12. NASHI PEAR
APPLE (Malus domestica)
“An apple a day, keeps the doctor away” as the saying goes.
I really only learnt to love apples when I was fortunate enough in my late twenties to have land on which to grow them, and I could pick them fresh off the tree when crisp and not too sweet.
I love them raw and cooked. Some prefer a hard crisp apple, others a soft mealy type, it is a matter of preference. They are probably one of the oldest domesticated cultivated fruit.
The original wild ancestor of Malus domestica was Malus sieversii, which grew wild in the mountains of Central Asia in southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Xinjiang in China, although later crosses between Malus sieversii and the European crab apple Malus sylvestris has led to the modern domestic apples we have today. They are the most popular tree fruit for temperate climates. One of the great attributes of apples is that most varieties store well even in colder climates, many varieties keeping well into spring, as long as they are stored above freezing.
Apples have the highest chilling requirements of all fruit trees. Apple cultivars have a diverse range of permissible minimum chilling: most have been bred for temperate weather, but Gala and Fuji can be successfully grown in subtropical conditions – (see the: Chilling Hours section above).
Soil & Site:
They will need a position in full sun. Fortunately, apples will grow on almost any type of soil, providing it is properly managed – (see the section GROWING TREE FRUIT - PLANTING TREE FRUIT).
Apples are always grafted onto rootstocks with different vigorousness. For large freestanding trees a more vigorous rootstock is required and spindlebush, cordons and espalier-trained trees will need less vigorous rootstocks.
M27 (extremely dwarfing)
• Suitable for: Dwarf pyramids, spindlebush or step-overs, for small gardens where the soil is fertile.
• Start fruiting: After two years
• Ultimate height as trained as bush: Plants reach 1.2-1.8m x 1.5m (4-6ft x 5ft)
• Growing conditions: Good weed and grass free soil. Water plants during drought. Unsuitable on poor soil and for weak cultivars
• Staking: Permanently
• Spacing: 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) apart with 1.8m (6ft) between rows
• Suitable for: Bush, pyramid, spindlebush, cordons; an excellent stock for small gardens.
• Start fruiting: After two or three years
• Ultimate height as trained as bush: 1.8-2.4m x 2.7m (6-8ft x 9ft)
• Growing conditions: Good weed and grass free soil. Water plants during drought
• Staking: Permanently
• Spacing: 2.4-3m apart (8-10ft) with 3.6m (12ft) between rows Name of rootstock:
• Suitable for: Bush, pyramid, spindlebush, cordon, espalier and is ideal for containers
• Start fruiting: After two or three years
• Ultimate height as trained as bush: 2.4-3m x 3.6m (8 x 10ft)
• Growing conditions: Average soils including grassed orchards
• Staking: Permanently
• Spacing: 2.4-3.6m (8-12ft) with 4.5m (15ft) between rows Name of rootstock:
• Suitable for: All forms except standards
• Start fruiting: After three or four years
• Ultimate height as trained as bush: 3-4m x 4m (10 x 13ft)
• Growing conditions: Tolerant of a range of soils including grassed orchards and poor soils. The most widely used rootstock, but unsuitable for small gardens.
• Staking: 5 years – longer in exposed locations
• Spacing: 3.6 (12ft) with 4.5m (15ft) between the rows Name of rootstock:
• Suitable for: standards and half standards
• Start fruiting: After four or five years
• Ultimate height as trained as bush: 4-4.5m (13-15ft), less on light soils
• Growing conditions: Suitable for most soils including orchards in grass and on poor soils
• Staking: Staking is not necessary if planted as a one year old but those planted as 2-3 year old trees need staking for the first 3 years
• Spacing: 4.5m (15ft) apart with 6m (20ft) between rows Name of rootstock:
M25 (very vigorous)
• Suitable for: tall standards, especially for a Woodland Garden
• Start fruiting: after five or six years
• Ultimate height as trained as bush: 4.5-6m (15-20ft)
• Growing conditions: Most soils including orchards in grass and on poor soils. They are too vigorous for most gardens except where the soil is poor
• Staking: Staking is not necessary if planted as a one year old but those planted as two- or three-year-old trees need staking for the first 3 years
• Spacing: 6m (20ft)
There are so many good apple varieties grown in New Zealand, but I have had to limit the list, concentrating largely on heritage varieties, which taste great and are generally more nutrient-dense, as well as some like Monty's Surprise and Hetlina, which contain levels of the antioxidants ‘quercetin flavonoids’ and ‘procyanidins’ (compounds known to inhibit the growth of cancer cells) several times greater than that of the most commercially grown apples currently available.
