Fruit in small spa­ces

Ten ways to grow more fruit in less space

Go Gardening - - Editorial / Contents -

Find­ing in­no­va­tive ways to grow fruit in lim­ited space is noth­ing new in the art of gar­den­ing and with to­day’s ex­cit­ing choice of fruit­ing plant va­ri­eties, cre­at­ing a back­yard food for­est has never been so much fun. This ar­ti­cle is proudly brought to you by Waimea Nurs­eries.

1 Plant­ing in pots

Al­most any fruit can be grown in a pot or tub if it is given the right feed­ing and wa­ter­ing - ap­ples, pears, cit­rus trees, figs, fei­joas, berries and even grapes. Gen­er­ally smaller trees are more suc­cess­ful in con­tain­ers than larger ones, but re­stricted roots can ac­tu­ally stim­u­late fruit­ing. Some­times a con­tainer al­lows bet­ter soil con­di­tions than your gar­den soil can pro­vide. A con­tainer also al­lows fruit trees to be shifted about the gar­den or from house to house. It is well worth in­vest­ing in top qual­ity plant­ing mix and re­pot­ting every few years. When choos­ing a con­tainer, con­sider size, strength, and its abil­ity to hold wa­ter and nu­tri­ents. Drainage holes are crit­i­cal, but overly por­ous con­tain­ers dry out quickly in hot or windy con­di­tions. If the con­tainer is too small, it be­comes dif­fi­cult to keep up with wa­ter­ing and feed­ing.

2 Against the wall

Grow­ing fruit trees flat against a wall (es­palier­ing) is a charm­ing way to grow fruit in a small gar­den. Es­palier trees are grown along wires sup­ported by posts, against a fence or tra­di­tion­ally on a ma­sonry wall. Even com­mer­cial or­chards are now find­ing this ‘2D’ method can max­imise the amount of sun­light, giv­ing more fruit per hectare. To find out how to train es­palier fruit trees in your gar­den go to www.waimea­nurs­eries.co.nz

When choos­ing a con­tainer, con­sider size, strength, and its abil­ity to hold wa­ter and nu­tri­ents.

3 Step-over ap­ples

The step-over is a form of low, sin­gle layer es­palier tra­di­tion­ally grown along the bor­der of a veg­etable gar­den or along a path­way. Start with a dwarf ap­ple tree. In­stall the wire 60cm above the ground with sturdy posts no more than 1.5m apart. The prin­ci­pal is the same as for es­palier­ing, but kept at just one layer of hor­i­zon­tally trained branches.

4 Mini trees

Nat­u­rally dwarf fruit trees and those that are grafted onto dwarf­ing root stocks are ideal for small gar­dens or in con­tain­ers. Many dif­fer­ent dwarf va­ri­eties of ap­ples, pears, peaches, apri­cots and nec­tarines are avail­able. They pro­duce a sur­pris­ing amount of fruit for their size. The slen­der col­umn shape of the ‘Bal­le­rina’ ap­ple va­ri­eties makes them ideal for con­tain­ers, train­ing against a wall or as an ap­ple arch­way.

5 Four in one

Dou­ble and triple grafted fruit trees ex­tend the har­vest time and give us dif­fer­ent flavours on a sin­gle tree. An­other way to achieve a sim­i­lar ef­fect is to plant a num­ber of dif­fer­ent fruit trees in the same hole. ‘The Fam­ily Tree’ is a se­lec­tion of fruit trees planted very closely to­gether, with branches pruned to grow out­wards. The trick is to choose just one fam­ily of fruit for each tree as they need to have a sim­i­lar growth habit. You could com­bine three to five dif­fer­ent ap­ple va­ri­eties, or make a fam­ily tree of peaches and nec­tarines. To find out how go to www.waimea­nurs­eries.co.nz.

6 Four sea­sons

Keep har­vest time in mind when de­cid­ing what to plant. Ap­ples are for au­tumn as fei­joas are for win­ter but har­vest times also vary for each kind of fruit. For ex­am­ple, there are dif­fer­ent ap­ple va­ri­eties ready for pick­ing every month from Fe­bru­ary through till June, while plant­ing a range cit­rus va­ri­eties can give you fruit for at least six months of the year, all year round in warm cli­mates. Plant­ing more than one va­ri­ety of a fruit tree can also make your trees more pro­duc­tive by im­prov­ing pol­li­na­tion.

7 Multi-pur­pose

If you need a small ever­green tree for shel­ter or pri­vacy or to de­fine a bound­ary, con­sider a fruit­ing one. Fei­joas are a pop­u­lar hedge choice be­cause they are ever­green, grow quickly and don’t mind a bit of wind. Seedling grown trees save money when plant­ing a whole row, but a named va­ri­ety from a rep­utable nurs­ery will give you more fruit sooner and of bet­ter qual­ity. Plant­ing more than one va­ri­ety will also im­prove pol­li­na­tion, which means more fruit. It also ex­tends the har­vest sea­son, as dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties ripen at dif­fer­ent times. Gen­er­ally, fei­joas grow best in warmer re­gions, but early ripen­ing va­ri­eties like Kai­teri and Kākāriki are suit­able for cooler cli­mates, in­clud­ing Otago and South­land. Prune af­ter fruit­ing.

8 Pol­li­na­tion

Many fruit trees need a pol­li­na­tor so find­ing room for two dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of the same type of fruit (e.g. two plums or two ap­ples) may be nec­es­sary. Luck­ily we also have self-pol­li­nat­ing va­ri­eties which are in­valu­able in a small gar­den. It is worth re­mem­ber­ing how­ever, that even self­pol­li­nat­ing trees may pro­duce more fruit if there is a cross-pol­li­na­tor nearby. The other ben­e­fit of plant­ing more than one va­ri­ety is a longer fruit­ing sea­son, where va­ri­eties flower at the same time in spring but fruit at dif­fer­ent times of the sea­son.

9 Prun­ing nous

Prun­ing is not a mat­ter of life and death, es­pe­cially in a small gar­den. But prun­ing in ways that max­imise sun­light, en­cour­age fruit­ing wood over leaf growth and min­imise health is­sues makes a big dif­fer­ence to the qual­ity and quan­tity of fruit a tree will pro­duce. In­vest in a lit­tle re­search and some trial and er­ror to max­imise your yield. Win­ter is the main time to prune de­cid­u­ous fruit trees. Most ever­green trees are pruned af­ter har­vest to give time for next year’s crop to de­velop. Watch Waimea’s prun­ing videos on www.waimea­nurs­eries.co.nz

10 Feed them well

Feed­ing is para­mount for all fruit­ing plants, es­pe­cially if you are grow­ing them in con­tain­ers. Feed lit­tle and of­ten to keep up with de­mand with­out burn­ing the roots. Slow re­lease fer­tiliser is ideal. Sup­ple­ment this with liq­uid feed­ing over the grow­ing sea­son.

BE­LOW: Es­paliered ap­ple tree.

LEFT: Or­ange tree in Ter­ra­cotta.

BE­LOW: Step-over ap­ples. BE­LOW RIGHT: Dwarf ap­ple ‘Blush Babe’ in a pot. Dwarf trees such as Ap­ple ‘Thum­be­lina’ va­ri­eties can be trained as a low (‘step-over’) es­palier.

Fei­joa ‘Kai­teri’ pro­duces very large fruit

TIP To en­cour­age more flower pro­duc­tion on de­cid­u­ous fruit trees ap­ply sul­phate of potash in au­tumn.

LEFT: Es­paliered olive tree. ABOVE: Ap­ple arch­way. BE­LOW: Spring ap­ple blos­som at­tracts honey bees.

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