, diseased and spindly stems.

Harvesting & Preserving:

The yield is very good; you can expect 1 kg (2 pounds) of fruit from a 3-year-old plant, with yields increasing a kilo every year. The small red fruit ripen early in the year.

The fruit is very tasty and can be eaten fresh or added to other fruits in desserts. They can also be added to juices, made into jams and jellies. They can be made into a sauce and added to yoghurt, ice cream or to accompany meat dishes or made into a lovely jelly. They dry easily on a sunny windowsill, a dehydrator or a solar dryer.

Propagation:

You can take heal cuttings or grow them from seed – (see: ‘PROPAGATION TECHNIQUES’ for details).

Cuttings: Take cuttings of half-ripe wood 8-10cm (3-4in) long with a heel in early spring in a frame. Pot up in the autumn and overwinter in a cold frame. Plant out in late spring. Good success rate.

Cuttings can also be taken of mature wood of the current seasons growth, 8-12cm (3-5in) with a heel, in mid to late spring in a shaded and frost-free frame. Plant out in late spring or early autumn. Good success rate.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

In a lot of countries they are generally pest and disease free. However, Myrtle Rust has spread from South America and Brazil to other countries including Australia, Southern Africa and more recently New Zealand.

Myrtle Rust (Guava Rust, Eucalyptus Rust): Myrtle rust generally attacks soft new growth including leaf surfaces, shoots, buds, flowers and fruit. Symptoms to look out for are:

  • bright yellow/orange powdery patches on leaves
  • brown/grey rust pustules (older spores) on older lesions
  • leaves that are buckled or twisted and dying off.
Early signs on leaves

Early signs on leaves

Yellow powdery spore growths

Yellow powdery spore growths                  

  1. If you have it in your area or country, but your plants are not infected, as a preventative I suggest spraying preventively with either the biological spray, Bacillus Subtilis every two weeks during the growing season, or try a urine spray (diluted 3 to one), again every two weeks.
  2. If you already have it, do not handle, or knock the yellow growth, as this will spread the spores. These are the instructions from the NZ Ministry of Agriculture for handling any infected plants, that are applicable to any country:

a)   Spray infected and unaffected plants with a fungicide 3-4 days prior to removal. If fungicide treatment is not possible, carefully wet the plants prior to removal to dampen any spores likely to be dispersed during removal.

b)   Remove plants. Small plants should be enclosed in a plastic bag before being either pulled or dug out. For potted plants, the whole plant, plus the pot, should be placed into the bag and sealed.

c)    Larger plants that do not fit in waste bins can be cut into smaller pieces, securely covered with black plastic or similar and put in a sunny place for 3-4 weeks to kill spores.

d)   Dispose of bagged plants by burying on-site, placing in general domestic waste bins, or transporting in a covered vehicle/trailer to a general waste disposal site (not a green waste site). Do not use infected plants as mulch.

e)    If you become contaminated you’ll need to decontaminate yourself as best you can, so as not to spread the spores. Ideally:

  • Spray the garment with alcohol/methylated spirits or Sterigene.
  • Place the garment in a plastic bag, surface sterilise the bag and place into another bag and leave it on the spot.
  • Spray and clean footwear.
  • Spray the site where you changed from the garment with alcohol/methylated spirits or Sterigene.
  • Phone the MPI hotline 0800 80 99 66 immediately if you live in New Zealand.

 

GUAVA Chilean (Ugni molinae) The New Zealand Cranberry

NZ Cranberry

 

Chilean Guavas are straggly bushes that grow 30cm to 170cm (1-5½ft) tall with small shiny heart-shaped evergreen leaves. They are also called New Zealand cranberries, because the fruit resemble true cranberries, but the texture and taste are different.

They are a lot easier to grow than true cranberries, without the need for special acid peaty soil conditions. They are cold hardy. They can be grown as a hedge, or in containers, and are easily clipped to form a low formal bush. They can be grown as an edible substitute for a box hedge and are ideal grazing food for children. They are high in fibre, vitamin C and K.

Another advantage is that birds don’t seem to eat them, so they don’t need netting and as such are ideal for planting in a forest garden.

Soil & Site:

They will grow and fruit well in partial shade or full sun. They will tolerate salty sea air, but prefer protection against wind. They will grow in sandy soils and clay, but do best in a well-drained soil enriched with leaf mould or other well-composted organic matter.

Varieties:

They are listed as Ugni molinae.

Planting:

Add one bucket of garden compost per square metre (yard) and fork in before planting.

Maintenance:

Do not let the plants dry out too much especially when planted in full sun.

Mulch: Mulch with leaf mould or peat, straw is too coarse for these low growing plants.

Feeding: Apply 1 handful of seaweed meal per square metre (yard) every spring when replenishing the mulch, or mulch with fresh washed seaweed.

Protection: Plant in a protected area from wind.

Pruning: Trim after fruiting to maintain bushy shape and more regularly if you are growing as a box-like hedge. Not much pruning required. They tend to become straggly if left un-pruned.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Yield is very good. You can expect 1kg (2 pound) of fruit from a 3-year-old plant, with yields increasing a kilo every year. The small red fruit ripen early in the year.

The fruit is very tasty and can be eaten fresh or added to other fruits in desserts. They can also be added to juices, made into jams and jellies. They can be made into a sauce and added to yoghurt, ice cream or to accompany meat dishes or made into a lovely jelly. They dry easily on a sunny windowsill, a dehydrator or a solar dryer.

Propagation:

You can layer them, take heal cuttings or grow them from seed.

Layering: As they are naturally straggly plants, layering is an obvious for of propagation. Layer in the winter. Either bend a low growing branch in a U shape burying it about 5cm (2in) deep in a slot in the soil and cover with soil leaving the end growth above the soil. If necessary, pin down with a wire or place a stone on the soil to stop it springing up. Alternatively, bend the branch down into a pot filled with a soil and sharp sand mix, half berried in the soil. The following autumn check to see if the branch has rooted and if it has, cut the new plant from its parent and plant out or grow on in a pot to plant out later.

Cuttings: Take cuttings of half-ripe wood 8-10cm (3-4in) long with a heel in winter in a frame. Pot up the following autumn and overwinter in a cold frame. Plant out in late spring. Good success rate.

Cuttings can also be taken of mature wood of the current seasons growth, 7-12cm (2¾-4¾in) with a heel, in spring in a shaded and frost-free frame. Plant out in early autumn. Good success rate.

Seed: Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow it in late winter in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Myrtle Rust: see: GUAVA above. Otherwise they are generally pest and disease free.

 

HOPS (Humulus lupulus)

Hop

I know it seems strange, but hops are sort of fruits, or rather flowering heads.

Soil & Site:

Hops prefer a rich well-aerated soil that is high in nutrients and has good drainage, so add plenty of garden compost + sharp sand, if the soil is very heavy. Aerate the ground by turning it over several times to aid drainage They are tolerant of a wide pH range of 5.5-8.0, so aim for 6.4, and do not go higher than 6.5. Hops need a sunny site, with no shade.

Support:

Hops can grow to over 7.5m (24½ft) long and weigh 9 kilograms in one season, so a strong, secure trellis structure is important.

Varieties:

You can buy female hop plants on line in many countries.

Fuggle: is an English heritage hop plant, one of the oldest available varieties, developed by the Reverend Richard Fuggles in 1856. This hop plant tends to crop more heavily towards the head of the plant and produces large flowers sometimes referred to as banana hops. Traditional brewers highly prize Fuggle for producing a light flavoured beer.

Cascade: Flowery, citrus & spice with grapefruit the noticeable fragrance. Good for flavour and aroma, but also an acceptable bittering hop. Bred from a cross between Fuggle and a Russian hop, it is the mainstay of US craft brewing.

Smooth Cone: was developed at the Riwaka Research Station in New Zealand in the early 1960′s. Although it is not a heavy yielding variety like some of the modern ones, but the quality is good.

Bullion: Bullion, an English hop variety, was an important variety in its day. Developed in the 1940s, it has been superseded by more modern high alpha hops. Bullion is a bittering hop with a strong blackcurrant aroma. Bullion was used in the production of stouts.

Planting:

Add one bucket of garden compost per square metre and fork in before planting + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, per square metre (yard). Hops should be planted in the spring, late enough to avoid a frost. Spread the rhizomes out, about 10cm (4in) deep. Cover the mound with some straw or light mulch to inhibit the weeds.

Training:

Once the hops begin to grow, select the best shoots and wrap them around your trellis to train them. You will need to train the hops for a few days, but eventually they will begin growing in a clockwise direction. Train the best shoots and trim off the rest.

Maintenance:

Hops enjoy lots of water. In dry climates, or the heat of summer, they may need to be watered daily.

Mulch: Mulch with 10 cm spray-free straw. Replace every spring after feeding.

Feeding: Apply Eco or Organic Fertiliser in the spring and apply new mulch.

Pruning: When Spring comes, take a spade and cut around the rhizome to trim the roots back to about 30cm (1ft). Trimming the roots will prevent the hops from running, as they tend to spread rapidly.

Harvesting & Preserving:

To determine when to harvest, you need to examine the cones (female flowers). Mature hop cones will be dry to the touch, springy, and has its characteristic strong aromatic odour. It will also leave yellow lupulin powder on your fingers. Check the cones every day or two, and when you think they are ripe, pick one and open it. It should be filled with thick yellow-gold lupulin powder if it is fully ripe.

The hops may not all ripen at once, so harvest them as they ripen. Dry the hops out in a warm dry spot in your house, keeping them away from the sunlight. Sunlight can seriously damage picked hops. A paper bag is a good place to store them while drying. The hops should dry out in a week or two. After that, place them in a sealed bag and store the hop cones in your freezer. Remove as much oxygen as possible from the bag to avoid oxidization.

Propagation:

You can take soft wood cuttings in early summer if you want a lot, but if you are only wanting a few plants the easiest is to layer some shoots – (See: ‘PROPAGATION TECHNIQUES’ for details).

Possible Pests & Diseases:

The growing conditions for organic hop production are ideal here in New Zealand because none of the traditional hop diseases, such as powdery mildew, downy mildew, verticillium wilt, are present. However in other parts of the world these diseases exist. They include:

Downy Mildew: Spraying with weekly sprays of liquid seaweed from mid summer onwards will also help to avoid this problem, both feeding and strengthening the plant’s resistance and also acting as a mild fungicide. If you still get mildew it can be treated with Bacillus Subtilis spray. This is a liquid that contains spores of the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, known to inhibit the growth of mildew fungi. The alternative is an old recipe – urine – watered down 3 parts water + 1 part urine, which is an effective natural fungicide, but stand up wind!

Powdery Mildew: Treat as for downy mildew.

Verticillium Wilt: Hops are vulnerable to infection by the soil-borne disease Verticillium Wilt against which chemical treatments are impractical. Strict hygiene is necessary to minimise the likelihood of introducing this disease into hop plantings. Verticillium wilt first appeared in the UK in the 1920’s and was recognised in continental Europe in the 1950’s. Plants infected with Verticillium Wilt must be grubbed-out and the site of infection laid fallow under a weed-free grass cover for several years. Again, plant breeding has produced British hop varieties that are resistant to, or tolerant of, infection by this disease. In Britain the control measures include the non-cultivation of hop plantings and the planting of certified wilt-free stocks.

My serious suggestion is that the ground should sprinkled with Trichoderma viride granules (or powder) at 2 handfuls per square metre around the feeding roots, then watered in to kill the verticillium wilt fungus – definitely worth a try! I have cured a soil-borne die-back disease on my Persimmon tree this way with great success.

Aphids: See: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – Home Made Organic Insecticides & Fungicides.

 

KARAKABERRY

Karakaberry

For: Soil & Site, Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Harvesting & Preserving, Propagation, Possible Pests & DiseasesSee: BLACKBERRY

The Karakaberry is a hybrid berry that has all the flavour of blackberries combined with the lush taste of boysenberries and raspberries.  The long firm fruit are borne on quite prickly canes, which are quick to establish and need tying up on a trellis like a blackberry.

Karakaberries are self-fertile and will grow to a height of 2m (6½ft). They are quick to establish and the fruit is quite resistant to mildew.  The fruit also freezes well and makes beautiful pies and jams.

They ripen December through to end of January (southern hemisphere) – June to end of July (northern hemisphere).

 

KIWI BERRY (Actinidia arguta)

Kiwi Berry

For those who love Kiwi fruit, try these. It is a close relation to Kiwi fruit. It is a perennial vine native to Japan, Korea, Northern China, and Russian Siberia. The grape-sized fruit is similar to kiwifruit in taste, but sweeter and more intense in flavour, and is usually green with a smooth skin. They can be eaten whole without peeling. They are higher in Vitamin C than most citrus fruit.

The vines are vigorous, with each vine can grow up to 6m (20ft) in a single season, given ideal growing conditions, although with us they do not grow as much as that – 3-4 metres maximum. They can eventually grow to 12m (40ft) if allowed to. Plants usually fruit by their fourth year, and bear full crops after the eighth year. Once established, plants can live for fifty years or more.

Soil & Site:

Kiwifruit can be grown in any garden soil provided the pH is between 5.5 and 6.5. The plants thrive in moist soils but do not tolerate poorly drained soils. They benefit from the incorporation of 2 buckets of well-rotted compost before planting.

They will need protection in colder climates. The Royal Horticultural Society in the UK advises that Kiwi fruits require a sheltered sunny position, preferably trained against a south – or west-facing wall, although they can be grown in the open in milder areas. They are being grown commercially at Withers Farm in Ledbury, Herefordshire, England. Young shoots are extremely vulnerable to frost damage in the spring and may require protection, which is easier if they are trained against a sunny wall, which can be covered in sacking or frost fleece, if there is a threat of frost early in the season.

Varieties:

Takaka Green:  The fruit are green skinned fruit cylindrical in shape. This variety was selectively bred in Golden Bay, New Zealand, with crops of 100kg (220 pounds) per vine being recorded.

Marju Red: This is a reddish purple skinned variety bred in New Zealand with a fantastic flavour.

Issai: is a green Japanese cultivar, which has the advantage of being self-fertile.

Planting:

Plant kiwi berries 3m (10ft) apart in mid to late spring, or after the danger of frost are past. Plant one male for every nine females. Plants require frequent watering from the time they are transplanted. It is important to select one or two new canes and train them to grow vertically. Do not allow them to twist around the support pole or wire because as they grow they can get constricted.

Support & Training:

Kiwi berries require a trellis, pergola or other support structure. Train the main cane up the pole to the top of the structure, then train stems along the centre wire or timber. Laterals grow from these arms and can be tied to the outside wires or frame. Fastening the stems will help to keep them from breaking off, especially on windy sites.

Maintenance:

Mulch: Plants benefit from a thick layer of organic mulch, which helps control weeds, adds organic matter to the soil, and aids in moisture retention.

Feeding: Feed late winter early spring with one handful of seaweed meal or rock potash per square metre (yard).  

Pruning: Pruning is necessary both during the dormant season and during the growing season. Two or three times during summer, cut non-flowering laterals back to the outside wire on the trellis. Trim the flowering shoots back to 4 to 6 leaves beyond the last flower.

In the winter, remove canes that fruited last season back to the swollen base where there will be one or two buds, also cut out diseased or tangled canes. Keep the best one-year-old lateral canes that haven’t fruited, spaced about a 30cm (1ft) apart along the arms, trimming them back to about eight buds.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Unlike Kiwi fruit, Kiwi Berries are soft and deteriorate almost as fast as raspberries. If they are not overripe they can be kept a few days, or longer in a fridge. They can be made into jam, made into chutney, yummy fruit leather, or frozen, but we love them so much we eat them fresh. When our vines grow bigger we may have to preserve the excess.

Propagation:

Take hardwood cuttings anytime after the plant has received 500 hours of chilling, or take softwood cuttings in January (southern hemisphere), July (northern hemisphere). Kiwi berries can also be propagated by layering.

See: ‘PROPAGATION TECHNIQUES’.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

See first: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – Health = Resistance.

Also see KIWI FRUIT – Possible Pests & Diseases.

 

KIWI FRUIT (Actinidia deliciosa & Actinidia chinensis)

Kiwi Fruit

Kiwifruit seeds first arrived in New Zealand in 1904, brought back from China by Wanganui Girls College headmistress Isabel Fraser, who had been visiting her missionary sister. She gave the seeds to Alexander Allison, a Wanganui farmer with an interest in unusual plants and the rest is history. Raw kiwifruit is rich in the protein-dissolving enzyme actinidain (in the same family as papain from papaya), which is commercially useful as a meat tenderizer and as a help in the digestion of protein rich foods.

The vines are more vigorous than Kiwi Berry vines, so you will need a lot of space and a substantial framework on which to grow them.

For – Soil & Site, Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Propagation and Possible Pests & Diseases see: KIWI BERRY – allowing for the fact that they are more vigorous and need more room.

Varieties:

Hayward (Actinidia deliciosa): is one of the original cultivars developed in New Zealand and is the common kiwifruit with green flesh. Also resists PSA fairly well.

‘Tormuri’ (Actinidia deliciosa): (male) This is a late-flowering cultivar suitable for pollinating Hayward.

Hort16A (Actinidia chinensis): is a golden kiwifruit with a sweeter golden browny-yellow flesh.

Jenny (Actinidia deliciosa): (self-fertile) well-flavoured fruits.

Harvesting & Preserving:

They are best picked just as they are starting to soften.

I have pealed, sliced and dried them and they are good for nibbles, if a bit chewy. However the dried fruit can be soaked, or better still steamed briefly to soften them before eating.

Kiwifruit makes an excellent fruit leather. Peal and pulp in a food processor, and then dry on thin plastic sheets in the sun, in a solar dryer or home dehydrator.

Freezing is the easiest, most convenient way to preserve kiwifruit at home. The fruit retains its fresh flavour and green colour. Choose fully ripe fruit. Sliced fruit freezes and thaws evenly and is attractive. Crushed fruit may be used for meat tenderizing. Freezing does NOT inactivate the enzyme, actinidine, which helps to break down animal protein. Slices may be frozen individually by placing on baking sheet or tray and freezing; pack after freezing. Good for garnishes.

If you are going to use kiwifruit in gelatine dishes, or milk dishes, you will need to heat the fruit to boiling before using, otherwise the enzyme in it will break down the jelly or milk with messy and runny results.

Kiwifruit can also be made into jam.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

PSA: is present in a number of countries including Italy, Japan, South Korea and Chile. There is no current cure for the disease. ‘Hayward’ variety (‘green’ kiwifruit) appears to be relatively tolerant to the disease and new more resistant varieties are being bred.

PSA is the main disease I worry about. I also spray the vines regularly during the growing season with ‘EcoZest’ in the hope that this will increase the vines ability to resist disease and help to stop an infection, should it come our way. It also helps to control other pests and diseases (See: http://www.indigobiotech.com). There are also eco-sprays and eco-fertilisers that increase plant resistance that can be obtained from companies like:

Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (Psa) is a bacterium that can result in the death of kiwifruit and kiwi berry vines. Growth of the bacteria outside/inside the vines can result in leaf spotting, cane/leader dieback and, in extreme cases, vine death accompanied by the production of exudates (a rusty red liquid discharge).

Symptoms are usually expressed during spring and autumn when climatic conditions are favourable – i.e. cool temperatures, persistent rains and high humidity. Psa is temperature sensitive and active between 10-200C (50-680F), and limited by temperatures over 250C (770F). The disease can be spread via windborne pollen, strong winds and heavy rainfalls. It is believed to be spread by footwear, vehicles and orchard tools, animals and humans. The bacterium infects the plant through natural openings (stomata and leaf axis) and wounds.

Symptoms include angular shaped spots, often associated with a halo, although not all leaf spots clearly exhibit the halo, brown discolouration of buds and, in advanced stages of infection, the leakage of red-rusty gum.  Not all symptoms appear at the same time.

Root Rot Fungus (Armillaria mellea):

Vines may completely collapse; white mycelial mats may be present under bark close to the soil line. Continuously damp soil will favour this disease. Ensure kiwi vines are adequately irrigated but not overwatered. The symptoms are wilting plants; blighting of canes; red, rust coloured cankers on branches, which may exude red coloured discharge.

I would use Trichoderma viride granules; when planting new vines add one handful into each planting hole. With vines already planted sprinkle 2 handfuls per square metre (square yard) around the feeding roots, raked in then watered.

Infected areas should be pruned by cutting 30cm (1ft) below the edge of the canker. Disease severity can be reduced in places with heavy frosts

by protecting plants from freezing over winter, by covering main stems with sacking.

 

LOGANBERRY (Rubus × loganobaccus)

Loganberry

Loganberries are a hybrid cross between a Raspberry and a Blackberry.

For: Soil & Site, Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Harvesting & Preserving, Propagation, Possible Pests & DiseasesSee: BLACKBERRY.

Varieties:

Waimate: is a thorn less variety, with white flowers in spring followed by large dusky purple-red berries, with an excellent aromatic flavour. The core of the fruit is left behind when picked. The canes run 2-3m (6½-10ft). They are self-fertile. They crop in mid-summer.

 

PASSION FRUIT (Passiflora edulis)

Passion Fruit

Passion fruit is a climbing vine native to Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina. They are high vitamin C & A, with some magnesium, iron, fibre and vitamins B & niacin. One vine should supply most families. Vines start bearing within 12 months of planting: they flower in spring to produce a late summer or autumn crop. The flowers are self-fertile and are insect pollinated.

Soil & Site:

Passion fruit is adaptable, but prefers a nitrogen rich, well-drained soil. Dig in 2 buckets of compost plus two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard) into the soil before planting in spring.

Passion fruit requires full sun to fruit reliably, although it tolerates occasional mild frosts.

For colder climates, they can be grown in a glasshouse or conservatory.

Rootstocks:

Different passion fruits are usually grafted onto yellow passion fruit rootstock, which is resistant to various root rots. These grafted vines generally live longer and are also more vigorous.

Varieties:

The most common species are black, or purple, passion fruit (Passiflora edulis), yellow passion fruit (P. edulis f. flavicarpa)

Black Beauty: Flowers 5-8cm (2-3in) across are white and purple, an attraction in themselves. Formed on currant season’s wood and will flower in the first year. But unfortunately the life expectancy of a plant is 4-7 years. Egg shaped, 4-7.5 cm (1½-3in) dark purple fruit with a yellow-orange juicy aromatic flavoured pulp filled with small black seeds.

Red Banana: This is NOT one of those nasty imported invasive weeds (Passiflora tarminiana and P. tripartite) that is here in New Zealand). It is a lot less vigorous than the invasive weed version. Red Banana has large ornamental red pendulous flowers followed by yellow oblong fruit. The pulp has a delicate flavour, is sweet, juicy and aromatic. The fruits take longer to form and mature so they need a longer, warmer summer than normal varieties.