Belle de Boskoop: is a large, orange-red heritage apple. This apple is firm and crisp, with a full, tart flavour. It is very aromatic which gets sweeter in storage. It is very popular in Europe as both a cooking and fresh eating apple. Crops mid to late season. Stores for 3-4 months or more. Spur bearing, Triploid variety.
Bramley’s Seedling: The famous Bramley apple is a heritage English cooking apple, prized for its fluffy pulp when sauteed or baked. Bramleys have a firm flesh with good acidity - tart yet sweet, which gets sweeter in store. Large fruit and a very good keeper. Hardy, vigorous trees that crop very heavily. Fruit ripens late autumn. Both tip and spur bearing.
Cox’s Orange Pippin: One of the finest apples ever grown and my favourite. Cox's Orange Pippin has a sweet and tart crisp flavour, making this old variety still a hugely popular apple. It ripens early to mid season. The trees are not vigorous growers but they are productive. The Cox's Orange is not a great keeping apple but for an eating apple you can't get better. Spur bearing. It is also susceptible to scab and canker, but with extra care, is still worth growing.
Egremont Russet (see above): is a coarse cloth made of wool, which describes the ruff mat skin of russets. This is the classic heritage russet apple, with a rich, sweet, nutty flavour and very firm flesh. It has a lush, sweet and nutty taste that is particularly good when ripened on the tree. It has a firm flesh in a thick olive green-brown skin. It is a small to medium sized apple. It is a self-fertile apple that ripens in late summer. It keeps quite well in a cool place. The tree has an upright, compact habit. Spur bearing.
Early Strawberry: is a small flattish, very sweet, early apple, ripening Christmas to late February. Green/yellow skin with bright red streaks whenripe. Golden Delicious type flavour and texture. Dessert apple.
Granny Smith: is a large apple and has green skin and sharp white flesh. The flavour is juicy, tart, and crisp. It is a beautiful cooking apple with great acidic/sweet flavour for pies, apple sauce and bottling.
It crops late in the season and has a long picking period. It is a very good long keeper, well into the end of winter. It is a relatively disease free apple. The trees are self-fertile and are regular bearers that are suited to most climates. They require 600 chilling hours for fruit set. Tip bearing.
Hetlina: is an old European apple with very high levels of beneficial quercetin flavonoids and procyanidins, which are known to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. It is a large apple with bright red skin and a crisp, firm flesh. It is a consistent and reliable cropper of a medium size. The fruit is firm, crisp and red with good fresh eating qualities. A hardy tree with good disease resistance. It ripens in late autumn. Spur bearing.
Laxton’s Fortune: is an old heritage variety. Excellent eating apple, with a sweet taste, not too acid with a hint of aniseed. The fruit has red flushed skin with red stripes over a green/yellow base. A self-fertile variety. Has good resistance to black spot. Mid-season bearer. Spur bearing.
Monty’s Surprise: produces very large fruit – and I mean Large – they can grow up to 12cm (4¾in) diameter weighing in at 400g (14oz). This apple is probably the highest in health-boosting antioxidants. This apple contains very high levels of procyanidins as well as quercetin flavonoid compounds. In vitro cancer testing conducted in France and Australia on this variety has shown its potent effectiveness at inhibiting cancer cell proliferation. It has a crisp, sweet/sharp taste and is equally good as a cooking or eating apple. Originating from a very old tree in the Manawatu, this apple ripens late in the season. The skin has a shiny red stripe over a light green background. It has very good resistance to disease. It ripens in late autumn/early winter. Spur bearing.
