One of my pet topics for discussion is the growing, harvesting and eating your own fruit. I think it is one of the great pleasures of gardening.
The topic of the home edible garden is never more pertinent than in the current world situation where many have concerns about food security and safety.
Autumn is well known as the best time of the year for planting. 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.
Here are some fruits that are good for planting out now.
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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 March.
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, growing about 1m. Like rhododendrons, azaleas, and camellias they are acid soil loving shrubs. For maximum cropping potential plant two different varieties.
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.
It is often planted for its 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 and grow approximately 3m tall, the trees 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 NZ because it is self fertile. It is a prolific bearer of fruit from a young age 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, grows approx 3 x 3m.
Feijoa Wiki Tu is 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; is 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.
•Gareth Carter is General Manager of Springvale Garden Centre.