Plant now and she’ll be ap­ples

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Peter Cun­dall

THE fact that win­ter has now of­fi­cially ar­rived is re­ally a cause for cel­e­bra­tion for keen gar­den­ers. Our rel­a­tively low Tas­ma­nian win­ter tem­per­a­tures, es­pe­cially at night, can be a huge ad­van­tage for grow­ing de­cid­u­ous fruit trees.

June is a per­fect time to buy and plant new ones.

If short on gar­den space we can plant trees that are grafted on to dwarf­ing stock so they al­ways re­main rel­a­tively small, yet still pro­duce ex­cel­lent yields of fresh fruit.

Some peo­ple are put off from grow­ing a back­yard orchard be­cause they sus­pect the trees may be too much trou­ble to main­tain.

In fact, most com­mon de­cid­u­ous fruit trees are eas­ily pruned and if grown or­gan­i­cally are rarely sprayed.

Eas­i­est of all are plum trees, which grow happily in most soils.

Once es­tab­lished you can vir­tu­ally for­get about them, apart from oc­ca­sional light prun­ing and har­vest­ing the fruit.

Most are suit­able for typ­i­cal back­yards and can be trained as fans on fences or wires.

All pro­duce at­trac­tive spring blos­soms if planted with a suit­able mate and most carry out­stand­ing crops, year af­ter year.

Euro­pean plums such as Green­gage and Golden Gage pol­li­nate each other.

By us­ing space- sav­ing fans or es­paliers, a big range of fruit trees can fit com­fort­ably into small gar­dens.

Peach and nec­tarine trees rarely grow too large and are eas­ily kept un­der con­trol by sum­mer prun­ing af­ter har­vest­ing.

Most are self- fer­tile, which means they don’t need an­other tree for pol­li­na­tion.

Ex­cess fruit can be bot­tled, or cooked and frozen for long keep­ing.

Ap­ples and pears can also be es­paliered against fences, trellises or walls.

When grafted on to dwarf­ing stock they ma­ture as 2m high, free- stand­ing trees, even suit­able for a front lawn. We have a lovely Mutsu and a Granny Smith tree, both of which take up lit­tle space but fruit well into early win­ter.

Other ap­ples such as Gravenstein, Cox’s Or­ange Pip­pin and Jon­agold pro­vide non- stop sup­plies from early Jan­uary to au­tumn.

Most pears need pol­li­na­tion from an­other va­ri­ety for de­cent yields.

They are vig­or­ous but can be kept un­der con­trol if trained as es­paliers. This means reg­u­larly pinch­ing- out and stop­ping all ac­tive tips dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son.

For­tu­nately, like ap­ples, they are avail­able as multi- grafts which al­ways worked with mu­tual cross- pol­li­nat­ing va­ri­eties.

It is im­por­tant to se­lect the best trees avail­able at gar­den cen­tres, which are not nec­es­sar­ily the big­gest plants dis­played.

Re- sell­ers are re­luc­tant to prune large trees be­cause they look im­pres­sive and sell faster.

How­ever, if the roots have been heav­ily re­duced, usu­ally to take up less room dur­ing trans­porta­tion, over- large trees will ei­ther fail to grow or even die dur­ing the first sea­son.

This is why it is nec­es­sary to prune the branches of lanky trees back hard be­fore plant­ing to help restore bal­ance.

Re­mem­ber all de­cid­u­ous trees are best planted bare- rooted in win­ter.

If bought in con­tain­ers, shake off all pot­ting mix and get them into moist ground as a

Most com­mon de­cid­u­ous fruit trees are eas­ily pruned and if grown or­gan­i­cally are rarely sprayed

mat­ter of ur­gency, even if only to cover the roots un­til prop­erly planted.

Most de­cid­u­ous fruit trees will be there for a long time so must be planted with great care.

New, young trees could be un­der stress dur­ing the first cou­ple of grow­ing sea­sons, es­pe­cially dur­ing long pe­ri­ods with­out rain.

Later, af­ter form­ing deep, pen­e­trat­ing roots they be­come rel­a­tively in­de­pen­dent.

Al­ways dig plant­ing holes fairly wide so all the bare roots can be spread as widely as pos­si­ble.

Old, well- rot­ted cow or sheep ma­nure, with gen­er­ous amounts of com­post or coco- peat should be mixed into soil stock­piles be­fore back­fill­ing.

This or­ganic mat­ter acts like a sponge, ab­sorb­ing and re­tain­ing enough mois­ture to help carry the trees through any hot dry pe­ri­ods in sum­mer.

Above all, make sure all de­cid­u­ous fruit trees are se­curely sup­ported, prefer­ably us­ing wooden stakes.

Two stakes are bet­ter than one when driven in on ei­ther side of newly planted trees with plas­tic tree ties stretched be­tween the two.

Af­ter back­fill­ing, slow- act­ing fer­tilis­ers such as blood and bone can be gen­er­ously sprin­kled over root- zones and then cov­ered with a thick layer of weed- sup­press­ing straw. They’ll never look back.

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