Planting:

Plant in early spring next to the trellis, or 15cm out from a wall with a trellis or wires for the plant to climb on; water, then mulch with spray-free straw 10cm (4in) deep, but keeping it away from the stem to avoid rotting.

Support & Training:

They need support in the form of a trellis, pergola, arbour or fence, ideally about 2m (6½ft) high. Help young vines to climb up their support by attaching with soft ties. It has to be remembered that they can grow 1.5-7m (5-23ft) per year once established, but of course they can be pruned back to control them.

Maintenance:

Water regularly. Weed regularly to avoid competition.

Mulch: Mulch the plant well, but keep it away from the stem, and water in thoroughly.

Feeding: Apply with extra compost in spring and mid-autumn. Plus two handfuls of blood & bone per square metre in the spring. Several sprays of liquid seaweed from flowering onwards keep the vine healthy, supply trace elements and potassium and reduce disease.

Protection: Birds are not interested.

Pruning: Prune in spring every second year: progressively remove any branches below 60 cm to improve air circulation, and also thin out old branches.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Harvest in the autumn when fully sized and coloured – they are at their best when slightly wrinkled. The Panama varieties however, are ripe when still smooth. The pulp can be extracted and frozen.

Passion fruit cheesecake is one of the best uses for the fruit. Mixing the juice and seeds in a fruit salad is good, or pouring over ice cream. Passion fruit curd is also worth Googling and there are many other recipes.

Propagation:

Graft onto yellow passion fruit rootstock to avoid root-rot.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Root-rots: can occur on un-grafted plants.

Brown-spot: and other funguses can be resisted by regular bi-weekly sprays of liquid seaweed during the growing season, as well as pruning and removing infected canes and leaves and opening up the canopy to allow better air movement, which will significantly assist in controlling the problem. Affected leaves retained in the canopy should also be removed to reduce spore numbers.

Corky Fruit: There is also a virus that makes the fruit ‘corky’, unfortunately there is no cure and grubbing up the vines and planting new ones in another site is the only course.

 

PEPINO (Solanum muricatum)

Pepino

Our Pepino bush

Our Pepino bush

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is one of our favourite easy-to-grow fruits. It is a perennial sprawling evergreen shrub related to tomatoes and other members of the Solanaceae family, growing to 1m (3ft) high. The strange 6cm (2½in) oval shaped cream coloured purple-tiger-striped fruit taste like a mild version of a rock melon, juicy and sweet, but with a much longer season and none of the hassles of growing melons. They continue to fruit from early summer to late autumn. In fact we often have some fruit during early winter – and I have just been out to have a look (mid winter as I write) to see if there were any fruits and I found a ripe one hiding under the protection of the leaves up against the sunny wall where it grows. I will now stop writing to eat it.

Soil & Site:

Fork in one or two buckets of compost plus one handful of seaweed meal or rock potash per square metre (yard). Do not use high nitrogen fertilizers, such as blood and bone, fishmeal or animal manure as this will encourage too much foliage and not a lot of fruit and will also encourage diseases. They prefer a pH of 6.5.

Pepinos are very frost tender, so in colder climates you will only be able to grow them in a suitable frost-free conservatory or heated greenhouse, with good light.

Varieties:

El Camino: The medium to large egg-shape fruit turns yellow with purple stripes when ripe.

Incredible Blush: Elongated fruit reaching 10cm (4in) in length, within the average weight of 300g (10½oz). As the cream fruit develops the purple strips darken. When mature there is a rosy blush.

Incredible Ruby: Purple elongated fruit approximately 12cm (4¾in) long when mature. The fruit is juicy with a mild flavour and crisp texture.

Planting:

Plant in spring after the last frost to ensure they have a good growing season ahead of them.

Support & Training:

You can grow Pepino as a freestanding bush, but it is best trained up a low trellis, wires or stakes, tying in the stems as they grow. The best place to grow it is against a sunny wall as in this picture of our Pepino against the wall of our house:

Maintenance:

Mulch: 5cm (2in) of bark chips or 10cm (4in) of spray-free straw around the plants after rain or after giving the plant a good watering.

Feeding: One handful of seaweed meal every spring and/or spraying bi-weekly with seaweed liquid will provide the potassium they like plus all the trace elements without too much nitrogen.

Protection: Protect from winds, especially cold winds. Planting against a sunny wall is best. We haven’t had any bird problems, so we don’t use netting, but others might find it necessary.

Pruning: Prune out any unhealthy or dying branches. Trim and shape the bush. When the fruit is growing, you can cut back some of the leaves to expose the fruit to the sun to encourage ripening.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Pick when they have fully coloured up and are just starting to feel a little soft when you squeeze them. Eat them fresh by cutting them lengthwise, scooping out the seeds and then using a spoon to eat the flesh. They make a great addition to a fruit salad. They can also be made into chutney.

Propagation:

It is very easy to propagate pepinos from soft cuttings. In late spring, cut a length of green stem just below a node 8-10cm (3-4in) long, removing all the leaves except the top 4. Plant half way in a pot filled with a mixture of ½ peat + ½ horticultural pumice. Bend a piece of wire over the cutting and into the sides of the pot, water, then cover with a clear plastic bag secured with a large rubber band and keep somewhere warm, but not in direct midday sunlight.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Potato-Psylid: The two most obvious pests and diseases are potato-psylid and potato blight, both of which can affect pepinos. In Europe the potato-psylid is not present, but in the US and New Zealand it is a pest. I have kept an eye on our one plant for the last three years, but have not seen any psylid bugs on them, although we have had them each year on our tomatoes and sometimes our potatoes. In our experience, if there are tomatoes near by, they will always go for the tomatoes first, then the potatoes and leave the Tamarillos and Pepinos alone. However I have heard of Pepinos being infected, so as a precaution sprinkle one handful of Neem Tree granules into the planting hole, before planting, or sprinkle two handfuls per square metre (yard) around the plant, rake in and water. The natural organic chemical, Azadirachtin in Neem is absorbed through the roots, killing insects that suck the sap – see: POTATOES in section ‘HOW TO GROW VEGETABLES’.

 

RASPBERRY (Rubus idaeus)

Raspberries

Raspberry canes

Raspberry canes

As soon as you have had your fill of strawberries, if that is possible, along come the raspberries. If you love fruit you must have a good row of raspberry canes.

Soil & Site:

Raspberries need a very rich soil high in organic matter and slow-release foods and a sunny position, although they will tolerate a little shade. The ideal pH is about 6.4.

Be sure to thoroughly clear the strip of perennial weeds where you are going to grow your raspberries, because the canes will last ten to twelve years and there is nothing worse than having couch grass, or convolvulus smothering your canes and not being able to do anything about it once they’re planted.

Having done that, dig in as much as a barrow load of compost on 2 square metres (yard) plus ½kg (1 pound) of bone meal and ½ kg (1 pound) of seaweed meal per square metre (yard). This may seem excessive, but your raspberries will love it and reward you over the years. High Nitrogen manures and organic fertilisers should be avoided, as this will lead to lots of vegetative growth at the expense of fruit.

Varieties:

Most of these varieties are older or heritage varieties.

NZ varieties:

Waiau: – Mid to late season maturity. Vigorous upright growth habit. Is one of the easiest of all to grow. Very large light medium red conical fruit.

Aspiring: – Large dark red conical firm fruit. Excellent flavour. Fruits twice a year.

Non Suckering: – This has large red fruit and doesn’t send out suckers – so they say! Obtainable from the Koanga Institute http://www.koanga.org.nz

Australian varieties:

These are available from ‘Diggers Club’, which specialises in older and heritage varieties – see: https://www.diggers.com.au

Heritage: is a very vigorous variety, suited to long hot summers and mild autumn conditions.

Willamette: Last century heirloom variety. Has been the most planted variety in the world. Reliable and heavy yielding, with rich red berries. Mid-summer and autumn cropping.

Chilliwack: Summer fruiting Raspberry that holds its fruit well on the canes, so that they can be picked over time. The almost thornless canes carry sweet fat fruit in mid-summer.

UK varieties:

Malling Jewel: Early/Mid-season, all-purpose variety providing medium to large, high quality fruit of fine, sweet flavour. They are larger and juicier than most while remaining firm. Each cane produces a reliable moderate crop, with the enormous advantage that when ripe, this raspberry will hang on its bush for a good week without becoming over-ripe and mushy.

Malling Exploit: Is a mid summer classic variety. A strong growing and moderately productive selection, the bright pink-red berries are quite large and have a good true raspberry flavour.

Lloyd George: This English heirloom raised raspberry was first introduced in 1919, and has long been prized as an autumn cropper. Although numerous autumn fruiting varieties have since been raised, none carry the intense flavour of the original. Sweet delicate berries with an unforgettable flavour. Too tender for the shops!

US varieties:

Heritage: Everbearing, heavy yielding raspberry producing berries on old canes in early summer and on new canes from August though to the first frosts. Great colour, luscious sweet, red fruits full of flavour that are firm and great for freezing.

Caroline: are an ever-bearing variety very similar to the Heritage raspberries, producing tasty, medium-sized, firm red berries from mid-summer into fall. They are disease-resistant, highly productive and easy-to-grow. The summer crop begins to ripen in late June. The fall crop is highly productive and ripens from August until first frosts.

Autumn Britten: raspberry originated in Great Britain. It ripens before Caroline and Heritage, bearing fruit from late summer through the fall. It has a large, very firm and cohesive berry that is flavourful. Winter hardy.

Support & Training:

The canes need supporting. You can have a single row of 6cm (2½in) square, 1½m (5ft) long wooden posts 2m (6½ft) apart with 5 wires to tie your canes to – but here is a better solution. We have 2 rows of posts 2m (6½ft) long and 30cm (1ft) apart, with 2 rows of wires spaced every 30cm (1ft) and top wires attached to the top of the posts. The 2m (6½ft) posts are hammered in ending up 1.8m (6ft) high. This may seem high but it is so you can drape netting over the canes when they are fruiting to keep the birds from eating them. The canes fit neatly between the two rows of wires to which they can also be tied if necessary in windy areas.

Planting:

This is best done in autumn or early winter when the soil is still warm and some root growth is made to get the plants established before spring. Plant out at 30cm (1ft) apart in rows 1.8m (6ft) apart if more than one row.

Maintenance:

Mulch: Mulch with 10cm (4in) of spray-free straw, or at least 5cm (2in) of compost to keep down annual weeds and retain moisture.

Feeding: Spraying every two weeks through the fruiting season will help to keep them healthy and provide iron. Also spread one handful of seaweed meal per square metre every spring when changing or recharging the mulch.

Protection: Cover the canes with netting before the fruit is ripe to protect against birds.

Pruning: Raspberries fruit on the young canes that grew the previous season – so each autumn after the harvest has been picked you will have the two-year-old canes that fruited that season plus some new canes. Cut out all the older fruited canes leaving the new canes for fruiting next season. As raspberry canes blossom mostly near the tips, shorten the strongest young canes above the top training wire (not the topmost wire for hanging the netting on), the next strongest to the wire below and the weakest to the wire below that to give three storey’s of fruit.

You will also need to dig out any wandering runners, unless you want an ever-growing thicket. The runners can travel up to 1 metre (yard).

Harvesting & Preserving:

The berries do not all ripen at once. When ripe they should be well coloured and should come away from their plug when gently pulled.

The best is to eat them fresh. You can dry them for muesli etc., make great jam, or bottle them. They are easy to freeze as long as you lay them out one layer thick in a large zip-lock bag placed on a baking sheet and placed in the freezer overnight. When they are well frozen, take out the tray and store in the bag. Doing it this way stops them sticking together in a horrible mess.

Propagation:

This is easy. Just dig up some healthy looking runners in autumn, cut them from the parent plants and replant.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Before reading this section, see the first 4 sub-sections of ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ on how to encourage disease and pest resistance in plants.

Raspberry Beetle: See: BLACKBERRIES

Iron Deficiency: Spraying and applying seaweed liquid and meal will avoid iron deficiency.

RED CURRANT (see: CURRANT Red)

 

STRAWBERRY (Fragaria × ananassa)

Strawberries

Strawberry plants

Strawberry plants

As Shewell-Cooper said in his book The Compost Fruit Grower“There is no fruit like the strawberry for proving the value of organic methods of growing.” In other words they thrive in a vibrant healthy living soil, rich in humus and well mulched.

When we had our farm we grew organic strawberries for sale, so we always had enough for ourselves, but now we are having to learn how much to grow for our own needs.

Soil & Site:

The wild strawberry likes to grow on the edges of woodland, so this will give you some idea as to its needs. They need a well-drained soil rich in humus with a good soil structure that is slightly acid – pH 6.4 will do.

First dig over to make sure all nasty perennial weeds are got rid of. Raised beds in a sunny position are ideal for growing strawberries. Fork in a barrowload of well rotted manure or compost, plus 1½ kg (3 pounds) of bone meal to every 3 square metres.

Your strawberry beds will last for two years, so you will need to create a new strawberry bed in a different location every two years.

Varieties:

NZ varieties:

Tioga: This is an early commercial variety. They are red with white flesh. They taste better than red-fleshed ones, and are very vigorous and healthy growers.

Sundae: Large red fruit with excellent flavour, with firm red flesh in an oval shape.

Royal: Heavy yields of large dark red fruit with traditional flavour. Red flesh. Being a ‘short-day’ crop, make sure you plant early in the season to reap the rewards up to Christmas. This is a compact strong growing strawberry that is resistant to wilt and phytophthora.

Supreme: Very large bright red fruit. Very firm red flesh with excellent flavour. Conical shape. Good resistance to wet weather. Very good yields.

Australian varieties:

Chandler: The most delicious of all the large fruited strawberries. Huge berries, up to 60gms each, that are produced in profusion. Easy to grow in most climates.

Kamu: takes it’s name from the aboriginal word for blood red, and this describes the colour of this fragrant strawberry. An Australian bred variety that produces lots of large sweet strawberries through summer and autumn.

Lowanna: is an Australian-bred strawberry with large, glossy-red, perfectly-shaped, conical fruit. It is suitable for growing from Victoria to Queensland and copes well with hot weather. An excellent home garden variety, it crops over a long period. The fruit has a good flavour; the flesh is medium red with a lighter core.

UK varieties:

Royal Sovereign: is a superb heritage strawberry that has been loved for over 50 years and our favourite variety that we grew in the UK. Although the crop is a little smaller than modern varieties, there is a very good reason why so many people still grow it – the flavour is out of this world! Mid season variety.

Cambridge Favourite: The enduring popularity of this variety has made it one of the most well-known and best-loved varieties available. This mid-season strawberry produces a bumper crop of juicy orange-red fruits with an excellent flavour and texture from mid to late summer. This superb variety is reliable and tolerant of most situations.

US varieties:

Tresca Garden Strawberry: is a super early strawberry variety from Poland. Fruits are a picture perfect shining bright red and bursting with flavour.

Sparkle: strawberries are a classic favourite and have been a popular strawberry variety for over 60 years. The medium-sized fruit is deep red with an excellent flavour. It ripens late. It is widely considered the best strawberry variety for making jam.

Planting:

Be sure you buy virus and disease-free plants from a reputable supplier.

The best time to plant is February when the soil is still warm and some root growth will occur before winter. Plant out 45cm (18in) apart in rows 60cm (2ft) apart. It is very important to take great care when planting strawberries. The roots need spreading out; this is done by planting in shallow holes with a little mound in the middle. The roots should be spread down the sides of the mound, making sure that the crown is well above the soil level.

Maintenance:

Mulch: 4cm (1½in) of leaf mould is the best mulch for strawberries keeping the mulch away from the crowns of the plants to avoid rot.

Feeding: Mulch with more compost in the autumn and another handful of seaweed meal per square metre, again keeping it away from the crowns.

Protection: You will need to net them against birds before the fruit is ripe, by stretching wires from corner posts sticking 45cm (18in) out of the ground and then stretching the netting over, being sure to peg the netting down round the edges to stop the persistent birds from pushing underneath.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Pick regularly as they ripen, making sure to remove any that are rotting or half-eaten by slugs etc., so they don’t rot the others.

Propagation:

Propagate from runners. The one-year-old plants will send out surface runners with a baby plant on the end. You can peg the runners down so the bottom of the baby plants is in contact with the leaf mould or soil, which will then produce roots. Alternatively sink 8cm (3in) pots into the soil where the baby plants are filled with potting compost. A bent wire is pushed down just behind the plantlet on a runner. By striking the young plants in this way there is least root disturbance when cutting off the young plant and transplanting it. They should have well rooted by late summer or early autumn ready for transplanting in their new bed.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

See ‘Protection’ for netting against birds.

Slugs: are a big problem in a wet season. Last year we had a wet late spring and the slugs ate the first lot of strawberries until I got wise and placed out several beer traps in saucers buried up to their rims around the bed filled with a 50/50 mixture of cheap beer (the slugs aren’t fussy) and water. In the night the choice between eating strawberries and getting pie-eyed was no contest. You may be woken in the night to sounds of loud singing and way-hays, but they will be drowning happy. The saucers will need cleaning out regularly and replenishing with more beer mix. This is a very effective way of controlling slugs without nasty poisons.

Virus diseases: can infect the plants. Usually the symptoms are the plants becoming dwarfed, or the leaves become crinkled or yellow round the edges. If you suspect virus disease, dig up the plants and burn or throw them away and plant new healthy plants in a new area of the garden.

Mildew: can happen with the leaves becoming covered with a white powder, but regular spraying every two weeks through the growing season with liquid seaweed should keep mildew at bay as well as feeding and keeping the plants healthy. If it does occur – (see section: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ for homemade and bought organic sprays against mildews).

 

2. HOW TO GROW TREE FRUIT

There are so many wonderful tree fruits to grow, so if you have a limited space, decide which are your most favourite ones that you cannot do without and grow them. Also I strongly recommend growing as many as possible as fans, espaliers and cordons, grown on semi dwarfing rootstock, so they take up less room and are easier to maintain and pick and protect from birds.

a) PLANTING TREE FRUIT

Starting right with a precious new young tree is essential if you want a healthy productive tree. It may seem a lot of work, but it is a major investment.

  1. Dig a hole 60x60cm (2x2ft) square and 45cm (18in) deep for each tree. If you are on heavy clay, or soil that does not drain well, you will need to break up the bottom of the hole with a fork or crowbar so the hole doesn’t fill up with water.
  2. As you dig out the soil, separate the topsoil from the subsoil. You can spread the subsoil in odd corners of your garden or property.
  3. Mix the topsoil with 2 buckets of home made garden compost plus 4 handfuls of Eco or Organic fertiliser mixed throughout the topsoil/compost mix, or sprinkled in layers as you fill in the hole.
  4. If you don’t have enough topsoil and compost to refill the hole you might have to add some more topsoil from elsewhere in your property to the mix.
  5. Plant your tree into the hole so that it is sitting in the soil at the same level as it was in the nursery or pot previously, making sure the graft point is well above the soil! Make a small mound in the middle of the hole, so that as the soil in the hole settles your tree will not be in a hollow.
  6. If the tree is bare-rooted then you will have to take great care to use your fingers to fill all the gaps between the roots with soil so there are no air-gaps. Holding the trunk and shaking it will help to settle the soil around the roots.
  7. Make a low circular mound around the tree at a radius of 60cm (2ft) to hold all the nutrients and mulch and moisture inside it. You may have to brake down this mound in the winter so it does not hold water inside and drown the tree! After year 2 it will no longer be necessary to maintain the mound.
  8. Sprinkle another bucket of your homemade compost around the tree out to 60cm (2ft) radius all around the tree or inside the circular mound and mulch with at least 10cm (4in) of spray-free straw to suppress weeds over the summer.
  9. Continue feeding your tree on an annual basis each autumn after the rains come, using either composted animal manure or your garden compost.
  10. For larger freestanding trees, they can be sown down with a grass/red clover mix after two years, which can be regularly cut to mulch round the feeding roots.

b) CHILLING HOURS

In cooler areas, this is of no concern, but for those in, or those living in sub-tropical regions, like the top of the North Island NZ, and the warmer areas of Australia and the US for example – chilling hours are important to know about!

One of the most important factors in deciding if a fruit tree will be successful in your area is the number of chill hours required. The definition of chill hours varies, but generally is defined as the number of hours below 7°C (44°F) during autumn and early winter. This time is required for the tree to go dormant and begin its preparations for budding and fruiting the next spring.

Apples have the highest chilling requirements of all fruit trees, followed by apricots and, lastly, peaches and plums.

The simplest model assigns one chilling unit for every full hour at temperatures below 7°C (44°F). A slightly more sophisticated model excludes freezing temperatures, which do not contribute to the proper dormancy cycle, and counts only hours with temperatures between 0°C and 7°C (32-44°F).

For those living in subtropical areas, you will have to obtain varieties that will flourish in warmer conditions, such as Gala and Fuji apples.

Pollination:

1. The first category of fruit trees are those that do not need a pollinating partner to set fruit. These self-fertile trees include all Fig Trees, Nectarine trees, Quinces, Citrus Trees, Sour Cherries, a few Sweet Cherries, Peach Trees, Persimmons, Passionfruit and a few Plums. You only need one of any of these plants to get fruit.

2. Then there are those which are referred to as “partially self-fertile” just to confuse you. They will set fruit on their own but will set even more fruit with a cross pollinating partner, such as Feijoa’s, some plums and some olives.

3. The final group are those ones that need pollinating from other varieties to produce any crops of fruit; these include Apples, Pears, most Cherries, most Plums, and most Olives.

c) PRUNING

Pruning is one of the most difficult things to describe by writing about it. With many illustrations, instructions and explanations one can supply much of the basic knowledge and information that will help any beginner. However, having studied the instructions and illustrations, it is still best to watch some videos by experts and preferably take part in a live hands-on pruning workshop with someone knowledgeable with some trees to work on, or a knowledgeable friend who you can help to prune with, if that is possible. See if you can find out if there are some workshops in your area. You should also find the videos I have recommended very useful, see: APPLES – Pruning.

Why prune and train fruit trees at all?

  1. Maintaining a Good Balance Between Fruit Production and Growth: Pruning back side growths and top growths induces the production of flowering buds and fruit, and at the same time reduces vegetative growth, as long as it is not overdone.
  2. Tree Health: The regular and prompt removal of dead, diseased, or damaged wood, and rubbing or crossing branches.
  3. Tree Shape: Keeping the structure open so sunlight can enter to ripen the fruit and air can flow through, reducing diseases, and pruning the tree to make it easier to harvest the fruit.
  4. Creating a Strong Tree Structure: in order to cope with the weight of the fruit and withstand strong winds better.
  5. Tree Size: The size of the tree is largely determined by choosing different rootstocks that control the vigour and size of the tree, but pruning can also be used to control the height of the tree.