Oratia Beauty: is one of the world’s most esteemed old heritage apples. Best left on the tree to mature, where it develops a wonderful crisp, juicy, tart flavour. Great for using for apple-sauce and in baking. This large, round to slightly flattened fruit ripens early in the apple season. The tree blooms early and is very vigorous. Tip bearing.
Peasgood Nonsuch: is an old heritage apple which is up there with Bramley as a brilliant cooking apple. Large, handsome regular shaped fruit that bakes or cooks to a delicately flavoured puree, bakes well and makes a great addition to salads. It is also a surprisingly nice brisk and juicy fresh eating apple. It is a regular cropping tree and relatively disease resistant, ideal for the home orchard. It ripens in mid to late February, just in time for the blackberries. Self-fertile. Tip bearing.
Sturmer Pippin: is an old English apple. It produces lovely firm apples with a acidic rich, spicy, sweet and juicy flavoured flesh that is very firm, that makes it a perfect cooking apple for baked apples, pies and cakes. It is also a great apple for drying. The fruit is very high in Vitamin C. Sturmer also makes excellent cider. It is a compact tree with low vigour needing little pruning. It is a good keeping apple and will last for several months stored in a cool dry place. It ripens very late in the season. Spur bearing.
Tydemans Late Orange: is a beautiful old English apple. Parents include Cox's Orange and as a result it is a small crisp sweet apple, with sharp sweet flavours. It is very hardy. It ripens mid to late season. Spur bearing.
Worcester Pearmain: is an old heritage English variety dating back to the 1870's. It is a beautiful eating apple with crisp and juicy flesh and an intense strawberry flavour when tree ripened. It has medium-sized bright red fruit that dries well. This very sweet apple is popular with children. The tree is a consistent heavy bearer. Ripens early in the season. Both tip and spur bearing.
A great site to visit is: www.orangepippin.com for the largest list of apples, both heritage and new varieties.
For apples to fruit well, they need to cross-pollinate with other varieties. So, when choosing varieties make sure you plant at least two or more different varieties of trees that flower at the same time as each other, or in adjacent Flowering Groups.
Some cultivars are triploid – that is they have sterile pollen and need two other varieties for good pollination; therefore, always grow at least two other non-triploid varieties with each triploid variety.
Ask your local nurseryman or find out about the flowering times of the varieties in your area. Also, if you live in a cold climate with late frosts, it is advisable to choose varieties that flower later. Flowering times are classified from group 1. (Very early) to group 7. (Very late)
Here is a list of varieties and flowering times:
Flowering Group 1 (Very early)
Pollinated by groups 1 & 2
• ‘Gravenstein’ – (this is a triploid with pollen that is sterile, so it needs at least 2 other varieties from group 1 or 2)
Flowering Group 2 (Early)
Pollinated by groups 1,2 & 3
• ‘Golden Russet’
• ‘Egremont Russet’
• ‘Merton Russet’
Flowering Group 3 (Early to Mid)
Pollinated by groups 2, 3 & 4
• ‘Belle de Boskoop’– (this is a triploid with pollen that is sterile, so needs at least 2 other varieties from group 2, 3 or 4)
• ‘Bramley’s Seedling’– (this is a triploid with pollen that is sterile, so needs at least 2 other varieties from group 2, 3 or 4) (also a partial tip-bearer)
• ‘Captain Kidd’
• ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’
• ‘Granny Smith’
• ‘Kidd’s Orange Red’
• ‘Sturmer Pippen’
• ‘Worcester Pearmaine’ (tip bearer)
Flowering Group 4 (Mid)
Pollinated by groups 3, 4 & 5
• ‘Cornish Aromatic’
• ‘Early Strawberry’
• ‘Royal Gala’
There are a few varieties that flower at the same time but are unable to pollinate each other. The following combinations are incompatible:
‘Cox's Orange Pippin’ pollinated by ‘Kidd's Orange Red’ and the reverse. ‘Cox's Orange Pippin’ is ineffective on ‘Holstein’ and ‘Suntan’, and the reverse.
