Why win­ter is one of our most fruit­ful times of year

NZ Lifestyle Block - - In Jane's Garden -

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.

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