June is timely to take stock of your fruiting plants and action what to prune, plant or protect. Words & photos Rachel Vogan
Growing fruit is rewarding in so many ways. From the anticipation of watching the flowers develop to seeing the first sign of fruit, then through to eating the harvest, it’s a wonderful process.
A good job to do now is to give existing fruiting plants and the orchard a onceover – essentially, to do an audit. Make a note of what jobs need to be done: is it pruning, spraying, weeding, tying branches down on espaliers, propagating new fruits, dividing strawberries or covering up citrus? Creating a ‘to do’ list can help prioritise where to spend your time and energy.
Feijoas are a reliable and hardy crop that fruits in autumn. Their ability to produce an abundant crop with very little care is hard to beat. Winter is a good time to prune, now that the plants have finished fruiting and before new growth begins. The aim when pruning feijoas is to allow more light into the centre of the tree to aid pollination and improve air movement. Feijoas do not need to be pruned every year but, with established plants that have got too tall, a major haircut will do wonders for making future harvests easier to manage.
Winter is also an ideal time to plant feijoas. Either plant two to promote pollination or choose a self-fertile variety.
While many blueberries are partially selffertile, it always pays to plant at least two plants if possible to ensure reliable crosspollination. Blueberries like acidic soils and to be fed in spring with an acid-based fertiliser, something like rhododendron and azalea food.
Blueberries are now going into hibernation mode and shed their leaves over winter in most regions. While you cannot see a lot of activity, the winter chills are plumping up the flower buds, which will appear in a few months’ time. Once established, blueberries will go on to produce fruit each year. The plants fruit on older seasons’ stems, which look twiggy and brittle when the plants are young so be careful not to accidently prune these off.
Blueberries are shallow-rooted plants, which require reasonable amounts of water over summer to ensure consistent fruiting ability. Avoid planting anything directly underneath them.
Winter pruning of pip fruit, including apples, pears, medlars and quince, can be done in June, July and August once the plants are fully dormant. They do not need to be pruned every year; prune as required every few seasons to reduce the size of the trees. At the same time, take out any weak or spindly stems and anything that is damaged. Be mindful of where the fruiting spurs and stems are, though, as once the fruiting spurs are developed the plants continue to produce fruit in the same position each season.
These fruits are tough as old boots: both are hardy to cold, and will grow in a wide variety of soils. Plants are readily available in the shops and are easy to find. However, you can easily propagate your own for free. Cuttings taken in winter root easily (hardwood cuttings), so if you have a friend or a neighbour who has plants, offer to prune their plant for them in return for some cuttings.
Gooseberries have sharp thorns, so be mindful when selecting a spot to plant them. I suggest not planting them too close to a path or the clothesline!
Citrus trees hail from the tropics and do best in warm positions away from heavy frost and extended cold periods. In warm regions, citrus can be planted over winter but, in the majority of the country, hold off planting outside until mid-spring. Cover plants with frost cloth, netting or anything that will keep the worst of the cold at bay. To help toughen plants up, reduce the amount of water; drier soils are better in winter than moist ones.
Winter is a good time to think about making a wishlist of future fruits you may want to grow. Doing your homework first to see if you have enough room or the right climate will pay dividends in the long run.
Before adding a new member to your fruiting family, ask yourself these questions:
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