Training: – (see section TRAINING above).
To maintain healthy trees with a minimum of diseases I have an organic and biological spray season through the growing season.
a) Every two weeks I spray the trees with homemade compost tea mixed with added liquid seaweed, that helps to keep the trees healthy and supplies nutrients and trace elements absorbed through the leaves. (see: the section ‘How to Build Soil Fertility’ – Liquid Manures).
b) Every other week I spray the trees with Trichoderma viride spray, which is a biological fungicide. (see: the section ‘Pests & Diseases’ – The New Generation of Biological Products).
Young free-standing trees should have bare soil one metre in diameter around the tree, mulched with garden compost 3-4cm (1-1½in) thick for the first few years, after that it can be sown with a grass/clover mix, or beneficial insect attractant plants, like White Alyssum, borage, etc.
See PLANTING TREE FRUIT above, for the initial preparation and feeding of a young tree. For the first two years it is best to keep the soil around the trees free of grass and weed free, mulching down with 2-3cm (¾-1in) compost and feeding each spring with 50-65g (1¾-2¼oz) of blood and bone per square metre. In the third year freestanding trees can be grassed down and espalier and cordons can be mulched with garden compost. Every year it is good to spray the leaves and branches every two weeks with liquid seaweed, or compost tea with added liquid seaweed, and water the soil with liquid seaweed or liquid comfrey juice 2 or 3 times during flowering and early fruiting; this will ensure the trees get all the necessary trace elements and potassium, essential for good healthy crops.
Protection against birds pecking the ripe fruit is much easier if the trees are grown as espalier or cordons, because of the easy of netting these forms of tree.
Most apple varieties form spurs, (spur bearers), which are a bunch of fruiting buds, growing on the side branches that develop over time by regular pruning, but some varieties fruit on the tips of the side branches or twigs (tip bearers). Traditionally, this meant that different pruning methods were necessary for each type.
For spur bearers, pruning to encourage spurs was carried out on two or three occasions during the summer and using the back of the knife to brake off, or pinch off with the finger and thumb nail, the soft ends of the side shoots to about three leaves. The purpose being to encourage fruit buds further down the side shoots.
For tip bearers, summer pruning consisted of cutting back those side shoots that had got out of hand, thus encouraging regular new side growths. The winter pruning consisted of then cutting back all the side growths to three buds, cutting out dead and crossing wood, pruning to train and shape the tree and pruning back leading branches by about a third.
However, many years ago, we procured a book by W.E. Shewell-Cooper called ‘The Compost Fruit Grower’, an out of print book that I have seen advertised on eBay and Amazon. In it he talks about his adaption of a French pruning method developed by Louis Lorette around 1900. This involved almost exclusively pruning in summer, with only tidying up and training in the winter. Shewell-Cooper then adapted Lorette’s method and made it simpler. This is the method we have used over the years with great success.
The pruning starts around the end of December (late June northern hemiphere) , or as soon as some of the laterals (side growths) are 25cm (10in) or longer when it has become semi-mature. This is slightly longer than Shewell-Cooper suggested, but we have found here in Nelson the growth is so fast that any shorter and the wood will not be semi-mature. In cooler areas like the UK Shewell-Cooper cut back the laterals when they reached 18-20cm (7-8in).
Do not cut back the side growths until they have reached that length, to ensure they are ‘semi-mature’. This ensures the re-growth will come from the less well-developed stipulary buds that are hidden in the bark around the bases of the lateral growths. Growth from these buds is weaker and more readily transformed into fruiting wood. So, when the laterals are 25cm (10in) or longer cut them back hard to within 3-4mm (1/8-3/16 in) of the base of the one-year-old shoot concerned – and yes I do mean 3-4mm (1/8-3/16 in)! This method is also suitable for tip-bearing apples. To some this form of pruning may seem drastic and revolutionary, but it really does work.
