Peter Cundall: Fruitful plants in winter.
With the right plants, a garden does not have to be dormant in the cold months, says PETER CUNDALL
When our 20-year-old pineapple guava became too big, I took a chance and reached for my chainsaw. Within minutes the fourmetre-high and wide tree had been cut to a waist-high cluster of stumps.
I shouldn’t have worried because within weeks it had sprouted new growth.
That was two years ago and already it’s back to half the original size and laden with developing fruit.
Most people call them by the old name “feijoa”, now replaced by Acca sellowiana but whatever you call it, the pineapple guava is still among the most valuable of all winter-bearing fruit trees. The sweet, highly nutritious fruit is a rich source of vitamin C (main picture).
Most plants are grown from seeds beThese cause propagation from cuttings can be tricky. Many purchased from garden centres appear to be seedlings, so fruit can vary in size. Luckily ours carries large, duck-egg sized fruit in huge quantities that cascade to the ground in mid winter when ripe.
I planted another nearby and the cross-pollination ensured the enormous yields.
highly attractive evergreens can be grown as part of an ornamental garden and regular light pruning in late winter keeps them under control.
The unusual scarlet and white flowers, produced in late November are sweet and sugary so are often used to enhance salads. It seems to be no accident that almost all fruit produced during winter happens to be particularly nutritious.
For some reason, pomegranates (inset picture) are not grown widely in southern Australia, despite being frost-resistant.
I’ve come across several over the years that produced good-sized winter fruit, bursting with delicious, bright scarlet fleshy seeds.
The juice and flesh is high in antioxidants, potassium and vitamins A and C
It seems to be no accident that almost all fruit produced during winter happens to be particularly nutritious.
just when our bodies need these nutrients.
The trees grow strongly even in cool districts but fruit size is determined by high summer temperatures.
There are several dwarf varieties available which grow to two metres but the fruit is much smaller. The bright orange flowers slightly resemble carnations and are excellent for indoor decoration.
Kiwifruit vines grow to perfection in cool districts but need strong climbing frames or even pergolas. In well-drained soil enriched with well-rotted animal manure and plenty of sunlight, the plants grow strongly. Most need to be at least three years old or more before they carry the green-fleshed winter fruit.
Vines can be planted at any time of the year but late autumn and winter are best and be sure to purchase a non-producing male plant for pollination, otherwise there will be no fruit.
I prune the male hard during early summer after flowers fade, while female plants are best winter pruned by cutting all canes which have fruited back to healthy buds close to the main framework. Any spurs which have formed on the branches are best left to produce fruit.
Like pears, kiwifruit is harvested when mature but still hard and green to soften and sweeten during storage. Keep well watered during summer dry periods and feed in late winter and early summer with surface dressings of pelletised chook manure and mushroom compost.
Passionfruit is another winter crop worth growing, but don’t waste money on coloured varieties where soil temperatures drop below 7C for months — common in most parts of Tasmania. Many are non-grafted seedlings that are more suitable for the subtropics so rarely survive our winters.
Best of all is the far sweeter “Nelly Kelly” black passionfruit, always grafted on to a much tougher root stock.
In frosty districts, vines are best planted in late spring, always against sunny walls or fences.
A soil enriched with sheep manure mixed with blood and bone ensures rapid growth during summer.
Vines take about three years before starting to bear fruit, but in too much shade they tend to sulk and despite strong growth, remain barren.