Easter, like Labour weekend, is recognised as a traditional gardening weekend where temperatures are generally warm and soil conditions are moist, making for good conditions for planting.
The slogan "nature's natural planting time" is often used for this season of the year. Excluding some soft frost tender plants which are better left for planting in the spring, autumn is the best time for making new plantings for most trees and shrubs. Planting in the autumn allows plants to develop their root systems well into the soil before the hot, dry summer months arrive again.
New plantings made close to the summer months can often struggle to get established unless intensive watering is maintained.
There are a number of fruits that can be planted in autumn. Here are some fruits that are good for planting out now.
Blueberries are a much enjoyed fruit. The berries are pleasant eaten fresh and may be cooked in pies, muffins, jams and hot fruit sauces. The fruit ripens between December and April or even later.
Though often an expensive fruit to buy, as garden plants they are easy to grow and crop well in the home garden. The plants themselves are quite decorative. Smaller growing varieties can be maintained to about 1m but others will grow to 2m if allowed.
Blueberry plants prefer acid soil conditions like that of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. They should be fertilised in spring and autumn with both acid fertiliser and citrus fertiliser to give the ideal blend.
For maximum cropping potential, plant two different varieties which increases pollination and subsequent fruiting. If you are limited for space you can consider growing blueberry plants in pots. They will grow and fruit well in reasonably sized (about 35 litre) pots and containers for five to eight years before becoming too pot-bound.
Citrus includes lemons, oranges, grapefruit, mandarins and tangelos which are best known, and limes, kumquats and lemonade fruit (a sweet lemon hybrid) are also worth growing in the garden. Most are good tub or container subjects which is useful when space for a fruit garden is limited.
Citrus left to grow without pruning usually form naturally well-shaped trees and produce good crops. Removal of dead, damaged or tangled branches is the main pruning requirement for the majority of citrus varieties. Lemons do benefit from a light prune or trim just after harvest. Most citrus may be lightly pruned or headed back at the time of planting to assist their establishment. Pruning cuts should be treated with pruning paste such as Yates PruneTec or Grosafe Prune n Paste to help healing and prevent infection and pest attack.
A large proportion of good fruit is borne around the outside of citrus trees, so this should only have a light prune, if any at all. Allow enough space for the lawnmower and maintenance access. It is important to keep the area under trees clear of fallen mouldy fruit, which can spread infection back onto the trees.
Citrus trees can be pruned at any time of the year and it is usually most convenient when the fruit is being harvested.
Raspberries - there are a number of varieties available but one of exceptional quality is Raspberry Aspiring. This brilliant variety is a dual cropper fruiting in both summer and autumn.
Summer fruits are produced on last year's canes. Autumn fruit is produced on the top 10-20 buds of new canes. Aspiring has large dark red conical firm fruit with excellent flavour. It has been developed by Plant & Food Research NZ. This raspberry grows as a bramble on upright canes. Covered with rose type leaves, simple small white flowers are followed by luscious sweet delicate fruit. Aspiring is a strong and productive plant, which spreads fast and is one of the easiest of all to grow.
Feijoas grow and fruit well in Whanganui. They are a delicious, easy to grow backyard fruit tree that requires little or no care and does not seem to be susceptible to any pests or diseases.
Feijoas are often planted for their multi-purpose attributes - a good productive fruit tree, good ornamental value with its red pohutukawa-like flowers and as a hedge for shelter where it can handle some coastal exposure. Feijoas ripen between March and June. The trees grow about 3m tall but can be kept pruned to a much smaller size if desired. Many varieties need to be planted in twos for cross pollination.
Here are some good varieties for growing in Whanganui:
Feijoa Unique: Traditionally one of the most popular feijoa varieties grown in New Zealand because it is self fertile. From a young age it is a prolific bearer of fruit of medium size with smooth soft and juicy flesh. Early season bearer.
Feijoa Takaka: A new release for 2019. This variety has proven to be a very early bearer with large fruit with a delicious rich tropical flavour ripening in March. The plant has displayed good vigour and high health. Self fertile, it grows about 3 x 3m.
Feijoa Wiki Tu: A partially self fertile variety with only one needing to be planted for fruit production, although another variety can result in a increased crop. Wiki Tu has huge fruit on a smaller growing (2.5m) easily-managed tree, sweet and fleshy fruit with a firm texture and good keeping qualities. It is ideal for home gardens and fruits late in the feijoa season.
Feijoa Apollo: A mid-season fruiter which produces fruit which is large and very sweet. It is a strong growing tree with rough skinned fruit. Planting with another variety will improve pollination and a larger fruit size.
Feijoa Bambina: A recently released dwarf variety growing only 1.5m x 1.5m. It produces miniature sized fruit which can be eaten skin and all. It suits small gardens as well as being excellent for growing in containers with its abundance of bright red Christmas flowers followed by delicate wee fruit. Thin edible skin surrounding sweet aromatic pulp bursting with flavour. No need for the spoon. Mid-season harvest, April to May. Description provided by Incredible Edibles.
Figs grow well in a sunny, sheltered spot in the home garden. They like plenty of water and bear their heaviest crops when roots are restricted. Figs prefer a heavier rather than a lighter soil. If left to their devices, they grow 3-6m tall and can spread equally as wide. Fruit is harvested from late December to April. Figs are deciduous and bear fruit that range in colour from yellow through green to purplish black.
Other fruits which grow well in Whanganui gardens include apples, pears, peaches, olives, plums, quinces, gooseberries, cranberries, guavas, kiwifruit, grapes, walnuts, hazelnuts and persimmons. Don't forget, too, many varieties of citrus fruit.
* Gareth Carter is general manager of Springvale Garden Centre