It means checking the trees regularly during the summer, no longer than 10 day intervals. We are only talking about cutting back the laterals, not the leaders or end growths at all during the summer.
This is carried out on the tree as a whole, and is aimed at keeping the tree and its environment healthy, e.g., by keeping the centre open so that air can circulate; removing dead or diseased wood; preventing branches from becoming overcrowded (branches should be roughly 50cm (20in) apart and spurs not less than 25cm (10in) apart along the branch framework); and cutting out any branches that are crossing. For trees that have not yet reached the desired height, length or width, then cut the leaders and end growths back by a third to encourage side growths and fruiting buds.
Pruning Videos to Watch
Stephen Hayes of Fruitwise Heritage Apples, Hampshire in the UK, offers a series of video tutorials on pruning of both young vase shaped bush trees and old apple trees. www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_jqgWXlUHM
Chuck Marsh, from ‘Useful Plants Nursery’ in Southern Appalachian mountains, USA, has an easily understood video on how to prune young standard apple trees with both video and diagrams. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVS4hNFwWUQ
Harvesting & Preserving:
It is very important to pick all the apples, including the badly damaged or shrivelled ones, as well as the apples that have fallen. The removal of these from around and on the trees is an important part of pest and disease control.
There are many ways of preserving apples.
4. Cooked and frozen Stored:
The most obvious thing when storing ripe apples is that they are not damaged, bruised, pecked, been pierced by codling moth, etc. – for these will not keep (see picture right). To quote my old gardening guru Lawrence D. Hills on the subject:
“Careful picking is all important, because fruit punctured by long fingernails lets in the spores of the fungi of decay. The skin of an apple is Nature’s substitute for polythene, a ‘gift rapping’ like the shell of an egg, designed to preserve the fruit as long as possible.”
Always pick apples with the stalks attached. The test for ripeness is to lift the fruit and twist it very gently – if it is ready it will come away – if not, leave it for a few more days and try again.
Lift the ripe apples carefully, checking all over for damage or codling moth holes, placing them in another container, and place the perfect ones in a basket lined with a towel. Do not tip the apples from one container into another for this will bruise them, and if any fall down while picking, place them in the damaged pile. Place in a single layer in cardboard boxes (obtained from the back of supermarkets) and store in a cool frost-free storage area for the winter.
Lift the ripe apples carefully, checking all over for damage or codling moth holes, placing them in another container, and place the perfect ones in a basket lined with a towel. Do not tip the apples from one container into another for this will bruise them, and if any fall down while picking, place them in the damaged pile. Place in a single layer in cardboard boxes (obtained from the back of supermarkets) and store in a cool frost-free storage area for the winter. It is a good idea to separate each apple with twists of newspaper so they are not touching each other. Leave the tops uncovered so you can check them regularly during the winter, taking out any that show signs of rot. You can also find formed paper-mashie sheets that apples come in, at the back of supermarkets, to store your apples on, in a cardboard box.
You can also store them on shelving (see picture on the left).
Dried apple slices are very tasty and are a very useful way of storing bruised windfalls, pecked, pierced by codling moths, or otherwise damaged apples. Just de-core them, peal them, cut out the damaged bits and slice them into 5mm (3/16in) thick slices or rings, then dry them on racks in a very slow oven set at 600C (1400F), or dry in a solar drier or electrical dehydrator.
If you want them to end up cream coloured you will have to soak the slices in lemon juice and water 50/50, before drying, but we are not bothered. Ours end up a pale brown, but they still taste great.
Fruit leathers are one of my favourite snacks. 4 cups of fruit yield about one baking sheet of fruit leather.