Some Simple Rules & Orchard Hygiene:

  • Prune on a dry day, to limit the spread of fungal spores and diseases.
  • Prune lightly rather than excessively.
  • Make sure your secateurs, knives and loppers are sharp, so you don’t make jagged cuts or tears.
  • Between trees, wipe the blades with methylated spirits to avoid carrying diseases between trees.
  • Use a pruning saw for thicker branches. Start by ‘undercutting’ the underside of the branch, then cut through the rest from the top. This stops the bark tearing away as the branch falls, leaving a wound that diseases can get into. If the branch is heavy, cut it in several sections to ease some of the weight.
  • For apples and stone fruit, pruning paint was commonly used to seal the cuts and theoretically to control fungus diseases and insect attack. However, there is increasing evidence that the claims about pruning paint have not been shown to improve the recovery of the tree, and in some cases does actual damage to the tree by sealing in fungus. Many professionals don’t use any paint anymore. If you feel the need to use something then I would recommend either potter’s clay, or homemade Biodynamic ‘Tree Paste’ spread on and around the cut. Clay acts as a mild disinfectant and seals the cut, but allows it to breath. We have found the Biodynamic ‘Tree Paste’ to work very well over the years. It both seals the cut and speeds up the healing process at the same time by feeding the cells at the edge of the cut. The recipe is as follows:
  1. 1 part potting clay
  2. 1 part fine silica sand
  3. 1 part cow manure

Thoroughly mix together the ingredients with some clean water into a thick creamy paste, which can be painted onto the cut and the edges around the cut or wound.

  • Remove all the pruning waste from your property, especially dead or diseased branches and ‘mummified’ (brown and shrivelled) fruit. We cut then up into short lengths and dry them under the eves of the house to use as kindling in the winter, thus ensuring any diseased twigs are burnt.

Tools:

It is essential to have a collection of good quality tools for pruning and other gardening jobs that will last a long time and do you good service. First are the essential tools, plus some extra ones you might need:

Secateurs

Secateurs are an essential tool for pruning, and for so many other jobs around the garden.

When buying secateurs make sure that they look solid and well made and the weight feels right and that you can operate the safety catch easily with one hand. Personally, I think buying cheap secateurs is a false economy. Do your homework and buy a pair that will last and the blade is made of good quality steel.

There are two types of secateurs –

  • Bypass secateurs
  • Anvil secateurs. 

Bypass Secateurs

Bypass secateurs

These have one thinner and sharper blade and the other that is thicker that pass each other. The blades can get into tighter spaces to be able to cut near a bud or to cut side-shoots back to the main stem and most importantly make cleaner cuts. Bypass secateurs are the type to choose, but if you have a lot of woody, hard stems to cut then it is worth considering anvil secateurs as a second pair.

Anvil Secateurs

Anvil Secateurs

These have one blade sharpened on both sides and a flat metal or plastic block to make the cut against. Anvil secateurs will cut through woody stems with less effort than bypass secateurs, but the cutting block can crush the cut stem and can get in the way of cutting in tight corners.

 

Ratchet Anvil Secateurs

Ratchet Anvil Secateurs

PowerKut have a ratchet cutting action, where a cut is made in several small steps, allowing you to cut up to 25mm (1in) branches. This is a useful feature if you have a weak grip, or suffer from arthritis, as each cut takes less effort, but it is slower. The most recent models have two settings – ‘ratchet’ and ‘non-ratchet’.

Handle design varies most notably with those models that ‘roll’ across the palm in use. If you normally use gloves when pruning, wear these gloves when trying out secateurs.

Heavy Duty Bypass Secateurs

Heavy Duty Bypass Secateurs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pruning Knife

Pruning Knife

A pruning knife is a very useful accessory tool. My grandfather preferred to use his pruning knife for general pruning instead of secateurs. However, even if you prefer to use secateurs, a pruning knife is an important tool for many jobs, including tidying up rough saw cuts and for finer pruning operations.

Pruning Saws

Fold-away Pruning Saw

Fold-away Pruning Saw

 Pruning saw_2   

                            

 

 

Pruning bow saw

Pruning bow saw

                           

 

 

 

Loppers

Bypass Loppers

Bypass Loppers

We consider a pair of loppers to be essential for anyone who will be pruning regularly. Loppers can cope with much thicker branches. We also use it to cut up prunings into kindling for our indoor winter fire lighting.

 

 

Long Reach Tree Lopper / Pole Saw

Pulley-action bypass tree-lopper and pole that stretches to over 3 metres and can cut branches 4 metres up – cutting branches up to 25mm thick.

Pulley-action bypass tree-lopper and pole that stretches to over 3 metres and can cut branches 4 metres up – cutting branches up to 25mm thick.

This long-reach tree-lopper and tree-saw is well worth having, if you have tall trees that need regular pruning. The pulley-action makes cutting thick branches very easy.

BASIC TECHNIQUES

Pruning Small Branches:

a)   Do not cut very near a bud, which might cause the bud to wither and die.

b)   Do not cut downwards towards the bud, because the top bit will rot back, also rain running back may rot the bud.

Correct pruning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   

c)    When cutting back stems or side shoots it is important not to leave a stub above a bud, which will die and rot back later because there is no sap feeding it.

d)   Cutting slightly above the bud at the correct angle is important as long as it is at the same angle as the bud, this helps to shed water away from the bud, helping to reduce the likelihood of wet-rot. The advice used to be cut at 45o but more recent advice seems to be 35o-40o.

Prunning larger branches:             

If you look at the base of any stem where it joins a larger branch you will notice the slightly larger swollen ridge where the stem joins the bigger branch. This swelling contains important growth hormones that allows the cut to grow over when the stem has been cut off. If the stem is cut back flush with the branch, the ‘branch bark ridge’ will be cut off as well, making it very difficult for the cut to heal and grow over, causing rotting over time. So, it is important to cut back to the ‘branch bark ridge’, but not cut into it – see diagram:

Cut at bark-ridge

 

When cutting with secateurs make sure the thinner cutting blade is next to the branch bark ridge for a cleaner cut, this may mean turning the secateurs upside down.

Pruning a Heavy Branch:

Cut heavy branchWhen cutting off a large branch it is important not to just saw it off, because the weight of the branch will brake even before the cut is completed, causing the branch to tear a strip off the main branch as it falls. To avoid this, first make a cut ¼ of the way through underneath the branch, 150mm above the final cut. Then cut through the branch above the undercut. The undercut will stop the tear from travelling back to the main branch. Once achieved, proceed to cut off the short stub left at the branch bark ridge. Finally, if the edges are rough, trim the cut with your pruning knife or other sharp knife – see diagram:

Directing New Growth:

Always remember that you can direct a shoot to grow the way you want it to, by cutting it back to a bud that is pointing in the right direction. For example, if you are training a tree into a ‘Vase’ shape with an open centre, don’t cut back to a bud pointing inwards, cut back to an outward pointing bud – see diagram:

Directing new growth

If you cut back to a bud that is pointing in the right direction, there maybe a bud immediately below it that is pointing in the opposite direction, which could grow – so rub it off with your thumb.

Winter Pruning pip fruit: (apples, pears, Nashi-pears, quinces, medlars). Winter pruning results in strong branch growth, major structural development and the replacement of old, damaged or diseased wood.

Spring pruning stone fruit: (plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries, green gages, apricots). Do not prune in winter. This late pruning in spring reduces canker infections in pruning cuts and allows you to remove winter-killed branches. Stone fruit can also be pruned in autumn immediately after fruit picking.

For more detailed pruning instructions, see the individual trees or shrubs.

 

d) TRAINING

It is always easier to train a young tree than an older established tree. I have made this mistake in the past by buying a 1½ metre (5ft) high pear tree that I wished to train into an espalier, only to find it had already been trained as a bush with the lowest branches too high – so if you want to train the more compact forms of tree such as Spindlebush, Cordons, Espalier, Festooned, Fan or Step-Over, it is best to buy one or two year old trees to work on.

On the other hand, larger young trees with a central stem can easily be trained as a Pyramid or cut off at the required height to train a Bush or Standard tree rather than wasting time waiting for a younger tree to grow.

We suggest that for a small to medium garden, growing most of your fruit trees – apples, plums, peaches, apricots and cherries – as ‘fans’, ‘espalier’ or ‘cordons’ are the best ways for easy maintenance, picking and netting against bird damage of the fruit. Also for colder areas it may be essential to grow more frost sensitive fruit trees as fans or espaliers against a sunny wall for extra warmth and protection. Even citrus can be trained and grown successfully in this way in cooler areas.

For larger gardens and those wishing to create a forest garden, then ‘standards’ and ‘half-standards’ would be more appropriate.

TYPES OF SHAPES

  1. Standard
  2. Bush (Vase or Half-Standard)
  3. Pyramid (dwarf)
  4. Spindlebush
  5. Cordon
  6. Espalier
  7. Festooned
  8. Fan
  9. Step-Over

STANDARD

Standard

The Standard is larger than the bush form, with trunks of 2m (6½ft) or more. Standard trees can reach a total height of 6m (20ft). They are particularly useful where grazing animals are run in the orchard, or where you want to create a Forest Garden. They eventually produce high yields, but being large trees they are difficult to pick and prune without working from a ladder. However they require no special pruning, other than the removal of dead, diseased or crossing branches.

Rootstock:

Apples: They are either grown on MM111 (vigorous) stock for trees up to 4.5m (15ft), or M25 (very vigorous) for trees up to 6m (20ft).

Forming a Standard Tree:

Best to obtain a well-grown young tree up to 2-2½m (6½-8ft) high.

  1. In the first year prune back the main stem to 3 or 4 buds at the required trunk height, say 2m (6½ft). Prune off any side growths and buds below that.
  2. In the next few subsequent years, cut back each side branch by a third to two outward pointing buds. This will build a good structure by increasing the number of branches and keeping the centre reasonably open.
  3. From then on let the tree grow naturally, other than the removal of dead, diseased or crossing branches on an annual basis.

 

BUSH

Bush

The Bush, along with the Pyramid, are the two most favourite forms of freestanding fruit trees for gardeners. Most gardeners like their bush trained trees to have a stem 60-90cm (2-3ft) in length before branching out to form a ‘vase’ shaped tree with an open centre.

Rootstock:

Apples: They are usually grown on M26 dwarfing stock.

Forming a Bush Tree:

Start with a one or two year old tree:

  1. In the first winter cut back the main stem to 4 or 5 outward pointing buds at around 60cm (2ft) from the ground. This will produce your 4 or 5 main limbs in the first year.
  2. In the second winter cut back the main stems by a third to 2 outward pointing buds, which will encourage further branching. Prune back all side growths on the main stems to 7cm (3in) and any secondary shoots to 5cm (2in), to encourage the development of fruiting spurs.
  3. Continue forming the structure until the height has reached 3-4m (10-13ft), and a good shape with an open centre has been achieved.

 

PYRAMID

Pyramid

A Pyramid trained tree is three-dimensional, with a main central upright leader with the lower side branches being longer than the upper ones, resulting in a pyramid or Christmas tree shape. These were the style of trees we planted and grew in our first orchard.

Rootstock:

Apples: They are usually grown on M26 dwarfing stock to ensure they do not get higher than one can reach for picking, pruning and easy maintenance.

Forming a Pyramid Tree:

The main purpose is to produce a tree with a main central stem with layers of side branches stacked at 30-45cm (12-18in) between each layer

Start with a one-year-old tree:

  1. Cut back the main stem to a bud at around 75cm (2½ft) from the ground. This will produce a main upright stem with several side branches in the first year.
  2. In the second winter, when the main stem has reached at least another 40cm (16in), cut it back to 30-40cm (12-16in) above the previous stack of side branches and prune back the side growths on the first tier by a third to downward pointing buds. This will produce a main upright stem with 3 or 4 side branches forming the second tier and the branching and further growth of the first year tier.
  3. Continue this process each year until the tree is 2½m (8ft) high, with four or five tiers 30-40cm (12-16in) apart, with a spread of 1½m (5ft) on the bottom tier, grading to the shortest spread at the top tier forming a pyramid or Christmas shaped tree.

 

SPINDLE-BUSH

Spindle-bush with branches tied down

Spindle-bush with branches tied down

Pegged and tied      Cut out opposite branches

Pegged and tied
Cut out opposite branches

The Spindle-Bush is a variation of a pyramid tree, but with the side branches tied down in a horizontal position. It can be used for apples and pears on dwarfing stock.

Forming a Spindlebush Tree:

Start with a one or two year old tree:

  1. Start training the first year by choosing a strong central branch as the main leader. Prune off any other branches that have an angle of less than about 65º to the central leader, which will remove most branches. Don‘t worry; more branches will grow.
  2. The main trunk should be 60cm (2ft) high before the first side branches. Select only 3 to 5 very well spaced radiating branches to keep as the first layers of the side branches. Avoid selecting branches that are directly across from each other on the central leader (see illustration above).
  3. The idea is to have space of about 60cm (2ft) vertically between branches all the way from the first branch to the top branches. Prune off everything except your chosen side branches.
  4. If your tree is not yet big enough to be able to select branches, you will have to wait until following years. New buds will develop annually along the central leader.
  5. Initial fruit tree training usually takes 4 or 5 years. If some of the branches chosen to be side branches are very long, cut them back by about a third, to encourage more branching.
  6. To encourage horizontal growth of the side branches always cut back to a downward pointing bud.
  7. Continue selecting side branches up the tree as it grows, and continue to remove all other branches. Remember, that you are training the tree for an ultimate goal of 3–5 well-spaced and open side branches for every 60-90cm (2-3ft) of vertical height.
  8. Tie each branch in a horizontal position as they grow by making loops out of strips of double-sided Velcro or strips of rubber around the stems to protect them. Tie these loops with garden twine down to a tent peg or thick wire loop hammered into the ground. Pieces of wood can also be placed between branches to improve spacing (see figure above). After a year or two the branches will have ‘set’ and the ties can be taken off.
  9. Training with ties or pieces of wood should be done for not more than one or two years until the wood has set and no longer needs holding in place. This should be as short a time as possible and should be done carefully so as not to damage the bark.

Rootstock:

Apples & Pears: As with dwarf pyramids use M26 dwarfing stock.

 

CORDON

Two single cordon trees trained on a slant facing the sun

Two single cordon trees trained on a slant facing the sun

 

Cordons are usually single-stemmed trees planted at an angle (usually 45°), with fruiting spurs encouraged to form along the stem. Any side branches are removed by pruning. Cordons take less space and crop earlier than most other forms of fruit tree, so more varieties can be got into a small space, but yields are smaller per tree. They are very easy to net against bird damage as the fruit ripens. They can also be grown as ‘double or triple cordons’ with the main stem trained into two or three stems.

Rootstock:

Apples: Cordons are usually grown on M9 dwarfing or M26 dwarfing stock, M9, being smaller than M26.

Forming a Cordon Tree:

Cordons should be grown on a post-and-wire fence, or on wires attached to an existing fence or sunny wall. There should be 3 wires at 60cm (2ft) apart, with the bottom one 60cm (2ft) from the ground. Before planting, tie canes to the wires at 45o and 75cm (2½ft) apart. Then plant the trees next to the canes, which are used to tie the trees to.

Start with a one-year-old tree:

  1. As soon as you have planted the young trees at a 45o angle, cut back the leading shoot by a third of the growth it made that year, and cut back any side growths to a downward pointing bud, leaving each shoot 7cm (3in) long.
  2. In the first summer prune back any side growths coming from the main stem to 7cm (3in) and any secondary growths to 2.5cm (1in).
  3. In the second winter prune back the leading shoot by a third of that years growth to a healthy bud.
  4. Every summer prune the same way as the first summer.
  5. In the winter keep cutting the leading shoot by a third of that years growth, until the tree has reach the height you want.

 

ESPALIER

Diagram of espalier trained tree

Diagram of espalier trained tree

Our espalier trained Greengage

Our espalier trained Greengage

An espalier tree is a two-dimensional tree with a central vertical trunk with four or five horizontal branches on each side trained on wires.

Rootstock:

Apples: M9 dwarfing stock.

Forming an Espalier Tree:

As for cordons, Espaliers should be grown on a post-and-wire fence, or on wires attached to an existing fence or sunny wall. There should be 4 or 5 wires at 30cm (1ft) apart, with the bottom one 60cm (2ft) from the ground.

  1. Immediately after planting, prune your one-year-old tree to a bud 5cm (2in) above the bottom wire, making sure there are three good buds below the cut.
  2. Next summer allow the central shoot to grow upwards and the 2 side shoots to grow out either side, by tying them as they grow to 2 canes tied to the wires at 450.
  3. In the following winter gently bend the canes with the side growths attached, down level with the bottom wire, removing the canes and tying the side growths to the bottom wire. Then cut back both side growths by a third to a downward pointing bud, and the central stem back by about a third to 3 buds just above the second wire. Also prune all side growths back to 10cm (4in).
  4. Next summer train the next 2 side growths as before, and allow the central shoot to grow upwards.
  5. Next winter train the new side growths to the second wire cutting them back by a third and the older side growths back by a third. Also the top growth by a third to three buds above the third wire and all side growths back to 10cm (4in).
  6. Continue training and pruning as above until the central stem has reached the top and the side growths have grown out to 1.5m (5ft) each way, covering 3m (10ft) overall. Then maintain this size and continue to prune back the side growths as before to encourage fruiting spurs.

 

FESTOONED

Festooned tree with branches tied down

Festooned tree with branches tied down

This is a common form of training in commercial orchards in our local area. Training the branches, by bending them down in a loop, discourages vegetative growth and encourages fruiting buds instead.

Forming a Festooned Tree:

  1. Plant the fruit tree in the spring.
  2. Begin to pull down the branches to form a hoop at the end of the first summer for the fruit tree. Tie soft string to the ends of the branches and secure the branch to the trunk.
  3. Prune any branches that are growing on top of the hoop formed by the branches during the second summer of the fruit tree. At the end of the summer bend more branches into hoops and secure to trunk. Continue this process every year until the desired shape is achieved.

 

FAN

Fan

Fan trees are trained in two dimensions on wires, either between posts, or attached to wall brackets against a sunny wall. They are trained with a short central trunk with several radiating branches growing from the crown. Cherries, Peaches and Nectarines are particularly suitable for this kind of training, as the stems are very brittle and break easily if you train them into espaliers. Also these fruit trees tend to be vigorous, even on dwarfing stock, and growing all the branches from the crown and not having a central stem, ensures every branch gets an equal amount of sap and grows at the same pace.

Forming a Fan Trained Tree:

  1. Immediately after planting, cut back to three good buds just above the bottom wire, about 45cm (18in) high. The following season, three shoots will grow.
  2. In the second winter completely remove the central shoot, pruning the two side shoots to 45cm (18in) long, tying them to canes fixed to the wires at about 200 above the horizontal.
  3. In the following summer, select four shoots from these side-branches – two from the top, one underneath plus the extension. Tie them in and rub off any other buds that appear.
  4. In the third winter, cut back the selected shoots, leaving them 45cm (18in) long.
  5. In the following summer, tie in the branches as they grow. Select side growths 10cm apart to form the fruit bearing shoots. Rub off any unwanted buds.
  6. In the fourth winter, reduce the growth from the main framework branches by about half. From now on pruning is aimed at producing fruit.
  7. In the following summer, allow the side shoots to grow four to six leaves and form a new shoot at their base, pinching out any other new growths.
  8. Once the fruit is picked, prune the fruited shoots out, tying the replacement shoot into its place. Repeat this process every year.

 

STEP-OVER

Step-over

This is a form of espalier, only with only one tier of horizontal branches 30cm (1ft) from the ground. These make a novel and productive border for a vegetable plot, or running along each side of a path.

Forming a Step-Over Tree:

  1. Immediately after planting, prune back the main shoot to two buds at the height of the training wire.
  2. The following summer, train the two side shoots along the wire, tying them as they grow.
  3. The second winter, cut back each side branch by a third, and any side growths to 10cm.
  4. The following summer, continue to train the side branches along the wires tying in as they grow.
  5. The third winter, cut back the main branches by a third, and the side growths to 10cm (4in).
  6. Continue as above until the main branches have reached 1½m (5ft) each way, and pruning the side growths back to 10cm (4in) each winter.

 

3. FRUIT TREES A-Z

APPLE (Malus domestica)

Apple tree

“An apple a day, keeps the doctor away” as the saying goes. I really only learnt to love apples when I was fortunate enough in my late twenties to have land on which to grow them, and I could pick them fresh off the tree when crisp and not too sweet. I love them raw and cooked. Some prefer a hard crisp apple, others a soft mealy type, it is a matter of preference.

They are probably one of the oldest domesticated cultivated fruit. The original wild ancestor of Malus domestica was Malus sieversii, which grew wild in the mountains of Central Asia in southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Xinjiang in China, although later crosses between Malus sieversii and the European crab apple Malus sylvestris has led to the modern domestic apples we have today.

They are the most popular tree fruit for temperate climates. One of the great attributes of apples is that most varieties store well even in colder climates, many varieties keeping well into spring, as long as they are stored above freezing.

Chilling Hours:

Apples have the highest chilling requirements of all fruit trees. Apple cultivars have a diverse range of permissible minimum chilling: most have been bred for temperate weather, but Gala and Fuji can be successfully grown in subtropical conditions – (see the: Chilling Hours section above).

Soil & Site:

They will need a position in full sun. Fortunately, apples will grow on almost any type of soil, providing it is properly managed – (see above for PLANTING TREE FRUIT).

Rootstocks:

Apples are always grafted onto rootstocks with different vigorousness. For large freestanding trees a more vigorous rootstock is required and spindlebush, cordons and espalier-trained trees will need less vigorous rootstocks.

