GARDENING Feijoa pruning - it’s your choice
It’s not imperative to prune feijoa trees, but if you want to increase your yield (does anyone actually want more feijoas?) reducing the density of the branches once fruiting has ended is a good idea. Our monster-size trees are dropping their leaves into our gutters and shading the house, so despite not having any other large trees on our section, this was the perfect excuse for my partner to buy a Fiskars Powerlever Pole Tree Pruner, which extends up to 4m, allowing you to prune without using a ladder.
Feijoas are pollinated by birds, so the rule that you should prune so a bird can fly through the branches truly applies. Prune to an open centre or vase shape by removing inwardgrowing branches, and potentially entire branches, to leave a framework of four or five scaffold branches. Trees that have become too large or that are unproductive will survive being cut back hard, or even coppiced. It will take a year or two to recover, but the crop will be at a pickable height. Feeling uninspired by soggy soil and slow-growing greens? Cheer yourself up by planting a new fruit tree. Winter is the best time to plant fruit trees because it gives them time to settle in and establish new roots before the busy spring and summer seasons begin – kind of like settling into a new job.
Make sure you find out exactly how tall your tree is going to grow and choose a part of your garden that is open and sunny.
If you have a clay soil, add gypsum to break it up and improve drainage by planting your tree on a low mound so that the roots slope down. Give new trees a bucket of water immediately and keep the water up during the growing season.
If you’re tight on space, choose dwarf varieties or grow fruit trees in large pots. A half wine barrel is ideal or choose a pot that has a capacity of at least 20L. We’ve just planted a dwarf ‘Kawano’ mandarin in a pot. I wanted to plant it in the ground but it’s grafted onto ‘Flying Dragon’ rootstock which won’t abide clay soil, so I didn’t risk it. You know you have great colleagues when they give you worms. I was very pleased to find an ice-cream container on my desk filled with gorgeous red tiger worms from my co-editor Barbara (our designer, Sue, wasn’t so pleased though, so they were banished to my locker for the day).
My old worm farm went kaput a while ago – a combination of weather and small boys climbing on top of it – so to minimise future damage and to save time, I’ve been meaning to establish a new inground one. Barbara is an inground worm farm convert and was providing me with some civilians who are going to do the dirty work for me.
In-situ worm farms are a great option for time-poor gardeners. Instead of collecting and distributing the worm wee and vermicast (worm manure) yourself, it seeps into the surrounding soil and is an excellent conditioner for increasing soil fertility. They’re also a good option if you don’t have room for a free-standing worm farm or a compost heap because you can add all your food scraps to the worm farm, plus they’re cheap to set up.
1 Drill plenty of holes in the sides
of the bucket with a general purpose drill bit (3–8mm or whatever you’ve got handy). The holes are to aerate the bin and allow movement of the worms in and out. Cut off the bottom with a hand saw.
2 Dig a hole in the garden or a raised bed deep enough for the lid to be at ground level. Place the bucket in the hole and backfill around it. Add compost or potting mix to the bottom of the bucket. This will be the worms’ bedding.
3 Add some tiger worms from another worm farm or purchase them online from Hungry Bin or WormsRus or your local garden centre. Tiger worms differ from regular earth worms and you won’t commonly find them in your soil. Feed them with small amounts of kitchen scraps. Almost any vegetable waste can be used but avoid too much onion or citrus peels.
4 Drill two holes in the terracotta saucer with the 10mm ceramic drill bit. Thread through a short piece of rope for the handle and knot the ends. When it’s full, use the bucket handle to pull it out and move it to another spot in the garden. If your lemon tree is laden with fruit, make lemon honey. I used to make oodles of it with my grandmother and here is her recipe: Combine 75g butter with 3/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup lemon juice and 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind. Microwave for one to two minutes (or stir in a double boiler or a bowl over a pot of simmering water until the sugar has dissolved). Gradually add 2 large beaten eggs and microwave, stirring every minute until the mixture thickens or, if cooking on the This column is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get growing, from New Zealand Gardener magazine. For gardening advice delivered to your inbox every Friday, sign up for Get Growing at: getgrowing.co.nz stove, stir constantly until the mixture thickens. Pour into clean jars and store in the fridge. Eat within 2–3 weeks.
If, like me, you have a young lemon tree with only a few fruit, my Aunty Marian’s lemon syrup cake, a family favourite, only requires one lemon, and is the tastiest lemon cake I know of. To a bowl, add 100g melted butter and beat in 2 eggs and cup milk. In another bowl, mix together 11⁄ cups self-raising flour, 1 cup sugar and the grated rind of 1 lemon. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Pour into a ring or loaf tin and bake for around 30 minutes at 180oC or until a skewer comes out clean. Once cooked and while still hot, pour over 1/3 cup sugar mixed with the juice of 1 lemon.