• Fresh Apples
• Lemon juice
• Sugar (if needed)
• Spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)
1. Rinse the fruit, peel and core them, then chop.
2. Place fruit in a large saucepan. Add half cup of water for every 4 cups of chopped fruit. Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the fruit is cooked through. Uncover and stir.
3. Use a potato masher to mash up the fruit in the pan.
4. Taste the fruit and determine what and how much sugar, lemon juice, or spices to add. Add sugar in small amounts (1 Tbsp. at a time if working with 4 cups of fruit), to desired level of sweetness.
5. Add lemon juice one teaspoon at a time to help brighten the flavour of the fruit. Add a pinch or two of cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spices to augment the flavour.
6. Continue to simmer and stir until any added sugar is completely dissolved and the fruit purée has thickened, another 5 or 10 minutes (or more).
7. Put the purée through a food mill or chinoise. Alternatively purée it thoroughly in a blender or food processor. Taste again and adjust sugar/lemon/spices if necessary. The purée should be very smooth.
8. If you have a de-hydrator fill the circular tray provided with the apple purée to the rim and place in the hydrator, set on medium, until the purée has a rubbery leathery feel. This can be stored for many months.
9. If you are going to use an oven, line a rimmed baking sheet with baking paper. Pour out the purée into the lined baking sheet to about a 5-7mm (3/16-1/4in) thickness.
10. Place the baking sheet in the oven.
11. Heat the oven to a low 600C (1400F) preferably on fan setting.
12. Let dry in the oven like this for as long as it takes for the purée to dry out and form fruit leather. We usually keep it in the oven overnight, so about 8-12 hours. The fruit leather is ready when it is no longer sticky, but has a smooth surface.
13. When the fruit leather is ready, you can easily peel it up from the baking paper.
14. To store it, roll it up in the baking paper, put it in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator or freezer, or cut into strips and store in a large glass jar with a good lid.
Cooked & Frozen:
This is fairly self-explanatory.
1. Peal, core and chop the apples cutting out any damaged or rotten parts.
2. Cook in a large pan with a little water and a knob of butter.
3. Cook until mushy, helped by mashing with a potato masher when soft. 4. Allow to cool.
5. Fill slip-lock bags with 1, 2 or 4 portions of pulp, pressing out as much air as possible before sealing.
6. Place the bags flat in the freezer.
Apples are grafted onto specialized root-stock, so if you want to propagate your own apples you will first need to get hold of a young root-stock variety (see list at the begining of apples at the top of this page).
If you want several of one type of rootstock, you can propagate from the rootstock. To do this you have to allow the stock tree to grow for two years and then cut it down in the autumn. The following season it will throw up several shoots. When they have reached 15cm (6in) start to earth them up, leaving the growing tips sticking out. Keep earthing up as they grow until the mound is 20-25cm (8-10in) high. In the autumn when the leaves have dropped, carefully remove some of the soil mound to see if the stems have rooted. If they have, cut them off at the base with their new roots and plant out in a nursery bed to grow on next season. The following winter you can graft varieties onto these rootstock trees. (See: the section ‘Propagation Techniques’).
Possible Pests & Diseases:
Look first at prevention in the section ‘Pests & Diseases’ – 1. Health = Resistance + sections 2,3,4.
Major pests of pipfruit include codling moth (Cydia pomonella), leafroller caterpillar (Tortricidae moth family), woolly apple aphid (Eriosoma lanigerum), leaf curling midge (Dasyneura mali) and red spider mite (Panonychus ulmi).
Codling Moth: In a bad year codling moth damage can ensure the majority of your apples will rot in store. The female codling moth injects her eggs into the young fruit and the grubs hatch and start to eat the fruit from within. Some will fall off when still small, others will grow to maturity, but will not be storable through the winter and much of the flesh will be inedible.