M27 (extremely dwarfing)

  • Suitable for: Dwarf pyramids, spindlebush or step-overs, for small gardens where the soil is fertile.
  • Start fruiting: After two years
  • Ultimate height as trained as bush: Plants reach 1.2-1.8m x 1.5m (4-6ft x 5ft)
  • Growing conditions: Good weed and grass free soil. Water plants during drought. Unsuitable on poor soil and for weak cultivars
  • Staking: Permanently
  • Spacing: 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) apart with 1.8m (6ft) between rows

M9 (dwarfing)

  • Suitable for: Bush, pyramid, spindlebush, cordons; an excellent stock for small gardens.
  • Start fruiting: After two or three years
  • Ultimate height as trained as bush: 1.8-2.4m x 2.7m (6-8ft x 9ft)
  • Growing conditions: Good weed and grass free soil. Water plants during drought
  • Staking: Permanently
  • Spacing: 2.4-3m apart (8-10ft) with 3.6m (12ft) between rows

M26 (dwarfing)

  • Suitable for: Bush, pyramid, spindlebush, cordon, espalier and is ideal for containers
  • Start fruiting: After two or three years
  • Ultimate height as trained as bush: 2.4-3m x 3.6m (8 x 10ft)
  • Growing conditions: Average soils including grassed orchards
  • Staking: Permanently
  • Spacing: 2.4-3.6m (8-12ft) with 4.5m (15ft) between rows

MM106 (semi-dwarfing)

  • Suitable for: All forms except standards
  • Start fruiting: After three or four years
  • Ultimate height as trained as bush: 3-4m x 4m (10 x 13ft)
  • Growing conditions: Tolerant of a range of soils including grassed orchards and poor soils. The most widely used rootstock, but unsuitable for small gardens.
  • Staking: 5 years – longer in exposed locations
  • Spacing: 3.6 (12ft) with 4.5m (15ft) between the rows

MM111 (vigorous)

  • Suitable for: standards and half standards
  • Start fruiting: After four or five years
  • Ultimate height as trained as bush: 4-4.5m (13-15ft), less on light soils
  • Growing conditions: Suitable for most soils including orchards in grass and on poor soils
  • Staking: Staking is not necessary if planted as a one year old but those planted as 2-3 year old trees need staking for the first 3 years
  • Spacing: 4.5m (15ft) apart with 6m (20ft) between rows

M25 (very vigorous)

  • Suitable for: tall standards, especially for a Woodland Garden
  • Start fruiting: after five or six years
  • Ultimate height as trained as bush: 4.5-6m (15-20ft)
  • Growing conditions: Most soils including orchards in grass and on poor soils. They are too vigorous for most gardens except where the soil is poor
  • Staking: Staking is not necessary if planted as a one year old but those planted as two- or three-year-old trees need staking for the first 3 years
  • Spacing: 6m (20ft)

Varieties:

There are so many good apple varieties grown in New Zealand, but I have had to limit the list, concentrating largely on heritage varieties, which taste great and are generally more nutrient-dense, as well as some like Monty’s Surprise and Hetlina, which contain levels of the antioxidants ‘quercetin flavonoids’ and ‘procyanidins’ (compounds known to inhibit the growth of cancer cells) several times greater than that of the most commercially grown apples currently available.

Belle de Boskoop:

Bell de BoskoopBelle de Boskoop is a large, orange-red heritage apple. This apple is firm and crisp, with a full, tart flavour. It is very aromatic which gets sweeter in storage. It is very popular in Europe as both a cooking and fresh eating apple. Crops mid to late season. Stores for 3-4 months or more. Spur bearing, Triploid variety.

 

Bramley’s Seedling:

The famous Bramley apple is a heritage English cooking apple, prized for its fluffy pulp when sauteed or baked. Bramleys have a firm flesh with good acidity – tart yet sweet, which gets sweeter in store. Large fruit and a very good keeper. Hardy, vigorous trees that crop very heavily. Fruit ripens late autumn. Both tip and spur bearing.

Cox’s Orange Pippin:

Cox's

One of the finest apples ever grown and my favourite. Cox’s Orange Pippin has a sweet and tart crisp flavour, making this old variety still a hugely popular apple. It ripens early to mid season. The trees are not vigorous growers but they are productive. The Cox’s Orange is not a great keeping apple but for an eating apple you can’t get better. Spur bearing. It is also susceptible to scab and canker, but with extra care, is still worth growing.

 

Egremont Russet:

Egremont

Russet is a coarse cloth made of wool, which describes the ruff mat skin of russets. This is the classic heritage russet apple, with a rich, sweet, nutty flavour and very firm flesh. It has a lush, sweet and nutty taste that is particularly good when ripened on the tree. It has a firm flesh in a thick olive green-brown skin. It is a small to medium sized apple. It is a self-fertile apple that ripens in late summer. It keeps quite well in a cool place. The tree has an upright, compact habit. Spur bearing. 

Early Strawberry:

A small flattish, very sweet, early apple, ripening Christmas to late February. Green/yellow skin with bright red streaks when ripe. Golden Delicious type flavour and texture. Dessert apple.

Granny Smith:

Grany Smith

The Granny Smith apple is large and has green skin and sharp white flesh. The flavour is juicy, tart, and crisp. It is a beautiful cooking apple with great acidic/sweet flavour for pies, apple sauce and bottling. It crops late in the season and has a long picking period. It is a very good long keeper, well into the end of winter. It is a relatively disease free apple. The trees are self-fertile and are regular bearers that are suited to most climates. They require 600 chilling hours for fruit set. Tip bearing.

 

Hetlina: This is an old European apple with very high levels of beneficial quercetin flavonoids and procyanidins, which are known to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. It is a large apple with bright red skin and a crisp, firm flesh. It is a consistent and reliable cropper of a medium size. The fruit is firm, crisp and red with good fresh eating qualities. A hardy tree with good disease resistance. It ripens in late autumn. Spur bearing.

Laxton’s Fortune: An old heritage variety. Excellent eating apple, with a sweet taste, not too acid with a hint of aniseed. The fruit has red flushed skin with red stripes over a green/yellow base. A self-fertile variety. Has good resistance to black spot. Mid-season bearer. Spur bearing.

Monty’s Surprise: It produces very large fruit – and I mean Large – they can grow up to 12cm (4¾in) diameter weighing in at 400g (14oz). This apple is probably the highest in health-boosting antioxidants. This apple contains very high levels of procyanidins as well as quercetin flavonoid compounds. In vitro cancer testing conducted in France and Australia on this variety has shown its potent effectiveness at inhibiting cancer cell proliferation. It has a crisp, sweet/sharp taste and is equally good as a cooking or eating apple. Originating from a very old tree in the Manawatu, this apple ripens late in the season. The skin has a shiny red stripe over a light green background. It has very good resistance to disease. It ripens in late autumn/early winter. Spur bearing.

Oratia Beauty: One of the world’s most esteemed old heritage apples. Best left on the tree to mature, where it develops a wonderful crisp, juicy, tart flavour. Great for using for apple-sauce and in baking. This large, round to slightly flattened fruit ripens early in the apple season. The tree blooms early and is very vigorous. Tip bearing.

Peasgood Nonsuch: This old heritage apple is up there with Bramley as a brilliant cooking apple. Large, handsome regular shaped fruit that bakes or cooks to a delicately flavoured puree, bakes well and makes a great addition to salads. It is also a surprisingly nice brisk and juicy fresh eating apple. It is a regular cropping tree and relatively disease resistant, ideal for the home orchard. It ripens in mid to late February, just in time for the blackberries. Self-fertile. Tip bearing.

Sturmer Pippin: An old English apple. It produces lovely firm apples with a acidic rich, spicy, sweet and juicy flavoured flesh that is very firm, that makes it a perfect cooking apple for baked apples, pies and cakes. It is also a great apple for drying. The fruit is very high in Vitamin C. Sturmer also makes excellent cider. It is a compact tree with low vigour needing little pruning. It is a good keeping apple and will last for several months stored in a cool dry place. It ripens very late in the season. Spur bearing.

Tydemans Late Orange: Tydemans is a beautiful old English apple. Parents include Cox’s Orange and as a result it is a small crisp sweet apple, with sharp sweet flavours. It is very hardy. It ripens mid to late season. Spur bearing.

Worcester Pearmain: This is an old heritage English variety dating back to the 1870′s. It is a beautiful eating apple with crisp and juicy flesh and an intense strawberry flavour when tree ripened. It has medium-sized bright red fruit that dries well. This very sweet apple is popular with children. The tree is a consistent heavy bearer. Ripens early in the season. Both tip and spur bearing.

A great site to visit is: www.orangepippin.com for the largest list of apples, both heritage and new varieties.

Pollinators:

For apples to fruit well, they need to cross-pollinate with other varieties. So, when choosing varieties make sure you plant at least two or more different varieties of trees that flower at the same time as each other, or in adjacent Flowering Groups.

Some cultivars are triploid – that is they have sterile pollen and need two other varieties for good pollination; therefore, always grow at least two other non-triploid varieties with each triploid variety.

Ask your local nurseryman or find out about the flowering times of the varieties in your area. Also, if you live in a cold climate with late frosts, it is advisable to choose varieties that flower later. Flowering times are classified from group 1. (Very early) to group 7. (Very late)

Here is a list of varieties and flowering times:

Flowering Group 1 (Very early)

Pollinated by groups 1 & 2

  • ‘Gravenstein’ – (this is a triploid with pollen that is sterile, so it needs at least 2 other varieties from group 1 or 2)

Flowering Group 2 (Early)

Pollinated by groups 1,2 & 3

  • ‘Golden Russet’
  • ‘Egremont Russet’
  • ‘Liberty’
  • ‘Merton Russet’

 

Flowering Group 3 (Early to Mid)

Pollinated by groups 2, 3 & 4

  • ‘Belle de Boskoop’– (this is a triploid with pollen that is sterile, so needs at least 2 other varieties from group 2, 3 or 4)
  • ‘Bramley’s Seedling’– (this is a triploid with pollen that is sterile, so needs at least 2 other varieties from group 2, 3 or 4) (also a partial tip-bearer)
  • ‘Captain Kidd’
  • ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’
  • ‘Dayton’
  • ‘Discovery’
  • ‘Granny Smith’
  • ‘Jonathon’
  • ‘Kidd’s Orange Red’
  • ‘Prima’
  • ‘Sturmer Pippen’
  • ‘Worcester Pearmaine’ (tip bearer)

Flowering Group 4 (Mid)

Pollinated by groups 3, 4 & 5

  • ‘Akane’
  • ‘Braeburn’
  • ‘Cornish Aromatic’
  • ‘Early Strawberry’
  • ‘Jonagold’
  • ‘Royal Gala’

There are a few varieties that flower at the same time but are unable to pollinate each other. The following combinations are incompatible:

‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ pollinated by ‘Kidd’s Orange Red’ and the reverse. ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ is ineffective on ‘Holstein’ and ‘Suntan’, and the reverse.

Training: – see section TRAINING above.

Maintenance:

To maintain healthy trees with a minimum of diseases I have an organic and biological spray season through the growing season.

a)   Every two weeks I spray the trees with homemade compost tea mixed with liquid seaweed, that helps to keep the trees healthy and supplies nutrients and trace elements absorbed through the leaves. (see: ‘HOW TO BUILD SOIL FERTILITY’ – Liquid Manures).

b)   Every other week I spray the trees with Trichoderma viride spray, which is a biological fungicide. (see: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – The New Generation of Biological Products).

Mulching:

Young free-standing trees should have bare soil one metre in diameter around the tree, mulched with garden compost 3-4cm (1-1½in) thick for the first few years, after that it can be sown with a grass/clover mix, or beneficial insect attractant plants, like White Alyssum, borage, etc.

Feeding:

See PLANTING TREE FRUIT above, for the initial preparation and feeding of a young tree. For the first two years it is best to keep the soil around the trees free of grass and weed free, mulching down with 2-3cm (¾-1in) compost and feeding each spring with 50-65g (1¾-2¼oz) of blood and bone per square metre. In the third year freestanding trees can be grassed down and espalier and cordons can be mulched with garden compost. Every year it is good to spray the leaves and branches every two weeks with liquid seaweed, or compost tea with added liquid seaweed, and water the soil with liquid seaweed or liquid comfrey juice 2 or 3 times during flowering and early fruiting; this will ensure the trees get all the necessary trace elements and potassium, essential for good healthy crops.

Protection:

Protection against birds pecking the ripe fruit is much easier if the trees are grown as espalier or cordons, because of the easy of netting these forms of tree.

Pruning:

Summer Pruning

Fruiting spurs on an apple branch

Fruiting spurs on an apple branch

Most apple varieties form spurs, (spur bearers), which are a bunch of fruiting buds, growing on the side branches that develop over time by regular pruning, but some varieties fruit on the tips of the side branches or twigs (tip bearers). Traditionally, this meant that different pruning methods were necessary for each type.

For spur bearers, pruning to encourage spurs was carried out on two or three occasions during the summer and using the back of the knife to brake off, or pinch off with the finger and thumb nail, the soft ends of the side shoots to about three leaves. The purpose being to encourage fruit buds further down the side shoots. For tip bearers, summer pruning consisted of cutting back those side shoots that had got out of hand, thus encouraging regular new side growths. The winter pruning consisted of then cutting back all the side growths to three buds, cutting out dead and crossing wood, pruning to train and shape the tree and pruning back leading branches by about a third.

However, many years ago, we procured a book by W.E. Shewell-Cooper called ‘The Compost Fruit Grower’, an out of print book that I have seen advertised on eBay and Amazon. In it he talks about his adaption of a French pruning method developed by Louis Lorette around 1900. This involved almost exclusively pruning in summer, with only tidying up and training in the winter. Shewell-Cooper then adapted Lorette’s method and made it simpler. This is the method we have used over the years with great success.

The pruning starts around the end of December, or as soon as some of the laterals (side growths) are 25cm (10in) or longer when it has become semi-mature. This is slightly longer than Shewell-Cooper suggested, but we have found here in Nelson the growth is so fast that any shorter and the wood will not be semi-mature. In cooler areas like the UK Shewell-Cooper cut back the laterals when they reached 18-20cm (7-8in). Do not cut back the side growths until they have reached that length, to ensure they are ‘semi-mature’. This ensures the re-growth will come from the less well-developed stipulary buds that are hidden in the bark around the bases of the lateral growths. Growth from these buds is weaker and more readily transformed into fruiting wood. So, when the laterals are 25cm (10in) or longer cut them back hard to within 3-4mm (1/8-3/16 in) of the base of the one-year-old shoot concerned – and yes I do mean 3-4mm (1/8-3/16 in)! This method is also suitable for tip-bearing apples. To some this form of pruning may seem drastic and revolutionary, but it really does work.

It means checking the trees regularly during the summer, no longer than 10 day intervals. We are only talking about cutting back the laterals, not the leaders or end growths at all during the summer.

Winter Pruning

This is carried out on the tree as a whole, and is aimed at keeping the tree and its environment healthy, e.g., by keeping the centre open so that air can circulate; removing dead or diseased wood; preventing branches from becoming overcrowded (branches should be roughly 50cm (20in) apart and spurs not less than 25cm (10in) apart along the branch framework); and cutting out any branches that are crossing. For trees that have not yet reached the desired height, length or width, then cut the leaders and end growths back by a third to encourage side growths and fruiting buds.

Pruning Videos to Watch

Stephen Hayes of Fruitwise Heritage Apples, Hampshire in the UK, offers a series of video tutorials on pruning of both young vase shaped bush trees and old apple trees.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_jqgWXlUHM

Chuck Marsh, from ‘Useful Plants Nursery’ in Southern Appalachian mountains, USA, has an easily understood video on how to prune young standard apple trees with both video and diagrams.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVS4hNFwWUQ

Harvesting & Preserving:

It is very important to pick all the apples, including the badly damaged or shrivelled ones, as well as the apples that have fallen. The removal of these from around and on the trees is an important part of pest and disease control.

There are many ways of preserving apples.

  1. Stored
  2. Dried
  3. Leathers
  4. Cooked and frozen

Stored:

The most obvious thing when storing ripe apples is that they are not damaged, bruised, pecked, been pierced by codling moth, etc. – for these will not keep. To quote my old gardening guru Lawrence D. Hills on the subject

Careful picking is all important, because fruit punctured by long fingernails lets in the spores of the fungi of decay. The skin of an apple is Nature’s substitute for polythene, a ‘gift rapping’ like the shell of an egg, designed to preserve the fruit as long as possible.

Always pick apples with the stalks attached. The test for ripeness is to lift the fruit and twist it very gently – if it is ready it will come away – if not, leave it for a few more days and try again.

Codling-Moth & Other Damage

Codling-Moth & Other Damage

Lift the ripe apples carefully, checking all over for damage or codling moth holes, placing them in another container, and place the perfect ones in a basket lined with a towel. Do not tip the apples from one container into another for this will bruise them, and if any fall down while picking, place them in the damaged pile. Place in a single layer in cardboard boxes (obtained from the back of supermarkets) and store in a cool frost-free storage area for the winter.

             

Fresh picked

Fresh picked

Packing with paper

Packing with paper

On Formed Paper-Mashie Sheets

On Formed Paper-Mashie Sheets

 

 

 

 

 

It is a good idea to separate each apple with twists of newspaper so they are not touching each other. Leave the tops uncovered so you can check them regularly during the winter, taking out any that show signs of rot. You can also find formed paper-mashie sheets that apples come in, at the back of supermarkets, to store your apples on, in a cardboard box.

Dried:

Dried apple slices are very tasty and are a very useful way of storing bruised windfalls, pecked, pierced by codling moths, or otherwise damaged apples. Just de-core them, peal them, cut out the damaged bits and slice them into 5mm (3/16in) thick slices or rings, then dry them on racks in a very slow oven set at 600C (1400F), or dry in a solar drier or electrical dehydrator.

If you want them to end up cream coloured you will have to soak the slices in lemon juice and water 50/50, before drying, but we are not bothered. Ours end up a pale brown, but they still taste great.

Leathers:

Fruit leathers are one of my favourite snacks.

4 cups of fruit yield about one baking sheet of fruit leather.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Apples
  • Water
  • Lemon juice
  • Sugar (if needed)
  • Spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)

Method:

  1. Rinse the fruit, peel and core them, then chop.
  2. Place fruit in a large saucepan. Add half cup of water for every 4 cups of chopped fruit. Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the fruit is cooked through. Uncover and stir.
  3. Use a potato masher to mash up the fruit in the pan.
  4. Taste the fruit and determine what and how much sugar, lemon juice, or spices to add. Add sugar in small amounts (1 Tbsp. at a time if working with 4 cups of fruit), to desired level of sweetness.
  5. Add lemon juice one teaspoon at a time to help brighten the flavour of the fruit. Add a pinch or two of cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spices to augment the flavour.
  6. Continue to simmer and stir until any added sugar is completely dissolved and the fruit purée has thickened, another 5 or 10 minutes (or more).
  7. Put the purée through a food mill or chinoise. Alternatively purée it thoroughly in a blender or food processor. Taste again and adjust sugar/lemon/spices if necessary. The purée should be very smooth.
  8. If you have a de-hydrator fill the circular tray provided with the apple purée to the rim and place in the hydrator, set on medium, until the purée has a rubbery leathery feel. This can be stored for many months.
  9. If you are going to use an oven, line a rimmed baking sheet with baking paper. Pour out the purée into the lined baking sheet to about a 5-7mm (3/16-1/4in) thickness.
  10. Place the baking sheet in the oven.
  11. Heat the oven to a low 600C (1400F) preferably on fan setting.
  12. Let dry in the oven like this for as long as it takes for the purée to dry out and form fruit leather. We usually keep it in the oven overnight, so about 8-12 hours. The fruit leather is ready when it is no longer sticky, but has a smooth surface.
  13. When the fruit leather is ready, you can easily peel it up from the baking paper.
  14. To store it, roll it up in the baking paper, put it in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator or freezer, or cut into strips and store in a large glass jar with a good lid.

Cooked & Frozen:

This is fairly self-explanatory.

  1. Peal, core and chop the apples cutting out any damaged or rotten parts.
  2. Cook in a large pan with a little water and a knob of butter.
  3. Cook until mushy, helped by mashing with a potato masher when soft.
  4. Allow to cool.
  5. Fill slip-lock bags with 1, 2 or 4 portions of pulp, pressing out as much air as possible before sealing.
  6. Place the bags flat in the freezer.

Propagation:

Apples are grafted onto specialized root-stock, so if you want to propagate your own apples you will first need to get hold of a young root-stock variety (see list above).

If you want more, you can propagate from the rootstock. Allow the stock tree to grow for two years and cut it down in the autumn. The following season it will throw up several shoots. When they have reached 15cm (6in) start to earth them up, leaving the growing tips sticking out. Keep earthing up as they grow until the mound is 20-25cm (8-10in) high. In the autumn when the leaves have dropped, carefully remove some of the soil mound to see if the stems have rooted. If they have, cut them off at the base with their new roots and plant out in a nursery bed to grow on next season. The following winter you can graft varieties onto these rootstock trees. (See: chapter 8, ‘Propagation Techniques’).

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Look first at prevention in ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – 1. Health = Resistance + sections 2,3,4.

Pests

Major pests of pipfruit include codling moth (Cydia pomonella), leafroller caterpillar (Tortricidae moth family), woolly apple aphid (Eriosoma lanigerum), leaf curling midge (Dasyneura mali) and red spider mite (Panonychus ulmi).

Codling Moth: In a bad year codling moth damage can ensure the majority of your apples will rot in store. The female codling moth injects her eggs into the young fruit and the grubs hatch and start to eat the fruit from within. Some will fall off when still small, others will grow to maturity, but will not be storable through the winter and much of the flesh will be inedible.

The females are wingless. They usually hibernate in the soil at the base of the tree through the winter and then climb up the trunk in early summer to lay their eggs, but in mild winters, some can hibernate in cracks in the bark on the trees themselves. The males can fly. So I have developed a four-fold regime to tackle this pest:

  • Sacking: In early January (southern hemisphere), July (northern hemisphere), tie bands of sacking round the bottom of the trees.  The fully fed caterpillars drop to the ground, or fall in effected fruit after four weeks, and a number of them try to climb the tree to pupate in the bark cracks. They unwisely end their journey in the sacking. Take the sacking off and burn them in May (southern hemisphere) October (northern hemisphere), or put in the waste bin.
  • Grease Bands: When the sacking comes off in May (SH) November (NH), the grease bands should go on and stay on until January (SH), June (NH). Any insect traffic up and down the tree will not be beneficial. Ants carrying aphids, the wingless female winter moths and ‘March Moths’ in some countries and other nasties, will be stopped in their tracks.
  • Pheromone Traps: to catch the flying males. These should be hung in one of the trees from September until March (SH), March until September (NH).
  • Winter Spray: to kill any wingless female codling moths that have decided to overwinter in cracks in the bark, rather than work their way down to hibernate in the soil at the base of the tree. Spray the bare trees with a 50/50 mix of Pyrethrum and Neem Tree Oil at recommended dilutions.

Birds: can peck ripe fruit making them unstorable, although the effected apples can be cooked or dried. If you have problems net the trees. This is much easier if you grow espalier-trained trees, which are trained on wires and are easily covered with netting.

