Why winter is one of our most fruitful times of year
The depths of winter may not seem the right time to have anorchardan orchard bursting with fruit, but we have a choice of mandarins, lemons, late tangelos and avocados, feijoas and tamarillos.
Fresh fruit all year round is highly desirable. We researched fruiting times to plan the spread of fresh produce from our block over as many months of the year as our individual climatic conditions allow.
Tamarillos or ‘rimmos’ as our daughter called them when she was three, are the most frost tender of fruit trees grown here up our valley. We try to mimic their native habitat of the subtropical Andean highlands of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile and plant them in a north facing site under the sheltering branches of larger trees, usually totaras.
Brett propagates cuttings to create a stronger, more compact tree than seedgrown plants. The 25cm cuttings (with plenty of bud nodes) are taken from a healthy tree in spring spring, pushed into potting mix in a planter bag and kept moist.
When they have grown into small plants they are planted out in 2m spacings into fertile loamy soil and staked for wind protection. After two years and once at least 40 leaf nodes have developed, the self-fertile white and lavender flowers will appear, followed by the glowing, jewel-like fruit.
Fruit ripening times can be staggered by pruning. Tamarillos fruit on the current season’s growth so pruning guidelines are to keep the tree relatively compact and to cut out any broken or diseased branches. The earlier pruning is done in spring, the sooner the tree will produce growth, then flower and set fruit for the following season. Lengthen your eating time by pruning a couple of trees every few weeks from late spring onwardsonwar and you will have fruit from late winter to early summer.
Problems for tamarillos can be powdery mildew, whitefly, aphids and green vege bugs so it’s good to cut out diseased branches, hose down the tree to get rid of the insects and use yellow sticky boards to catch whitefly. Paint a thin strip of board bright yellow, coat with Vaseline and hang a couple of boards in each tree to catch the whitefly. Clean them off from time to time and recoat with fresh Vaseline. A seaweed spray and also seaweed tossed into the branches can help deter powdery mildew.
The ripeness of tamarillos can be gently tested by trying to snap them off from the tree at the node that joins the fruit to a branch. If they do not detach easily they are not ready. Those that drop on the ground are the best and sweetest of all.