When buying new fruit trees, bushes or plants for your garden or wondering why some of the existing ones are doing and others are doing badly recognise that the success factors include the following:
Location. Choose the types of fruit that are best grown in your area. What will grow down by the sea may struggle on a frosty inland valley and vice versa.
Garden microclimate. If you want to grow subtropical/tropical fruits first ensure that you have developed warm sheltered places in the garden for each season of the year.
Plant what the family likes to eat. Think about types and how much you can eat or use for cooking.
Right choice. The choice of type and variety is especially important with oranges and mandarins where there are early, mid season and late varieties to choose from.
Plant selection. Ensure that they are healthy and have good root balls especially if you purchase maiden one year trees.
Information on labels. Look out for labels on trees, bushes and plants that tell you something. Too often labels just say orange or pear and don’t mention the variety or whether they are for early or late harvesting.
Siting. Fruit trees, bushes and plants can be grown in a wide variety of situations ranging from containers on apartment terraces, to anywhere in a cottage style garden to a dedicated orchard.
Soil preparation. Improve a metre wide and 50 centimetre deep area of soil before you plant a fruit tree in the centre of it. This will help ensure that the roots will grow outwards rather than be constrained within a small hole in solid clay!
Planting. Ensure that the graft is above the soil level and that trees are supported by sturdy posts.
Don’t crowd. Plant fruit trees five metres apart, unless growing as a hedge when a metre apart is possible. Recognise that the roots of a large tree next door might spread into your property and compete with the roots of a young tree planted against your fence.
Watering. Keep the deepest roots damp at all times and irrigate on a drip line not against the trunk.
Feeding. If you have prepared the soil by working in well rotted compost and natural fertilisers such as bagged dried manures you do not need to feed new trees for the first three years. Then give a spring feed each year. Autumn feeding will stimulate late over wintering new growth that is vulnerable to storm and frost damage.
Pruning. Let trees grow naturally for a couple of years and then shape around the strongest branches. Then prune to shape, keep to desired height, stimulate flowering buds, let air into the centre and increase size of fruit. Our book gives guidelines for the different types of fruit. If you have purchased 10,000 to 20,000 square metres of abandoned orchards find help fast via the local Agricultural Cooperative unless pruning is to become your major hobby!
Spray regularly. Prevention of pest and fungal attacks is very important. Spray throughout the year – preferably with ecological products.
Eyes open. Keep a lookout as you wander around the garden and act immediately if you spot signs of pest or fungal attacks.
Abandoned land. A growing problem. Regular spraying becomes doubly important. Offer to spray the trees of absentee neighbours.
Luck. There are good years and bad. It’s nature!
Harvesting when ripe. Tasty, juicy, aromatic and with good bite. Eat the real thing
when at its best.
Patience. The priority for a new tree is to develop a root structure that can support the growth of the tree and then develop fruit buds and fruit. So remove fruits for a couple of years.
Processing and storage. Freeze, make chutneys, jams, wines, and liquors and of course you can dry fruit for snacks and tapas.
Timing of replacements. Good husbandry will prolong the productive life of your trees. If you inherit or create uncared for unproductive trees give them a last chance by doing a 60 to 80 per cent remedial pruning and giving the tree two or three years to recover.
Remember that a healthy old tree has an incredible root structure that you can never buy. At the time of the major cutback you could also graft new blood onto the main branches or stump of the original trunk.
© Dick Handscombe www.gardenspain.com October 2013