Diseases

Scab (Venturia inaequalis):

Scab leaf (Courtesy W. E. MacHardy)

Scab leaf (Courtesy W. E. MacHardy)

Scab fruit (Courtesy W. E. MacHardy)

Scab fruit (Courtesy W. E. MacHardy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apple scab is one of the most common and most serious diseases that afflict apple trees. It affects both leaves and fruit, usually appearing in early to mid-spring and is more prevalent during a wet spring, following a mild winter. Scab is caused by a fungus, which overwinters on infected leaves left on the ground. The fungus spores are released in the spring during wet weather and are blown by the wind onto vulnerable, newly emerging leaves. So if you had the disease the previous season, one of the best controls is to rake up all the fallen leaves and either burn them or dispose of them with the household waste. Do not compost. Also make sure you get rid of fallen infected fruit in the same way. Once all the leaves and affected fruit have been disposed of, spray the bare tree thoroughly and the ground under and around the tree with Trichoderma viride to kill any spores on and in the soil.

The first signs of scab are small, olive-coloured lesions on the undersides of the leaves. This then spreads, to the topsides of the leaves, which develop lesions as well, that may become black or mottled. Severely infected trees may lose a lot of their leaves by mid-summer, making the tree vulnerable to other diseases. Later the fruit will become affected.

If you have experienced scab in previous years, spray regularly with Trichoderma from flowering onwards, every two weeks alternated with a seaweed spray alternate weeks. At first sign of the disease, dose fortnightly with baking soda, milk or the parasitic fungus Trichoderma viride sprays to slow the spread – (see: ‘PESTS & DISEASE’, Home Made Organic Preventative Sprays and Home Made Organic Insecticides & Fungicides).

The fruit will also develop black or brown scabs or soft areas. The scabs may appear hardened and cracked, but that doesn’t usually affect the inside of the fruit, so you can eat or bottle them after cutting off the scabby bits.

Also try growing scab resistant varieties.

See the Royal Horticulture Society web site for resistant varieties, such as: ‘Beauty of Bath’, ‘Brownless Russet’, ‘Ellison’s Orange’, Epicure’ and ‘Merton Russet’ to name just a few old favourites. Also search your countries resistant varieties.

Canker (Neonectria ditissima): This fungus causes black lesions on twigs and branches. The wood starts to die and shrink.

CankerBoth Scab and Canker can largely be controlled by careful observation, with a keen eye and a hand lens, plus judicious pruning. As soon as you see any signs of the diseases at blossom time, as the young leaves are unfolding, prune off the affected parts, putting them out with your household waste, or burn them, but do not compost. Preventative sprays can also be used – see Scab above.

 

APRICOT (Prunus armeniaca)

Apricots

Soil & Site:

Apricots don’t like a very acid soil below pH 6.0. As pH 6.4 is the ideal pH for the majority of crops, it is also good for apricots. If you suspect that you have a very acid soil, buy a pH testing kit and it should have the amount of garden lime to add per square metre to bring the pH to 6.4

Apricots prefer a well-drained soil, so if the soil is heavy, break up the bottom of the planting hole and put a layer of rubble in the bottom of the hole.

In colder climates with harder winters, fan train the trees against a sun-facing wall. Not only does the wall hold the heat, but the tree is easily covered by sacking or fleece if late frosts threaten the flowers.

(See the section above: PLANTING TREE FRUIT).

Rootstocks:

Apricots are often grafted onto plum rootstock varieties, like St. Julian A to produce semi-dwarf, or Krymsk 1 to produce dwarf trees Alternatively they are grafted onto an apricot seedling such as Prunus armeniaca “mandshurica”, which is a rootstock for apricots that is very hardy and suited to lighter soils.

Varieties:

Moorpark: A heritage variety introduced in the late 1600s and still going strong! Ripening in late summer each year, it is a late variety. It is self-pollinating. This is a favourite old home-orchard apricot. Moorpark apricots have a tendency to get cracked skins when fully ripe, which means they are not considered commercial, but who cares, Moorpark is still the apricot of choice for small holders and home gardeners who live where there are long hot summers and good cool winters. Moorpark apricot is a freestone apricot (has a loose stone) with bright orange skin and flesh.

They are beautiful for drying, freezing and bottling.

Blenheim: The ‘Blenheim’ is said to be the world’s most popular apricot tree. Blenheim Apricots are considered to be the most succulent and have the best flavour. This is a compact tree that blooms earlier than any other apricot tree, and is self-fertile

Moorpark, Trevatt, Story, Hunter and Riverbrite are the most reliable – all are excellent for drying. Moorpark, Blenheim, Earlicot, Supergold and Katy are very good for fresh eating.

Apricots are usually self-pollinating and will do well on their own. However, if you have the space it is best to plant two different varieties that will flower at the same time, producing even bigger crops.

Planting:

See: PLANTING TREE FRUIT above.

Choose two- or three-year-old trees, which should produce fruit in their fourth year. Plant bare-rooted trees from late autumn to early spring, and containerized trees all year round if the weather and soil conditions are suitable.

Support & Training:

They can be grown as free-standing vase shaped trees, but I would suggest growing them as a fan on wires, or in areas with colder winters on wires attached to a sunny wall, or solid sun facing fence. This way it is easier to net them, prune them and generally maintain them.

Maintenance:

Water the tree deeply and regularly to help promote a burst of new growth before the weather cools.

Mulching:

Conserve water by applying a mulch of compost in spring.

Feeding:

To promote growth after pruning, feed the trees with poultry manure, but keep it away from the trunk. This manure’s high pH helps meet apricots’ preference for neutral to alkaline soil. Fertilise again in spring. Using compost as a mulch should provide adequate nutrition. But if the foliage looks pale, supplement with a pelleted slow-release organic fertiliser, like sheep pellets.

Protection:

Frost: In cooler areas, grow a late flowering variety such as Moorpark, as well as training as a fan against a sunny wall. This allows you to hang frost fleece down over the flowers if a late spring frost is threatened.

Birds: Again if you grow them as a fan, it is easy to cover with netting when the fruits are ripening to keep the birds off.

Pruning:

It is recommended that Apricots are best pruned in summer rather than the usual practice of pruning fruit trees in winter. Make sure this is done on a hot dry day so that any pruning cuts heal quickly. I also recommend biodynamic tree paste to protect, heal and allow the cut to breathe – see the section above: PRUNING Some Simple Rules & Orchard Hygiene Bio Dynamic ‘Tree Paste’:

  1. 1 part potting clay
  2. 1 part fine silica sand
  3. 1 part cow manure

Prune back new growth (it is a lighter colour) by a third. Cut out any long vertical branches and any old non-productive spurs. Apricots bear fruit on spurs, the ripened wood that bears for up to four years. Without regular pruning, new wood is not forced into growth and production suffers in later years. Pruning of apricots aims to balance stimulating the growth of new wood by retaining fruit-producing ripe wood. By pruning apricots in summer, sufficient new growth is produced during autumn and hardened off over winter to ensure the following season’s crop while minimising disease attack.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Bottling: See: ‘HOW TO STORE & PRESERVE FOOD’.

Drying: Cut the fruit in half, lengthways, and take out the stone. Then dry the halves on a cake rack in a very slow oven set at 600C (1400F) until leathery but not crisp. For long-term storage, place the dried halves in SlipLock bags and store in the freezer.

Pickling: This is the same recipe as pickled plums. They are great with ham, or cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 600ml (20floz) white wine vinegar
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 kilogram (2 pounds) sugar
  • 2 kilograms (8¾ pounds) fresh apricots

Method:

  1. Bring vinegar & spices to boil then add the sugar.
  2. Turn the heat down to low & stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Boil gently for 2 minutes then add halved apricots & simmer for 4-5 minutes.
  4. Fill sterile bottles that have been in the oven at 1200C (2480F) for a minimum 20 minutes.
  5. Then add seals or caps that have been boiling in a pan of water for 20 minutes and seal the bottles tight.

Propagation:

Apricots are grafted see: Rootstocks above.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Diseases

The most common disease of apricots is leaf curl, but they can also get brown rot, shot hole (Coryneum blight) and rust. Pests include oriental fruit moths and aphids.

Leaf curl: Symptoms affects peach, nectarine, apricot and almond trees. The leaves curl up, becoming oddly coloured and misshapen, before dropping off. The fruit drops off too, or turns purple and gets lumpy warts. Young trees seem more susceptible.

The risk of infection is greater when bad infections have affected the tree in the previous season. Remove any affected leaves and fruit at once and burn them or dispose of them outside of your compost.

Organic growers are allowed to use copper fungicides, but I don’t like using copper because it is washes onto the ground and over time kills off beneficial micro-organisms in the soil, especially mycorrhizae fungi.

Probably the most successful means of treating leaf curl organically is spraying with the parasitic fungus Trichoderma viride, which is a natural organic fungus that feeds on the other fungus. Regular applications of Trichoderma can eliminate leaf curl completely. Trichoderma should be applied at leaf burst and then 2 or 3 times through the season and in the winter to both the tree and the ground around it to kill off spores, after raking up and disposing the leaves by burning or putting in with the household waste. Trichoderma can be obtained from:

Brown Rot: The most common fungal disease affecting the blossoms and fruit of almonds, apricots, cherries, peaches and plums. Brown rot (Monilinia fructicola) overwinters in mummified fruit (on the tree and on the ground) and infected twigs.

The disease first infects blossoms in spring and grows back into the small branches to cause cankers that can kill stems. Large numbers of flower-bearing stems are killed when the disease is severe. Developing or mature fruits show circular or brown spots that spread rapidly over the surface and light grey masses of spores are produced on the rotted areas.

Treatment

  • Choose resistant varieties whenever possible.
  • Prompt removal and destruction of infected plant parts helps breaks the life cycle of the disease in individual trees and small orchards, and may be sufficient to keep brown rot below damaging levels.
  • It is important to rake up and remove any fallen fruit or debris from under trees.
  • Prune trees occasionally to improve air circulation and water at their base to keep from wetting blossoms, foliage and fruit.
  • Use Biodynamic tree paste to seal all cuts and wounds and protect against insects and disease organisms (see Pruning section above).
  • Trichoderma viride spray should be applied every 2 weeks to infected trees starting when the blossoms are just beginning to open and continuing throughout the growing season plus a winter spray of both the tree and the ground around it to kill the spores. If at all possible, time applications so that 12 hours of dry weather follows application.

Shot Hole Disease (Coryneum blight): Most signs of shot hole disease occur in spring, causing spots (or lesions) on new buds and young leaves and shoots. Buds will have a varnished appearance and spots will first look reddish or purplish-brown in colour and about 6mm (¼in) in diameter, then becoming holes.

Good sanitation is key to treating shot hole disease naturally. This is the surest way to keep the disease from coming back. All infected buds, blossoms, fruit, and twigs need to be promptly removed and destroyed. Contaminated leaves around and beneath the tree should be removed as well. Once again I would use Trichoderma as above, and also water the soil with Trichoderma around the tree after the leaves have dropped to kill the spores.

Rust: Regular use of Trichoderma viride or Bacillus Subtilis spray are worth trying.

Pests

Oriental fruit moths: Oriental fruit moth (Cydia molesta) is native to China, but was introduced to Japan and North America and is now also found throughout of Europe, Asia and South America and in Hawaii, Morocco, Mauritius, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It attacks the young shoots and fruit.

Spray the leaves every ten days with Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) after flowering. Alternatively, use the traditional methods below:

Cut off and burn any infested twigs early in the season. Do this soon as wilting occurs and remove about 20cm (8in). Prune trees every year to avoid dense growth, as this growth will restrict the entry of small birds and other predators that will help in control.

Remove loose bark and leaf debris from the trunk of the tree, to reduce hiding places for cocoons. Hessian sacking or Corrugated cardboard bands tied round the lower part of the trunk can be used to trap larvae (caterpillars) looking for a place to pupate. Put these around trunks in mid summer. Inspect regularly and kill any larvae or pupae. Remove in early winter and burn. Also remove and destroy any infested fruit every few days.

 

AVOCADO (Persea americana)

Avocado

I know it’s not a sweet fruit, but nevertheless it is a very valuable fruit tree to grow if you have the right conditions to grow them. The avocado is a tree native to Mexico and Central America and was a staple diet for many ancient American cultures. Avocados can only be grown in hot, Mediterranean or sub tropical climates. In New Zealand they grow in the Bay of Plenty and Northland, but they also grow well in the northern parts of South Island in Golden Bay and in elevated sites around Nelson that are sun-facing and protected. In Australia they grow well in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. In the USA they grow well in California, Florida and Hawaii. They also grow well in South Africa.

Avocados contain 25 milligrams per ounce of a natural plant sterol called beta-sitosterol. Regular consumption of beta-sitosterol and other plant sterols are recommended for their ability to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. One avocado contains around 160 calories, 2g of protein and 15g of oil (monounsaturated fat). As a result, growing avocados is a sure way of growing good amounts of high calorific food on a small area of land.

Soil & Site:

Provide a warm, sheltered sunny position. They are frost tender, especially while young, so protect with frost cloth for the first few years. Hardy to -2° to -3°C (28°-26.5°F) once established. Any free draining soil is suitable. Protect from wind when young. Salt tolerant.

Rootstocks:

Grow seedling rootstock and graft a chosen variety onto it.

Varieties:

Avocados are self-fertile due to having female and male flowers on the same tree. Each sex of flower will open no longer than 12 hours. If the temperature does not exceed 170C (62½°F) the female will not open at all, and if temperature drops when female flower is open, the flower will close. As a result, it is best to plant a different flowering variety for cross-pollination. Avocado varieties have been split into two flowering types. The fruit ripens between late spring through to late autumn

‘A’ Type – Female opens morning of first day and then the Male opens afternoon on the second day.

‘B’ Type – Female opens afternoon of the first day and then the Male opens morning of the second day. That is why it is good to have 2 compatible varieties, see below.

Another way to ensure good pollination in the home garden, if you only have one tree, is to let one of the rootstock suckers grow as a pollinator, but you must control this sucker otherwise it could take over and kill the main plant.

Hass: is the most commonly grown avocado variety in the world. The fruit has a high oil content and a very nutty, rich taste. The flesh has smooth texture and thick skin casing. It has a spreading and open habit of medium height.

Hass is an ‘A’ flowering variety. This means the female flower is open in the morning; the male flower is open in the afternoon. ‘Reed’ is the opposite; so growing the two together will have better results.

Reed: Large round green ‘cannon-ball’ shaped fruit with a smooth dark, thick glossy skin. Smooth and delicate flavour. The skin ripens green. The fruit has a smooth textured flesh with a nutty flavour. The tree has an erect habit and is salt tolerant.

Reed is a B flowering variety. This means the female flower is open in afternoon, and the male flower is open in the morning. Pollination happens when there is a lap over period when both sex flowers are open. Plant with ‘Hass’ (‘A’ type) if you want better pollination.

Planting:

See: Planting Tree Fruit:

Avocados are shallow rooting, therefore stake young plants and mulch well to protect the surface roots and retain moisture. Add two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser in and around the hole prior to planting. When planting do not disturb the root system! If planting in clay soil it is better to grow on a sunny slope, making sure you break up the bottom of the planting hole with a crowbar and create a gravel drain running out of the bottom of the planting hole on the downward side of the slope.

Support & Training:

Avocado treeStake for the first two years. Avocados require early training. When the tree has reached about one metre in height, cut back the central stem at around half a metre to three lateral branches. The following year, cut back each branch by a third, to two sideways pointing buds to create six main stems. Training early will help restrict the tree’s height, and fruit will be produced closer to the ground and more evenly throughout the tree.

Maintenance:

Winter and spring rainfall is probably sufficient but watering in the summer might be necessary. Do not let young trees dry out, but neither should they sit in water.

Mulching:

Mulch around young trees with about 10cm of spray-free straw after weeding the soil; after that sow with red clover around the tree and mulch with the clippings on a regular basis, around the feeding roots.

Feeding:

An application of Eco or Organic Fertiliser in early spring, will help soil texture and improve the plant’s tolerance to Phytopthora (root disease).

Pruning:

Prune to maintain the desired shape and size. Also, be sure to prune off any suckers that arise below the graft or bud union.

Pruning and thinning are not required to keep avocado trees productive or attractive, apart from keeping the tree smaller or more confined and the ‘vase’ shape open as well as cutting out rotten, injured or crossing branches. If you do prune, the ideal time is just before bloom or just after fruit set. Minor pruning can be done at any time, but avoid late-season pruning, which can stimulate excessive tender growth that is likely to be injured by frost. Prune sparingly and remove as little green wood and as few green leaves as possible.

Harvesting & Preserving:

The fruit are ready to pick between late spring through to late autumn, although this varies with different varieties.

Avocados are unique in that they ripen once they’re off the tree. That means that if you’re not ready to harvest them all yet, the best place to store your avocados is on the tree! Do not wait until they drop, because they will be well on the way to rotting. The longer the fruit is left on the tree, the higher the oil content and the richer the flavour they will develop. But leave it for too long, and the oil inside the avocado will turn rancid and the fruit will naturally fall from the tree. The best way to tell whether your fruit is ready for harvest is to pick one nice, large, dark avocado from your tree, and then leave it out on the counter at room temperature. At this point, the thing will be rock hard – all you have to do is wait for it to soften up.

Propagation:

Bud or whip & tongue graft chosen variety onto seedling rootstock.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Phytopthora: This is a root disease. To help avoid this problem, plant into well-drained soil and mix in one handful of Trichoderma viride powder or granules at planting time into the soil around the roots.

 

CHERRY (Prunus avium)

Cherries

There is nothing like a fresh sweet cherry, or several, or a lot – definitely one of my favourite fruit.

Soil & Site:

Full sun is required for sweet cherries. They do best on deep, fertile, well-drained soils. It is essential to deeply dig the soil and add plenty of organic matter before planting – see above section: Planting Tree Fruit. In colder areas grow as fans against a sunny wall on dwarfing stock – see below.

Rootstocks:

The problem with cherry trees is keeping the birds from eating the fruit. We have found by experience that the only sensible way to grow cherries is to grow trees as fans on true dwarfing stock ensuring easy netting against birds, easy maintenance and harvesting. Gisela 5 USPP 9622 semi-dwarfing stock is the one to search out.

Varieties:

Compact Stellar: This semi-dwarf 3-4m (10-13ft), self-fertile, cherry tree is ideal for fan training. It produces large, dark-red fruit that is firm and sweet. The Compact Stella has delicious fruit that is more resistant to cracking. The tree is small and compact, bears at a young age, and is self-fertile. Fruit ripens in late January, and requires 700 to 800 chill hours.

Planting:

See above: Planting Tree Fruit:

Support & Training:

A small stake will be needed while the tree is young and canes will be needed to train the fan branches. For training fans see: TRAINING

Maintenance:

Spray with liquid seaweed and/or compost tea every few weeks during the growing season.

Mulching:

Apart from the annual mulch of compost or rotted manure, mulch during the growing season with 4-5cm (1½-2in) grass clippings or spray-free straw, leaving a little gap around the trunk.

Feeding:

Mulching annually with well-rotted compost or manure is usually sufficient, along with a dressing of seaweed meal or fresh seaweed that has had the salt hosed off.

Pruning:

In late summer pinch out any shoots growing outwards away from the training wires. Cherries produce their fruit on one and two-year wood, so if you cut back these as you would with an apple, you will be cutting out your fruiting wood. The main pruning should be done as soon as possible after fruiting. Once the fruit is picked, prune the fruited shoots out, tying the replacement shoot into its place. Repeat this process every year.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Pick when ripe and enjoy as much fresh fruit as you want to eat. The rest can be bottled, frozen or made into jam.

Bottling:

All the old recipes for bottling fruit always include sugar syrup, but sugar is not necessary. You can safely bottle all fruits in water, or better still in fruit juice or the juice from the cherries, by following reliable bottling directions for preparing and processing the fruit.

When bottling cherries without sugar, use high quality fruit. Over-ripe fruit will soften excessively. Added sugar does help to preserve the colour of the fruit, but this can also be achieved by using ascorbic acid obtained from a chemist. Use ¼-½ teaspoon crystalline ascorbic acid or 750-1,500 mg (0.026-0.053oz) crushed vitamin C tablets per quart of fruit. You can pre-soak the fruit in lemon juice instead, but this will affect the taste. Just follow the usual bottling instructions, but use ascorbic acid and fruit juice instead of sugar.

Freezing:

Cherries are best frozen fresh (uncooked) in single layers on trays, then packed into freezing bags or containers.

Propagation:

Graft onto Gisela 5 USPP 9622 semi-dwarfing stock.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Diseases: Cherries are particularly prone to bacterial canker and silver leaf disease.

Bacterial Canker: Main symptoms are sunken, dead patches of bark and small holes in leaves. Spray regularly during the growing season with liquid seaweed and/or compost tea as a preventative measure. As bacteria cause this canker, then an anti-bacterial spray is needed, after cutting out the affected twigs and branches in the summer, which allows the wounds to heal better. Then spray with an anti-bacterial garlic and clove spray, made by crushing several garlic bulbs and several cloves in a mortar and pestle, then add 2 cups of water, a few drops of eco-liquid soap and sieve.

Silver Leaf: is caused by a fungus that travels under the bark in the sap. The main symptoms are leaves turning silvery and then the branch, or branches dying back. Prevention can be helped by only pruning Prune in summer or early autumn if possible, when the weather is warm and dry, applying a paste of Trichoderma viride powder to the cuts. Also spray regularly with seaweed and compost tea.

If there are signs, cut out the affected branch or branches and burn or dispose of in your municipal waste. Paint the cuts with a paste of Trichoderma viride powder to kill any spores. Drill three 7mm (¼in) holes 2cm (¾in) deep, spaced around the main trunk, around 15cm (6in) up from ground level. Then stuff the holes with Trichoderma viride powder and plug the holes with clay, or Blue-Tack if you have no clay. Trichoderma viride is a predatory fungus that will travel up the sap to eat the silver leaf fungus.

Pests:

Birds: Sweet cherry trees must be netted against birds, making sure the netting is not up against the fruit, as the birds will peck through. If you grow a fan then they are easily netted.

Aphids and Leaf-roller Caterpillars: Spray with homemade Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray – see: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’.

 

FEIJOA (Acca sellowiana)

Feijoa

Feijoa is a warm-temperate to subtropical plant of the myrtle family, native to the highlands of southern Brazil, eastern Paraguay, Uruguay, northern Argentina, and Colombia. Feijoas tolerate light frosts, so they are a fruiting option for places with cool winters and warm summers. Trees can grow to 2m-3m (6½-10ft) high and are approximately 1.5-2m (5-6½) wide. In the Northern Hemisphere, this species has been cultivated as far north as west coast of Scotland, but under such conditions it does not fruit every year, as winter temperatures below approximately −9°C (16°F) kills the flower buds. Summer temperatures above 32°C (89°F) may also have an adverse effect upon fruit set. Feijoas are somewhat tolerant of drought and salt in soils, though fruit production can be adversely affected. They are tolerant to partial shade, and regular watering is essential while the fruit is maturing.

