If you want to get 5+ a day then it’s time to plan your home orchard. Don’t be daunted by the complexity of the task or the size of your garden. Fruit trees are relatively easy to grow if given the right conditions or alternatively the dwarf & columnar varieties can be grown quite happily in large containers. Another popular growing method for smaller gardens is to espalier along a fence or trellis.
First let’s talk about planting. The ideal time to plant your new fruit tree is from late autumn onwards. Most nurseries have new fruit tree stock available in July. As the deciduous fruit trees are dormant at this time of year (no leaves or growth to speak of) it is the best time for the trees to be wrenched from open ground nursery beds and bagged up for ready for sale. It is perfectly OK to plant later in the year but winter is considered to be optimum.
Choose a sunny site with protection from harsh wind. Strong winds will not only damage the fruiting blossom but worse still will disrupt the flight path of the bees which are doing their best to pollinate your tree. Luckily a lot of deciduous fruit trees are indifferent to soil type however they all demand good drainage. If you don’t think you have the right spot in your garden then consider growing dwarf fruit trees in strategically placed large container. If you do choose to container grow (Citrus are especially suitable for this method) then never use anything but the best potting mix.
Once you have chosen your growing position dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball of the tree. Add some well rotted organic matter such as compost, animal by products e.g. sheep pellets or leaf litter. Do not be tempted to put great handfuls of fertilizer in the planting hole, this will only damage the new emerging roots. You can however use a measured amount of slow release fertilizer. If necessary place a stake in the planting hole, place your tree and back fill with nice crumbly soil rather than great heavy clods of turf. Tamp the soil down and if available apply a layer of mulch. Remember the planting depth should be equal to the level of potting mix in the planting bag. Any soil or mulch should not be pressed hard or high up the trunk of the tree. Leave a little breathing space for air and water to pass through to the root ball. Water in well.
As the season progresses keep the trunks of the trees clear of weeds with mulch and avoid deep cultivation around the drip line (where the branches extend out to) as most fruit trees have surface feeding roots and it is best not to damage these by aggressive weeding. If you are growing your trees in a lawn you will need to monitor your fertilizing and watering well as the grass will compete with your fruit trees for the available nutrients.
Wairere Nursery 826 Gordonton Road, R D 1, Hamilton Ph: (07) 824 3430 Email: Open 7 days 8:30am-5pm