Kate Mar­shall looks at the best fruit trees to plant in com­mu­nity gar­dens.

NZ Gardener - - CONTENTS -

Best trees for com­mu­nity gar­dens

Some fruit plants will grow read­ily from cut­tings, which can be given away to the com­mu­nity or sold as a fundraiser.

Fruit plants pro­vide ex­cel­lent value for the time and money in­vested. While most veg­etable plants need to be re­planted each sea­son, most fruit trees are pro­duc­tive for 10 years (at an ab­so­lute min­i­mum!).

This makes fruit trees a good in­vest­ment in com­mu­nity gar­dens.

The Taupo Com­mu­nity Gar­dens has a large range of fruit trees grown in the tem­per­ate cli­mate, close to the great lake. Pro­duce from the or­chard goes to the Taupo Food Bank and Taupo Hospice as well as the 10 vol­un­teers who tend to the gar­dens on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

One vol­un­teer Anja Schaar says that the top per­form­ers in the or­chard are the plum trees (es­pe­cially ‘Luisa’), the ap­ple trees (‘Monty’s Sur­prise’ is a stand out), a cou­ple of ex­cep­tional quinces and a sweet cherry tree which crops heav­ily thanks to Taupo’s cold win­ters and hot, dry sum­mers.

A nec­tarine and peach that don’t per­form well un­der those con­di­tions are go­ing to be ripped out.

Fei­joa and lemon trees were re­cently planted. Figs and wal­nuts are be­ing con­sid­ered too, though the even­tual size of the lat­ter is caus­ing long con­sid­er­a­tion of the cor­rect place­ment.

For other com­mu­nity gar­dens look­ing at plant­ing fruit trees, Anja’s main ad­vice is to get the spac­ing right. “Once they are es­tab­lished, they are usu­ally big­ger than you thought they would be.”

She also ad­vises that fruit trees do bet­ter with TLC – that means reg­u­lar prun­ing and fer­til­is­ing. Com­post tea or worm juice tea spray also helps with dis­ease pre­ven­tion.

In Taupo, work has also been done to im­prove the struc­ture and mois­ture-re­tain­ing qual­i­ties of the soil, as it is nat­u­rally a poor pumice.

The food for­est at Auck­land’s Sanc­tu­ary Mahi Whenua also hosts a large range of fruit trees in­clud­ing cit­rus, plums and fei­joas. “We also have many less com­mon fruit trees, such as casimiroa or white sapote, kei ap­ple, Queens­land plum and moun­tain paw­paw,” says vol­un­teer Dr Trevor Crosby. These were planted in the early 2000s when the Sanc­tu­ary was planned in Unitec days; they served as ex­am­ples of dif­fer­ent fruits that could be grown to give pro­duce at dif­fer­ent times of the year. “This phi­los­o­phy of try­ing dif­fer­ent fruits and veg­eta­bles has been main­tained in the com­mu­nity gar­den set­ting.”

Trevor also re­ports that main­te­nance re­quire­ments for most of these trees is no greater than what is nec­es­sary for the more com­mon fruit trees. “How­ever, we have found that fast-grow­ing casimiroa seems to be more sus­cep­ti­ble to wind dam­age to branches.”

For max­i­mum yield, all fruit trees do best in full sun and freedrain­ing, fer­tile soil. Com­pro­mis­ing on the po­si­tion will re­sult in lessthan-op­ti­mum crops, and pos­si­ble dis­ease risks.

When look­ing for the best picks for your com­mu­nity gar­den, choose va­ri­eties which are suited to the cli­mate of the gar­den. Frost-ten­der plants such as av­o­cado, cit­rus and pas­sion­fruit are best avoided in south­ern com­mu­nity gar­dens, whereas these will thrive in north­ern re­gions. Like­wise, avoid high-chill stone­fruit such as ‘Moor­park’ apri­cots and ‘Rainier’ cher­ries in spots with warm win­ters, but will thrive in colder re­gions.

To make the most of all of the fruit, choose va­ri­eties which are mul­ti­pur­pose: de­li­cious eaten fresh but any ex­cess can be pre­served, dried or frozen. This helps through the win­ter months when there is lit­tle fresh pro­duce to be har­vested. Pre­serves, jams and chut­neys are al­ways pop­u­lar, and so make great fundraiser items.

Top Tips

• Only a few fruit trees will tol­er­ate hav­ing wet feet. For parts of the gar­den where the soil can be quite wet, plant per­sim­mons, cherry guava, figs, ap­ples and pears (ex­cept those on dwarf root­stocks).

• Fruit plants for free: Some fruit plants will grow read­ily from cut­tings, which can be given away to the com­mu­nity or sold as a fundraiser. Figs grow well from cut­tings taken in sum­mer or win­ter. Suck­ers from rasp­berry bushes can be dug in win­ter and pot­ted up.

• At­tract bees and other ben­e­fi­cial pol­li­nat­ing in­sects and nat­u­ral preda­tors by plant­ing com­frey, nas­tur­tium, chamomile, co­rian­der, dill, fen­nel, basil, lemon­grass, mint, tansy, marigold or chives. They also en­rich the soil when cut back and nat­u­rally com­posted.

Ap­ple trees can do well in com­mu­nity gar­dens.

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