Chilling Hours:

Feijoa plants require 50-100 hours of cold or chill to set the fruit. Their natural climate is temperate highlands, so they simply do not fruit in hot or really cold climates.

Soil & Site:

Feijoas will grow in most soils, but produce the best fruit on a heavy but a free draining soil. Choose a sunny position. In the UK it might be worth trying to grow them in Cornwall, Devon or Somerset, or in a large tub in a conservatory.

Rootstocks:

Feijoas are usually propagated by grafting, as cuttings are difficult to root. So they are grafted onto one-year-old seedlings, not because the rootstock has any particular properties such as apple rootstocks.

Varieties:

Kaiteri: – This modern quick growing feijoa produces an early crop of large, pale green, sweet fruit. Needs a pollinator, like Unique.

Unique: – This is our favourite variety and in our opinion has the best taste. An early-season, prolific bearer of fruit from a young age. This variety produces dark medium-sized soft, sweet and juicy fruit. Self-fertile.

Planting:

Feijoa trees don’t transport well, so make sure you are planting them in a final spot. Feijoas can be planted all year round. Autumn is an ideal time to plant as this allows the roots to establish themselves over winter in preparation for a growth spurt in spring.

Dig a hole, approximately twice the depth and width of the root ball of the tree. Gently place the tree in the hole and fill with compost/soil mix. In windy areas stake the tree, to give the roots time to secure themselves into the soil.

Feijoas will also make a fantastic hedge that will tolerate wind and coastal conditions. They can also be planted in containers, in groups in an orchard, or blended into ornamental garden plantings.

Support & Training:

Feijoas are generally sturdy self-supporting bushes, but it is a good idea to tie small young plants to a cane, to avoid wind-rock, until the roots are established.

The best way to train them is with four or five main branches growing out from a 30cm (1ft) leg in a vase shape.

Maintenance:

Feijoas are fairly hardy plants and once established should only require watering during long dry periods.

Mulching:

We mulch down our Feijoas with 3-4cm (1-1½in) bark chips, scraped aside temporarily when we want to add compost or other organic fertilizers, replacing the bark chips.

Feeding:

Mulch annually with well rotted compost. Spraying with liquid seaweed several times during the growing season will help to keep them healthy and productive.

Feijoas also like good phosphate levels, but this is best obtained by encouraging Mycorrhizae fungi, because Mycorrhizae are very efficient at sourcing and making available difficult to access phosphorus. One way is to collect pine leaf mould from under pines, making sure it has white fungus growth in it, and apply it as a mulch.

Pruning:

Flowering occurs at the base of new seasons growth it is therefore important to prune early in the season (if pruning is required) to ensure growth happens for flowering to occur. Pruning is required to maintain the desired shape and to stimulate the production of more flowering wood. Prune feijoas so they are open enough to allow bird pollination, wind movement and sunlight in for fruit ripening. Remove weak and damaged branches back to the main branch and thin the tree, if required, by removing internal branches back to the main trunk.

Before Pruning

Before Pruning

After Pruning

After Pruning

                         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can also prune the trees to keep them at a manageable height, because they are capable of reaching 4.6m (15ft) in height and width over time.

Harvesting & Preserving:

The fruit falls to the ground just before ripening. Leave on the ground under the tree until they feel soft to the touch, then harvest. They will keep for a short time indoors. We have not had great results from drying them. Cutting them in half and scooping out the inner flesh to eat fresh, boil down to make fruit ‘leathers’, or freeze the flesh in zip-lock bags is the easiest ways to preserve them.

Feijoa jam and chutney are also great ways to use feijoas.

Propagation:

Graft onto one-year-old seedlings – see Rootstocks

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Pests:

The main pests of feijoas include leafroller, mealybug, and Australian guava moth. Guava moth attack the fruit, while the others do not cause significant damage but in large numbers may reduce yields by damaging leaves and growing shoots.

Leafroller: This pest can be easily dealt with on a small scale by pulling off any leaves that are rolled up with the caterpillar inside and thrown away, or burnt.

Mealybugs: are small insects covered with a white mealy coating; some have white hairs attached to their bodies. The bugs feed by sucking on the plant juices. These can be killed with a homemade garlic+chilli+ginger spray, (see: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’).

Australian Guava Moth: This pest is only found in the northern part of North Island New Zealand and Australia. From the outside the fruit has circular brown patches with excreta extruding from infested fruit and nuts. Feeding by the caterpillar leaves rotting, brown patches, excreta and mould inside the fruit, making the fruit inedible and causing early fruit drop before fruit is fully ripe.

Physical control – Cover green fruit you wish to protect with fine mesh cloth such as curtain netting to prevent moths laying eggs on fruit. Secure with tape to the supporting branch. Remove fallen and rotting fruit and associated leaf litter from beneath trees and bury or burn it – this will destroy pupating moths.

Diseases:

Myrtle Rust: see: GUAVA above in the SOFT FRUIT section.

 

FIG (Ficus carica)

Fig

Soil & Site:

They will grow on any soil as long as it is in a sunny spot, free draining, yet moisture retentive. The only way we could grow figs that fruited in Shropshire, UK was as an espalier in a greenhouse. Figs grow well in containers and are ideal where space is limited. These spend the summer outdoors and are overwintered in a cool, frost-free place like a conservatory. They can also be grown successfully in the southern counties of the UK as a fan, trained against a sun-facing wall. Of course they also grow well in Asia, Southern Europe, Australia and South Africa and the warmer states of the USA.

Rootstocks:

They are usually grown as cuttings on their own roots.

Varieties:

Black Mission: Among the most popular and available fig varieties in the world. This variety produces sweet pear shaped fruits that ripen into rich, dark purple-black with delectable strawberry red flesh. Great for jellies and jams. Plant in full sun.

Brown Turkey:

Brown Turkey

Brown Turkey

Large glossy green foliage and a vigorous growth habit with large fruit that are purplish brown with pink flesh and a rich flavour. A favourite fig for jam and preserving. Likes the sun and protection from harsh frost. It is hardier than many varieties.

French Sugar: produces medium sized fruit with green skin and red very sweet flesh, hence the name. Will crop best if grown in a warm sheltered spot.

Planting:

If you have a light soil, cover the bottom of the 60cm (2ft) deep planting hole with rubble and stones to restrict the trees growth to encourage fruiting. Mix in compost with the topsoil filling.

Support & Training:

Train as an open-centred vase shape, with three main initial branches, each one divided into two, etc. Alternately, train as a fan on wires, or against a sunny wall on wires. The advantages are that it is easier to net against birds and it will take up less room.

Maintenance:

In their first year the young fig will probably need regular watering until established. If there is a dry period when the fruits are forming it may be necessary to water to swell the fruits.

Mulching:

Mulch down with 7cm (2¾in) spray-free straw or around 4cm (1½in) grass clippings.

Feeding:

Rich feeding will only lead to the production of vegetative growth at the expense of fruit, but watering and/or spraying with liquid seaweed several times during the growing period will help fruit production and keep the fig healthy.

Protection:

The tree will need netting when fruiting, as birds are particularly partial to the fruit, eating out the flesh and leaving the skins.

Pruning:

Cut out old wood in the winter and thin in the summer to allow sunlight to ripen fruits.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Harvest regularly as they ripen. I have not had much luck drying figs, they get too dry, but I will try making fruit leathers by blitzing them in a food processor and drying the puree in our dehydrator.

Propagation:

Take 30cm (12in) long cuttings in the autumn after leaf fall and bury half deep in soil outside until rooted.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Never had any problems with diseases, but you will have to net against birds.

 

GRAPEFRUIT (Citrus × paradisi)

Grapefruit

For: Soil & Site, Rootstocks, Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Mulching, Feeding, Pruning, Propagation and Possible Pests & Diseases see: LEMON.

Grapefruit grown on dwarfing stock can be grown in tubs in colder countries, and overwintered in conservatories. Otherwise, grow in places with cool winters and long summers.

Varieties:

Golden Special: A hardy grapefruit that will grow in colder areas, but not in cold winters. It is a very juicy, sweet grapefruit with few seeds. It will eventually grow to5m high, but I would keep it to 2½ – 3m at the highest.

Golden Special Dwarf: is a compact tree great for containers. Only grows to between chest and head height. Produces large, well-flavoured fruit that are great for juice as well as marmalade.

Star Ruby: is a popular variety with medium-sized sweet, juicy fruit. The skins are yellow and flesh is a rich red. The red colouration contains lycopene a powerful anti-oxidant. This one is not so hardy, likes a nice sheltered position in order to fruit well so plant in a warm sunny protected spot.

Wheeny: This Australian variety is a medium sized tree and has large, good quality, pale yellow fruit from late spring to autumn. The fruit has thin skin and very juicy flesh with a mild flavour. Usually has a bumper crop every 2nd year.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Pick when they have been yellow for some time. Some prefer to wait until they are starting to fall, which means they will be sweeter – it’s a matter of taste. They will hold on the tree for a long time.

They can be salted and preserved like lemons (see: LEMON). Grapefruit also make great marmalade with or without added oranges.

 

GREENGAGE (Prunus domestica ssp. claudiana)

Greengage

Definitely one of my favourite fruit; if you like plums you will love greengages with their uniquely sweet flavour. They require a warmer climate than most plums, and we were too far north in Shropshire, in the UK to grow them, but in the southern counties and here in Nelson, New Zealand – no problem.

Soil & Site:

Greengages like deep loam or clay soils that are well drained, with a soil pH of 6.0-6.5. For heavy clays break up the bottom of the planting hole. See: PLANTING TREE FRUIT above, to create the ideal conditions for your young tree.

Pollinators:

Coe’s Golden Drop plum is the best mutual pollinator for greengages.

Rootstocks:

  • Myrobalan: semi-vigorous – 5m (16ft)
  • Saint Julian: semi-vigorous – 4.5m (15ft)
  • Ferlenain: semi-dwarfing – 3m (10ft)
  • Mont Clare: semi-dwarfing – 3m (10ft)
  • VVA1: semi-dwarfing – 2.5m (8ft)
  • Torrinel 24: semi-dwarfing –       2.4-3m (8-10ft)

Varieties:

Old English Greengage: Our favourite for flavour and the one we grow. Very popular, succulent, sweet, smaller fruit with delicious flavour. Mid to late season.

Cambridge Gage: Partially self-fertile, but benefits from a pollinator. A more reliable and heavier cropper than Old English. Late season.

Reine Claude De Bavay: A self-fertile European greengage, which crops heavily. Richly flavoured fruit. Late season.

For Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Mulching, Feeding, Protection, Pruning, Harvesting & Preserving, Propagation and Possible Pests & Diseases – see: PLUM

 

LEMON (Citrus × limon)

Lemon

I have used Lemon as the default site to provide information about all citrus, apart from information unique to a particular citrus. Most citrus trees like Mediterranean, subtropical or tropical climates, but will tolerate temperatures down to around –20C (280F), so parts of the world with temperatures below that in winter are not places to grow citrus, unless they are grown in a tub and kept in a heated greenhouse or conservatory. Citrus are gross feeders so it is important to fertilizer Spring and Autumn with Eco or Organic Fertiliser making sure the fertilizer is not up against the stem. Remove any fruit for the first year so the citrus tree can get a good growth structure.

Soil & Site:

A rich soil with a pH of 6.0-7.5 in full sun is ideal for all citrus – see: PLANTING TREE FRUIT above, to create the ideal conditions for your young tree.

Rootstocks:

Having inherited large citrus trees 4 to 5 metres (13-16ft) in height, we have found them very difficult to manage, especially in treating scale insects and the resultant sooty mould they produce, as well as the problems of pruning and picking. So we are slowly converting to citrus grown on Flying dragon dwarfing rootstock, which is much easier to handle, but citrus grown on Trifoliata stock can also be kept at a manageable height by pruning – the choice is yours.

Flying dragon: is a dwarfing rootstock, which will allow the tree to grow to approximately 2.5m (8ft).

Trifoliata: is the most widely used, it is vigorous allowing the tree to grow to 4 or 5 metres (13-16ft). It is also tolerant of heavy and wetter soils and creates increased frost hardiness.

Varieties:

Lisbon: An old heirloom variety. This lemon came originally from Portugal via seed to Australia a long time ago. It has good cold tolerance, but prefers a sunny sheltered spot. It is very productive and vigorous. It has a sharp citric bite.

Meyer: The Meyer Lemon is one of the hardier lemons with a high juice content. It is a soft lemon, easy to juice and with high oil content in the skin. It’s not as acidic as some other varieties. The Meyer is a good home garden lemon. It crops reliably and the fruit holds on the tree for a long period of time. It can grow to a large tree in time reaching 4-5m (13-16ft) after a number of years.

Genoa: This is a thornless lemon, which has large juicy sour fruit, which ripen from late winter to mid summer. The fruit is medium sized with greenish-yellow flesh that is almost seedless.

Yen Ben: The Yen Ben lemon has become one of the favourite varieties. It is an improved version of the old fashioned Lisbon variety. It has a thinner skin than Lisbon with fewer seeds. It is long keeping. The fruit are large, oblong and firm. The skin is very good for zest and dried lemon peel. It is hardy, both heat and cold tolerant.

Lemonade: This is an old Kiwi favourite. The lemonade tree produces fruit that looks like a lemon but is sweet enough to eat like a mandarin or orange. The flavour is refreshing and tangy, and of course good for making lemonade! Anyone who’s tasted one wants to grow them. Kids really like them. Grow as for a lemon. Protect from frosts when young.

Planting:

Plant container grown plants in winter and spring – avoid planting during frosty weather.

Support & Training:

Staking is only necessary when first planted. Train in a vase shape and keep the bush low enough for easy maintenance and picking.

Maintenance:

Keep well weeded to avoid competition, by mulching and mechanical weeding where necessary.

Mulching:

Mulch down with 7cm spray-free straw.

Feeding:

All citrus are heavy feeders, needing annual applications of animal manure, or blood and bone, or fishmeal. In New Zealand you can buy ‘Daltons Fert Pellets’ citrus organic formula, comprising:

  • Horse Manure
  • Seaweed Extracts
  • Mineral Gypsum
  • Organic Matter
  • Dolomite Lime
  • Chicken Manure
  • Sheep Manure

I also suggest several sprays of liquid seaweed during the growing season to avoid magnesium deficiency, which is seen by yellowing between the leaf veins.

Protection:

Up against a sunny wall is best in colder areas, but not necessary.

Pruning Citrus Trees:

Unlike many fruit trees, which can be pruned to encourage fruiting, citrus does not work like that. However, there is every reason to prune citrus:

  • To train the bush as an open vase shape
  • To maintain the bush at a height that is easy to manage and pick
  • To thin out shoots to open up the foliage
  • To cut out dead or diseased twigs and branches
  • To remove any overlapping branches
  • To cut off suckers from the base

Training: Train as an open vase shape on a 60-90cm (2-3ft) leg – (see: TRAINING above).

When to Prune:

Winter is a good time to prune citrus because the citrus borer beetle is not around to smell the citrus oil from the cuts and come to lay their eggs on the cut surface, where the grubs hatch and bore holes into the expose wood eventually killing the branch.

Selectively trim back the fruiting twigs after you’ve picked, thinning out the shoots to keep the foliage open. You can also shorten branches, but always back to a lateral. You can paint over exposed cuts with Biodynamic Tree Paste (see: PRUNING) to encourage healing.

If you live in a frosty climate that can go below freezing, it is good to wait until late winter when the worst of the winter has passed as pruning can expose the foliage to air frosts. If you do get frost damage on your citrus, leave it on until the new growth starts in spring. This way you can see where you need to prune back to as it takes a while for the damage to work it’s way down the branches. The frost-damaged foliage also protects the rest of the tree.

Cut out any growths coming from the base of the tree. These suckers are either from above the graft, or from the rootstock that the tree is grafted on. Maintain one main stem, cutting out all other growths.

Overgrown Old Citrus Trees:

Citrus on old rootstocks can get quite large. We inherited 3 overgrown Tangelo, Lemon and Mandarin trees and are in the process of reducing them over several years. If you remove too much of the branches in one go you risk killing the tree. The best approach is to do it in stages over 2 or 3 winters to let the tree recover and build up new growth. The goal is to reduce the overall size of the tree to make harvesting easier and promote the growth of new fruiting wood.

Cut back the main branches to within 1m of the main trunk, but no more. Always cut the branch to a junction with a lateral, which will become the new branch, as new growth will only come from buds near the cut. Try to prune back the tree by opening up the middle forming a bowl shape, and spacing the new potential branches evenly.

After pruning hard, the new growth can be very dense, so the new growth will need thinning out. The tree will also need fertilising to bring the tree back to full health and production.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Lemons have fruit on throughout the year. Unlike other kinds of citrus, lemons do better when picked only when they are fully ripe. Fully ripe lemons are a deep golden yellow and do not have any hint of green on the rind. It is best to cut the lemons off with a stalk, back to a bud. This will help to produce two new shoots where there was one and encourages more lemons next season.

Preserving

Ingredients

  • 10 lemons washed and dried
  • ½ cup salt
  • Hot red peppers, fenugreek seeds & cardamom pods (optional)
  • An earthenware pot or preserving jar with seal
  • Olive oil

Method

  1. Wash then soak the lemons in cold water for 2 to 3 days, changing the water several times
  2. Drain the lemons; then partially quarter them lengthwise, leaving the ends intact
  3. Slide one teaspoon of salt into each lemon, and store in the pot or preserving jar
  4. Cover the lemons with water that has been boiled, then cooled
  5. Cover with 6mm (¼in) of olive
  6. Seal the pot or jar and wait one month before consuming

This method can also be used for limes, as they are seasonal unlike lemons. The harshness of the lemons or limes is reduced by this method, but the flavour remains. Great used with meat or other dishes, or can be added to summer salads. Just take a few out at a time as you need them.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Pests

Scale Insects: The most obvious pest is scale insects, which attach themselves to the underside of the leaves and suck the sap. As the sap has too much sugar for their liking, they excrete the excess sugar onto the leaves below, which then grows a sooty mould, which interferes with the plants photosynthesis by cutting out the light. The sooty mould is therefore a bi-product of the scale insect.

I have found that spraying every winter with a 50/50 mix of Neem oil and Pyrethrum up under the leaves thoroughly where the scale insects are will kill them, making sure there are no bees flying at the time. For every 1 litre of water add 15ml (3 tsp.) Neem Tree Oil + 5ml (1 tsp.) Pyrethrum + a few drops of eco-washing up liquid. Then two days later, spray the tops of the leaves with Trichoderma spray, which will kill the sooty mould. After three of four days power hose the dead sooty mould off. Check a week later to see if the live whitish scale insects have turned black and dead. If there are still some that are alive, spray again with the Neem oil and Pyrethrum spray.

White fly: can also be a problem, which can be dealt with by spraying under the leaves every two weeks with homemade Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray or Rhubarb Leaf Spray – (see: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – HOMEMADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES).

Magnesium Deficiency:

Yellowing citrus leaves: Apply Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate)

  • Water the soil with 20g (approx. 1¼ tablespoons) per metre of tree height, dissolved in a watering can – 1L for every 20g (2 pint for every ¾oz).
  • Water in well after application, taking care to wash any product off the plant foliage

 

LIME (Citrus aurantifolia)

Lime

For: Soil & Site, Rootstocks, Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Mulching, Feeding, Pruning, Propagation and Possible Pests & Diseases see: LEMON

 

Varieties:

Bearss Lime: Lemon-sized oval fruit with a thin adherent rind – pale greenish/yellow at maturity. Greenish acidic juicy pulp that rarely has seeds.

Tahitian: Fruits are the size of small lemons, with thin skins, seedless and juicy, acidic flesh.

Mexican Key: This Mexican lime is best known as the main flavouring ingredient for Key Lime pie. This lime is excellent for cooking as they are very tart/bitter Limes.  Easy to peel with thin skin. Fruit is small and strongly flavoured. A moderately vigorous small to medium tree – 3m (10ft) – with spreading habit and nearly thornless. Densely dark green foliage with compact habit.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Harvest from mid to late summer. Limes are yellow when they are completely ripe, but are best picked while they are still green just before they ripen.

 

MANDARIN (Citrus reticulata)

Mandarin

For: Soil & Site, Rootstocks, Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Mulching, Feeding, Pruning, Propagation and Possible Pests & Diseases see: LEMON

Varieties:

Encore: Vigorous selection with high ornamental value as well as large crops of firm fleshed, easy to peel fruit. Excellent flavour. Long hanging period on the tree.

Miho (Satsuma): Easy peel, cold hardy Satsuma mandarin with heavy crops of juicy, mild flavoured seedless fruit. Slower growing and well suited to growing in containers. Very early to ripen.

Silverhill (Satsuma): An early ripening Satsuma that has thick skinned, easy peel, sweet and juicy fruit with segments that easily separate. This variety grows well in cooler areas.

Maintenance:

Our mandarin always produces too many fruits, so to avoid lots of very small fruit, we have to drastically thin them, in the autumn, while the fruit are about 2-3cm (¾-3in) diameter. Reduce any bunches to one larger fruit, and pick off any smaller ones. This will give you plenty of large tasty fruit.

 

NASHI PEAR (Pyrus pyrifolia)

Nashi Pear

Resembling apples more than pears, Nashi have thin skins and a crunchy flesh that is very juicy and has a subtly sweet flavour.

Soil & Site:

Choose a location in a fertile, well-drained soil that receives full sun. Sandy soil can be improved with the addition of rotted compost and heavy soil also benefits from the addition of well-rotted garden compost or animal manure. Heavy soil also benefits from added grit, or coarse sand to improve drainage.

Rootstocks:

Nashis are usually grafted onto quince rootstock, producing smaller trees, which is what I would recommend as they are easier to maintain.

Varieties:

Housi: Beautiful Nashi pear with bronzed round fruit with a mild flavour. The creamy flesh is low acid and therefore very sweet. Self-pollinates but will do better with a companion such as Pear Kosui. Ripens around March. This Nashi pear is early cropping with large golden-brown skinned fruits that ripen on the tree.

Kosui: This Nashi pear has medium sized slightly flattened fruit of high quality. Tender sweet flesh that is crisp and juicy. A strong hardy disease resistant cultivar. Needs to be planted with a companion, Hosui or Shinseiki for best results. Ripens around early autumn.

Planting:

(See above for: PLANTING TREE FRUIT)

Support & Training:

Nashi pear trees are typically best trained and maintained using the central leader method – pyramid and spindle form. The idea is to create a tree that has a central leader (a single dominant trunk from the roots to the uppermost top) with very well spaced radiating main branches. The overall shape of the tree should be openly pyramidal (see above for: TRAINING). They can also be trained as espalier, as long as they are on quince rootstock.

Maintenance:

Water around the base of your young trees in dry periods, making sure that soil gets enough water for roots to be fully soaked. If you have a number of trees growing and live in a dry area it may be worth setting up a basic irrigation system to take care of this.

Fruit Thinning:

Fruit thinning is important. Nashi pear trees will often develop more fruit than the branches can physically support, so thinning will help relieve the possibility of breakage. Also, allowing too many fruit to develop results in great numbers of small and poor quality fruit, so thinning the young fruit gives the remaining fruit more nutrients and light, and consequently higher quality fruit. Lastly Nashi pears that over produce fruit in one season may not produce at all the next season. Thinning helps maintain more even annual fruit production.

Optimal fruit thinning is best done before the fruit is larger than about 2cm (¾in). Prune off all but 1 fruit in each cluster! This sounds like a lot, but it is worth it.

Mulching:

Mulch around base of newly planted trees, especially if you have sandy soil. Cover a circle as wide as the spread of the branches with a finger-deep layer of compost, rotted manure or old straw and replenish mulch when necessary. Make sure the mulching layer doesn’t touch the stem of your tree as this can cause it to rot. This should be done for the first three years after planting. Thereafter you can plant borage, comfrey, dill and fennel beneath your trees to draw nutrients from deep in the soil and to attract beneficial pollinating and predatory insects.

Feeding:

In autumn/early winter apply about 3cm (1in) of well-rotted garden compost around the base of the tree, especially the area of the feeding roots under the outer edge of the main stems. An application of powdered seaweed is also good at this time to supply trace elements and potassium.

Protection:

If you have birds pecking the ripening fruit you may need to net the trees, which is easier if you an espalier trained tree.

Pruning:

  • Keep the tree’s size down (if desired)
  • Enhance the tree’s structure to avoid future branch breakage
  • Enhance fruit quality through opening up the canopy and fruit thinning
  • Increase fruit production

Prune in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. In summer, prune off overly vigorous shoots and “water sprouts”

Annual maintenance pruning consists of thinning twiggy branches to allow light and air to penetrate further into the canopy. Also remove any dead, damaged, diseased or crossing branches. Remove any branches growing from the central leader that have not been selected to be part of the main structure. You may remove the ends of the main branches annually to keep the tree at a desired size.

Main branches do eventually get old and slow or stop producing fruit. When you identify an under performing branch, remove it and cultivate a replacement.

See above: TRAINING for pruning espalier trained trees.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Knowing when to harvest Nashi pears is much easier than European pears. When the predicted time of ripening (as indicated in the individual descriptions above) arrives, taste one of the larger fruit on the tree. When they taste good, harvest them. Ripe fruit also often have a slight softness to them.

Propagation:

Graft variety onto quince rootstock.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

As always, prevention is better than cure (see the beginning of ‘PESTS & DISEASES‘). Here are some household tips:

  • Remove and dead or diseased stems and fruit regularly.
  • Sweep and compost fallen leaves.
  • Mulch and feed, ensure constant moisture during dry weather.
  • Spray regularly through the growing season with compost tea with added liquid seaweed, to boost the trees resistance to pests and diseases.

Coddling moth: is a common pest and hanging traps amongst your trees in mid spring can reduce numbers. See also APPLES for how to reduce coddling moth.

Fireblight: is a particular problem with pear trees that have lots of soft fresh growth. Signs of infection are leaf shoots and fruiting spurs turning black. Reduce the likelihood of an outbreak by not over-feeding with nitrogen-rich manure or fertilizer. Once infected, trees can’t be helped other than by cutting out effected tip growth and diseased wood and burning it. Dip secateurs in methylated spirits between cuts. As well as the above advice, I have found spraying every two weeks with Trichoderma viride along with cutting out effected shoots has been quite effective – (see: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – The New Generation of Biological Products).

 

NECTARINE (Prunus persica var. nectarina)

Nectarine

Nectarines are a smooth skinned version of a peach. For all aspects of growing nectarines see: PEACH

Varieties:

Kreibich Nectarine: This is a unique white-flesh Nectarine. A reliable producer of bright red, sweet and delicious, smooth-skin fruit. Kreibich is an American variety and the only Peach Leaf Curl resistant Nectarine that I know of – so well worth trying to get hold of it.

 

OLIVE (Olea europaea)

Black Olives

Black Olives

Olive Grove at Clifton Terrace School

Olive Grove at Clifton Terrace School

Soil & Site:

Olives naturally grow on rocky very well drained Mediterranean hillsides. As a result they prefer a well-drained soil and will be happy growing in shallow, sandy or rocky soil. They also prefer soils that are not too fertile. They grow best in dry sunny areas, which they enjoy here in Nelson. Temperatures in the area need to be more than 12°C (53°F) in the springtime for new growth, but anything higher than 30°C (86°F) in summer can stall fruit production. Winter chilling time is required to encourage the olive trees to flower. Choose a position in full sun, in a warm, sheltered area that is free from hard air frosts. Hot, strong, dry winds when the flowers appear can also affect the fruit set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olive trees at our local school, Clifton Terrace Primary, Nelson, NZ, which the children help to pick and  take to the local press to make expensive olive oil, to make money for the school.

In areas where the absolute minimum winter temperatures are between -20C & -50C (280F & 230F), olive trees require no winter protection. In areas of lower winter temperatures, your olive tree can be grown in pots, but it is vital that the roots don’t become frozen. This can be prevented by adding several layers of bubble plastic to the inside of the pot when potting up the plant, or moved into a large conservatory in the winter.

A soil pH of about 8.5 is recommended, which means most soil micro-organisms will be greatly compromised, so aim for 6.5. Add lime if necessary. Good drainage is essential, with sloping land ideal to provide natural water drainage.

Rootstocks:

They are quite happy on their own roots, so take cuttings of your favourite varieties (see: ‘PROPAGATION TECHNIQUES’).

Varieties:

Pickling Varieties

These first two varieties are the culinary ones we grow for pickling.

Picholene: Popular dual purpose green French olive. Makes an excellent gourmet table olive. It is cold tolerant, healthy and adaptable. It is also good for oil production, as the oil is superb quality and the yield is high.

Manzanilla: Is a green olive with a high flesh to stone ratio and the stone is easy to extract. It doesn’t like cold frosts. It is a pollinator for Picholene and vice-versa.

Oil Varieties

For those that have enough land to grow a grove of olives for oil, these are worth considering.

Barnea: This is a commercial oil variety and a prolific producer given the right conditions. Erect and vigorous grower. Medium, slightly pointed fruits with high quality oil content. Also a quality pickler when going black.

Chemlali: This is a very ornamental olive as well as prolific producer of smaller olives. Very good quality oil. Its shrubby habit is well suited to screening and hedging. Disease resistant, hardy and easy to care for.

Frantoio: This is one of the most popular Tuscan oil varieties in New Zealand. Exceptional high quality oil and high yield. Also pickles well when green. Vigorous grower. Good disease resistance.

Koroneiki: This is a smaller shrubby olive bearing large crops of small fruit. Produces high quality oil. Well suited to coastal areas. Can also be used for hedging and screening.

Leccino: Superb Tuscan oil producing variety. Healthy and vigorous plants that are especially tolerant of the cold once established, so is suitable in most parts of New Zealand. Pollinators include Pendolino & Frantoio.

Picual: This is Spain’s No 1 oil variety. Self fertile. The oil content and yield is high. Early to bear. Hardy and adaptable.

Planting:

Make sure the planting hole is well drained. If the soil is heavy, break up the bottom of the hole with a crowbar and add some broken bricks or stones before planting. Fill around the roots with rough soil plus a couple of handfuls of garden lime.

Support & Training:

Support, by tying to a stake, is only necessary when the tree is very young.

There are several ways of training olive trees, but for small holders, or gardeners, training the tree in a vase shape is best, or vasebush which is a smaller version.

Vase:

The vase shape is a main trunk ½-1 metre (1½-3ft) high with 5 main branches spreading out in the shape of a vase or wine glass, with an open centre.

Vasebush:

The vasebush is trained as a vase shaped bush without a proper trunk, and with primary branches originating from the soil line or growing out from a very short trunk. The obvious advantage is it is easier to maintain and to harvest. It is an excellent system for table olives.

Maintenance:

The trees reach full fruit-bearing age at about four years. Thinning the crop will give a larger fruit size, particularly important for pickling varieties. This should be done as soon as possible after fruit set. Thin until there are about two or three remaining fruit for every 20cm (1ft) of twig.

Mulching:

Mulch down with 10cm (4in) spray free straw or 5cm (2in) bark chips.

Feeding:

Be careful not to overfeed your olives, they don’t enjoy rich soils. Annual applications of dried seaweed powder, or fresh washed seaweed is good, and spraying with liquid seaweed around every two weeks during the growing season is also helpful.

Protection:

Protection from cold southerly winds is good, by growing on the northerly side of a building, fence or high hedge.

Pruning:

Olive trees can grow quite large if left to their own devices, sometimes reaching more than 10m (32ft) high, so training and pruning are essential. Pruning should be performed in spring before flowering, preferably during a descending moon when it is in a fire sign, i.e. Aries or Sagittarius.

In areas with no spring frosts, pruning can be started in winter. In colder areas it is best to wait until the buds are growing to avoid frost damage.

Olives fruit on younger wood, so apart from shaping the trees, pruning should concentrate on cutting out the older wood and encouraging new young growth. There’s an advantage to pruning after bud break, because even the inexperienced grower is able to assess the number of flowers and the potential crop removed by pruning. Removing shoots at bud break results in much more vigorous growth of the remaining shoots than if the same operation is performed at the beginning of the summer.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Harvest olives in the late summer and autumn months. Green olives are picked while they are still green but have reached full size. When the green olives start to turn purple they can be picked for pickling. They can also be picked for processing at any later stage right up to full ripeness (dark purple).

The most common way to harvest is to place a tarpaulin under the mature trees and shake the tree. Alternately, for trees grown for oil you can rake them off with a garden rake. For the larger culinary varieties for pickling, stripping by hand is best, to avoid damage.

Oil Extraction

Olive MillThere are very expensive presses, but this mill is a reasonable price, or if you live in an olive growing area you may be able to get your olives pressed for you, like Clifton Terrace school – see above.

see: http://www.easyoilpress.com

Pickling

If you have ever tried eating a fresh olive off a tree you will know how bitter they are. This is because they contain oleuropein. To get rid of the oleuropein the olives need to be ‘cured’. The most common methods involve curing in brine, dry salt, water or lye (made from wood ash and water). I have tried curing in brine and dry salt and the taste of salt was overpowering, so I now cure ripe olives by pricking them with a needle around six to ten times, or more easily making a cut lengthwise form top to bottom on one side, then soaking the olives in 10 changes of filtered water, only adding them to the brine afterwards to preserve them. This way you end up with a lightly salted olive that tastes of olive! For hard green olives I use the lye cure.

Water Curing:

This is the best way to cure ripe black olives.

  1. Prick each olive several times with a needle (it’s quicker than you think), or make a cut on one side from top to bottom down to the stone
  2. Fill large jars with the black olives
  3. Cover the lid with squares of mesh curtain attached with a large rubber band
  4. Fill to the top with filtered water
  5. Change the water every day for 10 days
  6. Add 1 cup of sea salt to 8 cups of filtered water to a pan
  7. Boil until dissolved then let cool
  8. Place olives in clean jars (with good lids) and scatter some fennel seeds in between the layers
  9. Pour the cold brine over them until the olives are completely submerged
  10. Top up to the top with 1cm (in) of olive oil to keep the air out
  11. Screw on the lids and store for at least 6 months in a cool place
  12. When you are ready eat your olives take out as many as you want, drain them and taste them. If they are too salty, soak them in fresh water, till they are ready to eat

Lye Curing:

This method is for firm green olives.

I adapted this recipe from Marisa Raniolo Wilkins’ website, well worth a look with lots of great recipes – http://www.allthingssicilianandmore.com

First thing you need to know about curing olives with lye is that you must use fresh firm green olives. Not black ones and not half-ripe ones. The lye process softens the meat of the olive, so you want it as hard as possible.

It is important to use ash from untreated wood – not wood that has been contaminated by paint or treated with chemicals and preferably from a fireplace or wood burning stove in your own home.

Once the olives have soaked in the wood ash mixture they are steeped in clear water for another period of time and then stored in brine that has been flavoured with some aromatics: a bay leaf, coriander seeds, fennel sprigs and orange rind.

Ingredients

  • 2 kg (4½oz) green olives
  • 2 kg (4½oz) wood ash, mixed with hot water to make a thick runny paste, cool before using

For the brine:

  • 2 litres (8½ pints) water
  • 200g (7oz) salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 fennel sprigs
  • 24 coriander seeds
  • Orange rind, peeled in strips from ½ an orange

Method

  1. In a large bowl or crock mix the olives in the mixture of ash and water
  2. Leave them 10-12 days. Stir them a few times every day (the stone in the olives will begin to feel loose)
  3. Rinse the olives thoroughly, cover them in clean water and allow them to stand for 10 days, changing the water each day
  4. Bring the brine ingredients to the boil, boil for 15 minutes, and cool. (If using fresh fennel sprigs or orange peel I would remove these in case they contaminate the olives)
  5. Drain the olives, return them to the crock, and cover with the cold brine. Store for at least a week before using
  6. Top up with 1cm of olive oil to keep the air out

Propagation:

Propagate olive trees from cuttings in summer once the current season’s growth has begun to harden. Wait until after the blossoms have faded and the fruit has set, if the parent plant is a fruiting olive tree.

  1. Fill a 20cm (8in) pot with a mix of half sharp sand and half milled peat. Soak with water and allow to drain. Poke a 10cm-deep hole in the moistened mix.
  2. Gather a 20cm (8in) long semi-hardwood cutting from the tip of a healthy olive branch. Choose one with a 6mm (¼in) diameter. Cut it 3mm (⅛in) below a leaf node. Remove all the leaves from the base of the cutting, leaving just six or so at the tip.
  3. Coat the severed end of the olive cutting in rooting powder. Flick off the excess powder. Insert the cutting into the hole in the moistened sand mixture. Firm the mix against the stem.
  4. Place the pot in a lightly shaded, well-ventilated cold frame or outdoors on a sheltered garden bench with light shade.
  5. Mist the foliage twice daily with a spray bottle. Check the moisture level in the sand mixture whenever you mist the foliage. Add water if the sand feels mostly dry in the top 25mm (2in).
  6. Check for roots in approximately three months by gently tugging on the base of the olive cutting.
  7. When rooted tip out the mix and re-pot the rooted cutting into a pot with potting compost. Continue to grow it in the cold frame or glasshouse and water weekly during the winter.
  8. Move the olive to a shaded area of the garden in spring after the last frost. Grow it under lightly shaded conditions and water as needed during the summer. Transplant it into a permanent bed in autumn.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Olives are remarkably free of pests and diseases.

 

ORANGE (Citrus × sinensis)

Orange

For: Soil & Site, Rootstocks, Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Mulching, Feeding, Pruning, Propagation and Possible Pests & Diseases see: LEMON

As with other varieties of citrus, oranges need long warm summers and winter temperatures that do not go below -20C (280F), however in colder areas they can be grown in a tub, grown in a warm conservatory, grafted onto the dwarfing stock Flying Dragon, and trimmed to keep them compact.

Varieties:

Cipo: Large orange fruit with a few seeds but very juicy and sweet. This is a weeping standard, moderately vigorous with a few thorns has a densely compact habit. Ideal for container or the small garden. Self-fertile. Long harvest from late summer to late autumn.

Newhall: The Newhall Orange is a vigorous navel orange with attractive deep orange fruit. It ripens in late summer – early autumn. It’s a good juicing orange with few seeds. Protect from frost when young.

Tarocco: This is a great Italian blood orange with a firm texture and rich sweet flavour. It is juicy and near seedless. Does well in areas with warmer summers.

 

PEACH (Prunus persica)

Peach

Soil & Site:

Choose a location in a fertile, well-drained medium loam that receives full sun, with preferably shelter from southerly winds. In colder countries, or areas, like the southern parts of the UK, or parts of South Island of New Zealand, they can be grown as a fan against a sunny protected wall, where they can be covered with cloth or frost fleece when it is in flower and a late frost threatens. This is how my grandfather grew them in Hertfordshire, England in the early nineteen hundreds.

Rootstocks:

Peach varieties are usually grafted onto seedling peach rootstock, or grown from seed if the variety grows true from seed, like Golden Queen and Black Boy.

They can also be grown on ‘Marianna Plum’ rootstock, which can stand heavier, moist soils. This is an excellent semi dwarfing, and non-suckering rootstock.

Varieties:

Black Boy: This peach is top of the list, because it is the most resistant to disease of any peach, including peach leaf curl. It is therefore ideal for those who want to grow organically or in other sustainable ways. Trees next to a Blackboy can be riddled with leaf curl and the Blackboy goes on unaffected. Small-medium peach with dark red grey skin, bright port red and white streaky flesh, freestone, juicy, strong flavour.

Golden Queen: The fruit is possibly the best for bottling of any of the peach varieties. It isn’t a freestone peach but the flesh holds together well for preserving. An exquisitely flavoured golden very sweet fruit, which keeps well in the jar. This tree is also an extremely disease resistant peach. Low maintenance. A heavy cropper.

Wiggins: This is a sweet tasting, white-fleshed heirloom peach. It ripens in late summer, before the later Black Boy peach. It isn’t a freestone peach, but it is excellent for eating fresh or bottling. The skin is not thick or too furry and the flavour is superb. This is another very disease resistant peach. Apart from pruning to keep new growth coming, this is a low maintenance home garden peach variety.

Planting:

(See above section: PLANTING TREE FRUIT)

Support & Training:

Tie young trees to a cane or stake for one year until established. Can be grown as a freestanding tree, or grown as a fan if grafted onto Marianna Plum rootstock.

Maintenance:

Spray at monthly intervals throughout the growing season with seaweed spray.

Mulching:

Mulch the soil out to the edge of the branches with 10cm spray-free straw.

Feeding:

Feed every year in early winter with a mulch of one bucket of garden compost per square metre + seaweed meal or fresh seaweed.

Protection:

We have a large freestanding Black Boy peach and have never had any problems with birds. If you do, you will have to net.

Pruning:

First, prune freestanding trees in spring, removing all dead, diseased or crossing branches, as well as shaping the tree and reducing the height if necessary. Peaches fruit on last year’s growth, so cut out any shoots that fruited last year, leaving those shoots from last year to flower and crop this year.

Peach tree before pruning

Peach tree before pruning

Peach tree after pruning

Peach tree after pruning

For fan-trained peaches see above section: TRAININGFAN.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Peach-leaf Curl is the most obvious problem with peaches, but if you grow any of the varieties above, especially Black Boy, you should have little trouble. If you do, rake up all the leaves in the winter and burn or dispose in the rubbish, then spray the bare tree with neat urine (your own), making sure to also spray the ground under the tree to kill any spores, and spray several times during the growing season with urine watered down with three parts of water. Alternatively, spray with Trichoderma viride in the winter and growing season – (see: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – The New Generation of Biological Products).

 

PEAR (Pyrus communis)

Pear

Soil & Site:

Choose a location in a fertile, well-drained soil that receives full sun, but sheltered from cold southerly winds. Pears prefer a pH of 6.0-6.5, if it’s less than 6.0 add garden lime.

Rootstocks:

Pears are usually grafted onto quince rootstock, producing smaller trees, which is what I would recommend as they are easier to maintain.

Varieties:

Beurre Bosc: produces large, brown-skinned juicy fruit with delicious sweet flavour. Pollinate with William’s Bon Chretien or Doyenne du Comice.

Concord: produces a large, elongated juicy yellow pear that ripens in mid-autumn when fruit take on a pinkish blush. Self-fertile but improved if grown with a Nashi pear variety.

Doyenne du Comice: is regarded as one of the best pears when it comes to flavour. Fruit are green skinned with a pinkish blush. Very sweet and juicy. Pollinate with Concord.

Packham’s Triumph: is a heavy cropping variety with large greenish-yellow skinned fruits. Great for bottling and preserving. Self-fertile but pollination is improved by growing with Wiiliam’s Bon Chretien.

William’s Bon Chretien: produces an early crop of fruit that change from pale green to yellow when ripe. One of the best tasting pears of all time, however it is not a keeper – so get eating! Pollinate with Beurre Bosc or Packham’s Triumph.

Planting:

(See above section: PLANTING TREE FRUIT)

Support & Training:

Espalier trained pear in winter

Espalier trained pear in winter

Same pear tree in fruit

Same pear tree in fruit

Freestanding trees are difficult to maintain, as they always want to grow to the sky. We grow ours on quince stock and train them as espalier. This way they do not grow too big, are easier to maintain, easy to net against birds, easier to pick and produce better quality fruit.

If you do want to grow a freestanding tree, I suggest you choose one grafted onto quince stock to keep it reasonably within bounds, as well as training it in a vase shape and pruning it to keep the height around 2.2-2.5m (7-8ft). For more information about training, see above section: TRAINING.

Maintenance:

Water around the base of your young trees in dry periods, especially when the fruit is swelling, making sure that soil gets enough water for the roots to be fully soaked. We have a drip hose that winds the length of our two espalier trained trees.

Mulching:

Mulch around base of newly planted trees, especially if you have sandy soil. Cover a circle as wide as the spread of the branches with 10cm (4in) old straw and replenish mulch when necessary. Make sure the mulching layer doesn’t touch the stem of your tree as this can cause it to rot. This should be done for the first three years after planting. After that you can plant borage, comfrey, dill and fennel beneath your trees to draw nutrients from deep in the soil and to attract beneficial pollinating and predatory insects.

Feeding:

In autumn/early winter apply about 3cm (1in) of well-rotted garden compost around the base of the tree, especially the area where the feeding roots are, under the outer edge of the main stems. An application of powdered seaweed is also good at this time to supply trace elements and potassium.

Protection:

If you have birds pecking the ripening fruit, as we do, you may need to net the trees, which is easier if you an espalier trained tree.

Pruning:

For the general pruning of pears see: APPLE

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Prevention

Apart from generally improving the health of the soil and hence the trees, and other methods as described in the first part of ‘PESTS & DISEASES’, it is a good idea to have a regular spaying regime during the growing and fruiting season e.g. spray compost tea, with added liquid seaweed, every two weeks + the parasitic fungus Trichoderma viride spray alternate weeks, to counteract fungus diseases like fireblight.

Pests

Pear Slug (Sawfly Larvae):

This is a pest we have not had, but a neighbour up the hill had it on their young pear trees, probably introduced with the young trees from the nursery where they bought them.

The pear sawfly (Caliroa cerasi) is also known as the cherry or pear slug. Young larvae – 12mm (½in) long, are greenish-black, elongated, slim and slug-like, with very little evidence of legs. As the slugs grow, they become lighter coloured, resembling green-orange caterpillars. The winter is passed in the soil inside a cocoon. In the late spring, shortly after trees have come into full leaf, the adult sawflies emerge and deposit their eggs on the leaves.

Sawfly Control: Cultivate around trees and shrubs in the early spring and again in the fall to help reduce the overwintering population. Wash pear slugs off leaves with a strong jet of water. Larvae may also be sprayed with homemade Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray, (See: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’), but I would use non-poisonous Diatomaceous Earth, an effective organic insecticide that works well when dusted over slug infested areas.

Coddling moth: We find that codling moth tends to affect our apple trees worst, but they still affect a proportion of our pears, see: APPLES for details.

Diseases

Fireblight: is a particular problem with pear trees that have lots of soft fresh growth. Signs of infection are leaf shoots and fruiting spurs turning black. Reduce the likelihood of an outbreak by not over-feeding with nitrogen-rich manure or fertilizer. Once infected, trees can’t be cured completely, but it can be kept under control by cutting out diseased wood and burning it. Dip secateurs in methylated spirits between cuts.

I have also found that spraying with the parasitic fungus Trichoderma viride spray as soon as the new leaves have started to grow in spring, and subsequently spraying every two weeks, along with cutting out the effected shoots, and picking off infected leaves, has been quite effective at controlling the disease. The Trichoderma powder needs whisking into rainwater and thoroughly mixing before diluting with more rainwater, otherwise it becomes claggy and blocks the spray gun, unless you can obtain the liquid version.

See: Biopesticide Controls of Plant, Diseases: Resources and Products for Organic Farmers in Ohio https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/7f63/4d9bc17cb3c4021954273ac45e679205a037.pdf

 

PERSIMMON (Diospyros kaki)

Persimmon

Definitely one of my favourite fruit! For those who have not eaten one, buy one, wait until a little soft and enjoy. For those who have not grown them, give one a try. The Persimmon is a deciduous tree, native to China. They have a gorgeous taste, which is unlike anything else. They usually grow to 3-4m (10-13ft). The early varieties were astringent types that could only be eaten when very soft. The newer varieties like Fuyu are sweet even when still firm, and boy do they make great smoothies!

Soil & Site:

Persimmon will grow in a wide range of soil types, but always do best in deep well drained loam type soils. A pH of 6.4 is ideal. Stony soils can reduce tree vigour and induce early fruiting. Shelter from cold spring winds. Persimmons require a long growing season (7 months), to mature fruit. This limits the fruit to the warmer regions, and places with more Mediterranean type climates. Here in Nelson we have good crops.

Rootstocks:

‘Kaki’ is the usual rootstock.

Varieties:

Fuyu:

Planting:

(See above section: PLANTING TREE FRUIT)

Support & Training:

Initial pruning of young trees is aimed at creating a strong framework for carrying fruit in the future years. Train into an open vase shape on a short ½m (1½ft) trunk. Staking for the first year might be necessary with a small young tree.

Maintenance:

For good production they should be irrigated during dry weather, especially when the fruit is forming.

Mulching:

Mulch down around the tree with 10cm (4in) spray-free straw, or 5cm (2in) bark chips.

Feeding:

Do not feed organic fertiliser with a high nitrogen content, such as ‘blood & bone’ or fresh manure, as this will lead to vigorous growth at the expense of fruit. Spraying with seaweed spray several times during the growing season and mulching with comfrey leaves will supply Potassium and essential trace elements.

Protection:

Protect from cold winds. We have found birds to be little trouble.

Pruning:

Persimmon’s fruit on the tips of the previous summer’s growth. Winter pruning consists of removing shoots, which have fruited, and leaving new shoots for the current season’s crop. Good fruiting shoots are approximately 20-40cm (8-12in) long with large buds near the tip. Summer pruning is used on vigorous trees:

Harvesting & Preserving:

Persimmons are harvested over the autumn and earl winter months. Fruit reach full maturity when the fruit turns orange and fully covered. You can pick them at this stage and finish ripening to your taste indoors. They have a shelf life of 20-30 days after harvest.

Slices of pealed persimmon dried are extremely yummy!

Propagation:

Grafting onto ‘kaki’ rootstock can be done in spring when the rootstock has started to leaf out. Grafted trees normally start setting fruit in three to four years.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Leaf-roller and mealy bug are the main pests in New Zealand. The biological spray Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) will control these pests in the home garden.

Persimmon Wilt: The Cephalosporium diospyri fungus causes a serious and often fatal disease called persimmon wilt. Infected leaves wilt and fall to the ground as the branches die. The decline begins at the top of a persimmon tree and spreads downward, eventually affecting the entire tree. Severely diseased trees die one to two years after becoming infected. Vascular or verticillium wilt also can cause persimmon tree death. The soil-borne fungus attacks the tree’s water-transport system. The wood and roots become discoloured, the leaves shrivel and wilt, and the persimmon fruit is often deformed or the tree fails to produce fruit.

Two years ago our persimmon tree got this disease and I cured it by acting early:

  1. Cutting out the affected branches back to at least 15cm (6in) past the infected point.
  2. Sprinkling the parasitic fungus Trichoderma viride granules around the tree and watering in, so the Trichoderma was absorbed up into the sap through the roots.
  3. Drilling three 6mm (¼in) diameter holes 2cm (¾in) deep around the main trunk 10cm (4in) up from the ground and stuffing with Trichoderma viride powder, then sealing with clay, or Blu-Tack.

This has been very effective with no recurrence so far.

 

PLUM (Prunus domestica)

Plums

Soil & Site:

Plums like deep loam or clay soils that are well drained, with a soil pH of 6.0-6.5. For heavy clays break up the bottom of the planting hole. See above section: PLANTING TREE FRUIT to create the ideal conditions for your young tree. 

Rootstocks:

  • Myrobalan: semi-vigorous – 5m (16½ft)
  • Saint Julian: semi-vigorous – 4.5m (15ft)
  • Ferlenain: semi-dwarfing – 3m (10ft)
  • Mont Clare: semi-dwarfing – 3m (10ft)
  • VVA1: semi-dwarfing – 2.5m (8ft)
  • Torrinel 24: semi-dwarfing –       2.4-3m (8-10ft)

Varieties:

Golden DropCoe’s Golden Drop: A great mid to late season plum. Large oval, yellow fruit both rich in taste and with juicy flesh. Best planted with English Greengage for cross-pollination.

 

 

GreengageEnglish Greengage: Very popular, succulent, sweet, small green fruit with intense, unique flavour. Mid to late season. Best planted with Coe’s Golden Drop for cross-pollination.

 

 

Burbank: Large, round, dark red fruit and sweet, juicy, aromatic, yellow flesh. Crops regularly and heavily. Japanese variety. Mid-season. Expect fruit once tree is 2-4 years old. Partially self-fertile, but is best planted with Santa Rosa for cross-pollination.

Santa Rosa: The Queen of all plums! Developed by Luther Burbank, it is among the highest flavoured plums in the world. Medium to large purple skinned fruit with yellow tinged pink, juicy, tangy flesh. Japanese variety. Early to mid-season. Self fertile.

Damson: This was one of our favourite wild plums in the UK. A highly productive variety of small oval fruit with blue skin and yellow flesh. It has a unique slightly tart, fresh taste when fully ripe. Great for jam, bottling and drying. A compact grower that is best in colder areas. European variety. Expect fruit once tree is 3-4 years old. Self fertile.

Planting:

Plant bare-rooted trees after leaf fall in the late autumn, while the soil is still warm and the roots will continue to grow for some time, establishing the tree.

Support & Training:

A temporary cane support is used for very young freestanding trees, but I would suggest growing as a fan or espalier on wires or against a sunny wall, for easy maintenance, pruning, netting and picking. However, be careful not to use wire ties to tie the branches as chafing can let in the spores of the deadly silver leaf disease. Use strips of old tights or strips of inner tubing, or proprietary tree ties that will stretch, but not cut.

This is our espalier Greengage, with White Alyssum growing underneath

This is our espalier Greengage, with White Alyssum growing underneath

Maintenance:

During the growing season we spray the trees every two or three weeks with liquid seaweed or compost tea with added liquid seaweed, which feeds them with essential trace elements and Potassium that encourages fruiting and helps to keep them healthy.

Mulching:

For young freestanding trees, mulch with about 7-10cm (3-4in) spray-free straw on a metre circle of bare soil. With our espalier trees we have a 60cm (2ft) bare strip the length of the tree’s spread, covered with a mulch of compost and a living mulch of White Alyssum, (see photo) which helps to attract beneficial predatory insects.

Feeding:

In late autumn apply one bucket per square metre of garden compost around the perimeter of the tree where the feeding roots are, or along the strip for espalier or fan trained trees; as well as regular spraying or watering of liquid seaweed throughout the season (as above).

Protection:

Netting against birds will be necessary as the fruit ripens – easier for espalier and fan trained trees.

Pruning:

Late pruning in spring reduces canker infections in pruning cuts and allows you to remove winter-killed branches. Plums can also be pruned in the autumn immediately after fruit picking.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Pick when the fruit starts to get slightly soft and sweet and comes of the tree easily – taste one or two (or more) to test. For Bottling, Drying and Pickling, see: APRICOT

Propagation:

Graft onto recommended rootstock – see Rootstocks above.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Pests include aphids in the spring, pear slug in summer, and bird eating the fruit.

Aphids: ‘Preventative Garlic & Seaweed Spray’ should keep them at bay. If they get out of hand, use home made ‘Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray’ – see: ‘PESTS & DISEASES‘.

Pear Slugs: See: PEAR for details.

Diseases

Silverleaf: is a fungus disease that easily contracted and readily kills or debilitates plum trees. The leaves take on a silvery hue and then may turn brown. There is a progressive dieback of leading shoots, which will have purple-brown or white fungi on the dead wood. As the fungus enters open wounds always prune in the growing season when the cuts heal quickly. If you catch it early you may succeed in stopping it. Cut back all dead growth to at least 15cm (6in) past the infected point. As soon as the symptoms are seen, insert powder of the parasitic fungus Trichoderma viride into three or four 4mm (¼in) diameter deep holes drilled 2cm (¾in) into the trunk and plug with clay or BluTack.

Bacterial blast: is not really treatable, so again it is best to avoid it. It is often inherited from poor nurseries. It is best to remove and burn the trees.

Other more minor problems are shothole and bladder plum. Both have susceptible and resistant varieties that can be selected to avoid the problem.

 

POMEGRANATE (Punica granatum)

Pomeganate

Size – 2 x 3 metres (6½ x 10ft). Great in containers or as a specimen in the garden why not be different, try as an espalier.

  • Fruits in early autumn.
  • Reasonable levels of vitamin C, K and B6,
  • Good levels of potassium, copper, pantothenic acid, ellagic acid and flavonoids. Reasonable levels of vitamin C, K and B6,
  • Good levels of potassium, copper, pantothenic acid, ellagic acid & flavonoids.

Soil & Site:

Will tolerate most soil conditions providing it is well drained. It thrives in hot dry summers but requires moisture during fruiting stage from late summer to late autumn. They are frost tolerant.

Rootstocks:

They are grown on their own roots.

Varieties:

Wonderful: Flowers over a long period from late spring through summer. Very large round dark purple-red fruit with medium-thick rind. Deep red juicy, winey pulp with medium hard seeds. First propagated in California in 1896. Compact tree. Vigorous and productive. Self-fertile.

Planting:

Spacing of plants 5-6m (16-19½) apart and cut the stems of young trees back to allow root establishment.

Maintenance:

Young trees need regular irrigation

Mulching:

Mulch around trees with 10cm (4in) spray-free straw, or 5cm (2in) bark chips.

Feeding:

Young trees need a general fertiliser with extra nitrogen. Once established they need little or no extra nutrients.

Protection:

Shield from cold southerly winds.

Pruning:

Lightly prune after fruiting, to a desired shape this will encourage new growth. Fruits on new season wood.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Harvest in late autumn/early winter, 5-7 months after flowering. Will not ripen after harvest.

Propagation:

Hardwood cuttings are the most widely used method. You should take 15-25cm (6-10in) long cuttings from autumn to late winter, off of one year old wood.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Pomegranates are generally pest and disease free, but minor problems are leaf and fruit spot, which can be sprayed with Trichoderma viride powder mixed thoroughly into water, or liquid if you can get it.

 

QUINCE (Cydonia oblonga)

Quince

This is a strange tree with strange fruit looking like a large ugly pear, and the raw fruits are inedible, but don’t let this put you off, because when cooked they taste gorgeous! The tree is large; it grows 5 to 8m (16 to 26ft) high and 4 to 6m (13 to 20ft wide given a chance. It is native to rocky slopes and woodland margins in South-West Asia, Turkey and Iran, but is very hardy. Quince is not only resistant to frost, but requires a cold period below 7°C (44½°F) to flower properly. It is self-fertile.

Soil & Site:

They prefer a pH of between 6.0 and 6.5. Lime the soil if tests show the pH to be below 6.0. Plant in a sunny place.

Rootstocks:

They are grown on their own roots.

Varieties:

Van Deman: The fruit is large, oblong-pear shaped, bright yellow-orange. The flesh is pale yellow with a good, spicy flavour. Early ripening. Heavy bearing and hardier than most cultivars.

Smyrna: Popular Turkish variety. Fruit is large to very large, furrowed, oblong, pear-shaped, golden-yellow and very aromatic. Flesh is mild, tender, and is of excellent quality. The fruit keeps very well. Moderately vigorous tree.

Planting:

(See: Planting Tree Fruit)

Support & Training:

Stake very young trees for first year. Train as an open vase shape.

Maintenance:

Spray several times during growing season with liquid seaweed.

Mulching:

Mulch around trees with 10cm (4in) spray-free straw, or 5cm (2in) bark chips.

Feeding:

Spread 1 bucket of garden compost per square metre (yard) around tree in late winter.

Pruning:

(See the section above: PRUNING)

Harvesting & Preserving:

Quinces are ripe when they become yellow and give off a strong aroma. They will keep well in boxes, like apples.

Propagation:

Quinces are usually propagated from hardwood cuttings. The cuttings should be taken in late autumn or early winter and should be about 25cm (10in) long.

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Pests

Codling Moth: can be a problem – see: APPLE

Diseases

Fire Blight: see: PEAR

Recipes:

Here is a quote from Nigel Slater’s website to give you some ideas:

“I have braised them with lamb, adding honey, fresh ginger and saffron; roasted them with pork and marsala and baked them at a leisurely pace, basting the halves of fruit as they roasted with butter, lemon and sugar. Once I tried to capture their fragrance in an ice – and failed.

Once it has been baked or poached, the flesh becomes soft and almost Turkish delight-like. A quince in this state will benefit from a crisp crust. Best so far has been a crumble, rough as pebbledash, where I tossed together flour, butter, almonds and breadcrumbs and sweetened it with light, butterscotch-scented muscovado.

The effect of a single quince in an apple pie, which introduces a delicious hint of perfume to the filling, is well known, but it is worth cooking the quince for a little while first, as its rock-hard flesh takes longer to submit to the heat of the oven than any apple.”

Quince Cheese

Quince cheese is a thick spread. It is best made with slightly unripe fruit as they have more pectin in for setting. It is great to spread on bread or use as a condiment.

Ingredients:

  • 3kg (6½ pounds) quinces
  • Water
  • Sugar to measure

Preparation:

  1. You don’t need to peel or core them, just cut them up and place in a pan and just cover with water.
  2. Gently simmer for about 1 hour until soft.
  3. Pass through a sieve or mouli and measure the pulp.
  4. For every 6ooml (20floz) of pulp add 500g (1 pound) sugar and return to saucepan.
  5. Bring to the boil and then simmer, stirring frequently until thick and a deep rose colour.
  6. Test if it’s ready by pouring a little paste onto a cold plate, let it cool and then run your finger through it. If it leaves a trail through the paste it is ready.
  7. Pour into a baking tray lined with cooking paper and leave to set overnight.
  8. If needed you can dry it further by placing in an oven set at 600C (1400F) over several days until firm.
  9. The cheese will last for 12-18 months in a cool dark place.

 

TAMARILLO (Solanum betaceum)

TamarilloTamarillos are members of the Tomato (Solanaceae) family and are a good source of Vitamin A, B6, C and E. Rich in iron and potassium. They have a fresh sweet-sour taste. They were originally known as ‘tree tomatoes’ and are natives of the Andean region of Bolivia and northwest Argentina. An Auckland nurseryman bred the most popular red varieties in New Zealand in the 1920′s. These trees are definitely plants for warmer climates with Mediterranean or mild Mediterranean or sub tropical climates, because they don’t like frost.

Soil & Site:

Tamarillos have a shallow root system, so apply two buckets of well-rotted garden compost per square metre (yard), plus 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser, dug in before planting. They will not survive well in areas with air frosts of lower than -30C (26½0F). It is best to plant them up against a warm sheltered sunny wall. The plants have to be protected from wind, because their shallow root system does not provide enough stability, and the branches are fragile and break easily when carrying fruits.

Rootstocks: They can be grafted onto seedling stock, but are usually struck from cuttings and are grown on their own roots.

Varieties:

Tango: Cluster of pink fragrant flowers appear in spring within 18 months from planting. Followed by medium sized red/orange fruit. Very sweet and low in acidity.

Red Beau: Cluster of pink fragrant flowers appear in spring within 18 months from planting. Followed by large bright red oval fruit with an excellent acidic flavour.

Bold Gold: Cluster of pink fragrant flowers appear in spring within 18 months from planting. Followed by large golden fruit, which is sweet and less acidic than the red varieties.

Teds Red: Cluster of pink fragrant flowers appear in spring within 18 months from planting. Followed by large almost round bright red fruit.

Planting:

See above section: PLANTING TREE FRUIT. Plus add one handful of Neem Tree granules or into the planting hole to help stop Tomato/Potato Psyllid.

Support & Training:

Support for the first year by tying to a stake.

Maintenance:

Because of their shallow root systems they need a lot of water, high organic matter and mulching. Apply one bucket of well-rotted garden compost every autumn and re-mulch.

Mulching:

Mulch around trees with 10cm (4in) spray-free straw, or 5cm (2in) bark chips.

Feeding:

Water the soil with liquid seaweed after flowering, and spray the foliage with liquid seaweed a few times during the growing season.

Pruning:

Cutting the tip of young plants leads to the desired branch height. Once the tree shape has been formed, pruning is reduced to the removal of old or dead wood and previously fruited branches, since branches that have already carried fruits will produce smaller fruits with lower quality the next time. Light pruning leads to medium sized fruit; heavy pruning will encourage large sized fruits. Shoots from the base should be removed.

Harvesting & Preserving:

Pick when fully coloured and slightly squashy when pressed. They can simply be cut in half and the flesh eaten fresh, or they can be made into compotes, or added to stews (e.g. Boeuf Bourguignon), hollandaise, chutneys and curries.

Propagation:

They can be grown from saved seed if there are no other varieties in the vicinity, to which they may have crossed. Plants grown from cuttings branch out earlier and result in more shrub-like plants that are more suitable for exposed sites. Cuttings should be made from basal and aerial shoots, and should be virus free. Plants grown from cuttings should be kept in a nursery bed until they reach a height of ½m (1½ft).

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Pests

Tomato/Potato Psyllid:

As tamarillos are members of the Solanaceae family (tomatoes, egg plants, potatoes, peppers, etc.) they are subject to the same diseases, the most important at the moment is the tomato/potato psyllid native to North America, which is now in Australia and New Zealand.

Nymphs and possibly adults inject bacteria into the plants when they feed. This bacteria causes discolouration of leaves and the plant becomes stunted and the leaf edges turn up and become yellow or purple. The plants internodes shorten, new growth is retarded and crops are severely reduced.

Interestingly if the psyllids are removed early, the plant may start to grow normally again as soon as the bacteria ceases to be injected by the psyllid mites.

By adding 2 handfuls of Neem Tree granules into the planting hole, or 100g per square metre (yard) mixed into the soil, will deter the psyllid bugs. In the soil the Microbes break down the granules releasing the Neem properties that are still in the granules over time. These properties are taken up by the roots and translocate through the plant. Thus if a chewing or sucking insect feeds on the plant they receive a small dose of the Neem affecting their ability to eat again. Thus they die of starvation.

Diseases

Viruses: Tamarillo mosaic virus reduces the tree’s vigour. It leaves scabs on fruits.

Fungi: Powdery mildew and other fungi produces leaf loss (defoliation). Spraying when it appears with Trichoderma viride powder mixed thoroughly into water, and then every few weeks after, will keep it in check.

Recipes:

Tamarillo Crumble

Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the fruit

  • 8-10 tamarillos, score the ends
  • 2 apples
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest

For the crumble topping

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup seeds and/or nuts
  • ½ cup desiccated coconut
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter, melted

Preparation:

  1. Boil a large pot of water and blanch tamarillos to remove the skins. They only need approximately 30 seconds in the boiling water then take them out and plunge them into ice-cold water.
  2. Peel the skins once they are cool to the touch. Cut each tamarillo into quarters.
  3. Peel apples and cut into 5mm (¼in) slices.
  4. In a large saucepan heat a knob of butter and add the apples and sugar. Cook the apples for around 10 minutes on medium then fold in the tamarillos and lemon. Do not over-stir the fruit mixture at this point. You don’t want it to be mushy. Set aside.
  5. For the crumble topping, combine the oats, seeds/nuts, coconut, sugar and melted butter. The best technique is to rub the mixture together with your hands.
  6. Spoon the fruit mixture into 6 small ramekins – just under fill so you have room for the crumble topping.
  7. Pack the crumble topping firmly on top of the fruit mixture.
  8. Bake at 1800C (3560F) for 15-20 minutes or until the fruit boils over the sides of the ramekins.
  9. Serve with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top of each crumble. 

 

TANGELO (Citrus × tangelo)

Tangelo

Tangelos are a hybrid of mandarin and a grapefruit. They look like a smooth orange but taste more like tangerines.

For: Soil & Site, Rootstocks, Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Mulching, Feeding, Pruning, Propagation and Possible Pests & Diseases see: LEMON

Varieties:

Seminole: Bright, red- orange, semi-flat fruit that are very juicy and rich in flavour with just a hint of sharpness. Thin skinned and very juicy. The fruit ripens from August through to October and holds well on the tree. There is a dwarf version that only grows to 1.5m (5ft).

Tinura: This is a vigorous tree with medium sized fruit. Smooth skinned with a distinct ‘neck’ at the top of the Tangelo. The flesh is a deep orange and has a good juice content, tasting more like a grapefruit.

 

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