The females are wingless. They usually hibernate in the soil at the base of the tree through the winter and then climb up the trunk in early summer to lay their eggs, but in mild winters, some can hibernate in cracks in the bark on the trees themselves. The males can fly. So I have developed a four-fold regime to tackle this pest:
1. Sacking: In early January (southern hemisphere), July (northern hemisphere), tie bands of sacking round the bottom of the trees. The fully fed caterpillars drop to the ground, or fall in effected fruit after four weeks, and a number of them try to climb the tree to pupate in the bark cracks. They unwisely end their journey in the sacking. Take the sacking off and burn them in May (southern hemisphere) October (northern hemisphere), or put in the waste bin.
2. Grease Bands: When the sacking comes off in May (SH) November (NH), the grease bands should go on and stay on until January (SH), June (NH). Any insect traffic up and down the tree will not be beneficial. Ants carrying aphids, the wingless female winter moths and ‘March Moths’ in some countries and other nasties, will be stopped in their tracks.
3. Pheromone Traps: to catch the flying males. These should be hung in one of the trees from September until March (SH), March until September (NH).
4. Winter Spray: to kill any wingless female codling moths that have decided to overwinter in cracks in the bark, rather than work their way down to hibernate in the soil at the base of the tree. Spray the bare trees with a 50/50 mix of Pyrethrum and Neem Tree Oil at recommended dilutions.
Birds: can peck ripe fruit making them unstorable, although the effected apples can be cooked or dried. If you have problems net the trees. This is much easier if you grow espalier-trained trees, which are trained on wires and are easily covered with netting.
Scab (Venturia inaequalis):
Apple scab is one of the most common and most serious diseases that afflict apple trees. It affects both leaves and fruit, usually appearing in early to mid-spring and is more prevalent during a wet spring, following a mild winter. Scab is caused by a fungus, which overwinters on infected leaves left on the ground. The fungus spores are released in the spring during wet weather and are blown by the wind onto vulnerable, newly emerging leaves.
So if you had the disease the previous season, one of the best controls is to rake up all the fallen leaves and either burn them or dispose of them with the household waste. Do not compost. Also make sure you get rid of fallen infected fruit in the same way. Once all the leaves and affected fruit have been disposed of, spray the bare tree thoroughly and the ground under and around the tree with Trichoderma viride to kill any spores on and in the soil.
The first signs of scab are small, olive-coloured lesions on the undersides of the leaves. This then spreads, to the topsides of the leaves, which develop lesions as well, that may become black or mottled. Severely infected trees may lose a lot of their leaves by mid-summer, making the tree vulnerable to other diseases. Later the fruit will become affected.
If you have experienced scab in previous years, spray regularly with Trichoderma from flowering onwards, every two weeks alternated with a seaweed spray alternate weeks. At first sign of the disease, dose fortnightly with baking soda, milk or the parasitic fungus Trichoderma virid sprays to slow the spread – (see: the section ‘Pests & Diseases’, Home Made Organic Preventative Sprays and Home Made Organic Insecticides & Fungicides).
The fruit will also develop black or brown scabs or soft areas. The scabs may appear hardened and cracked, but that doesn’t usually affect the inside of the fruit, so you can eat or bottle them after cutting off the scabby bits.
Also try growing scab resistant varieties.
See the Royal Horticulture Society web site for resistant varieties, such as: ‘Beauty of Bath’, ‘Brownless Russet’, ‘Ellison’s Orange’, Epicure’ and ‘Merton Russet’ to name just a few old favourites. Also search your countries resistant varieties.
Canker (Neonectria ditissima):
This fungus causes black lesions on twigs and branches. The wood starts to die and shrink. Both Scab and Canker can largely be controlled by careful observation, with a keen eye and a hand lens, plus judicious pruning. As soon as you see any signs of the diseases at blossom time, as the young leaves are unfolding, prune off the affected parts, putting them out with your household waste, or burn them, but do not compost. Preventative sprays can also be used – see Scab above.
APRICOT (Prunus armeniaca)
Soil & Site: Apricots don’t like a very acid soil below pH 6.0. As pH 6.4 is the ideal pH for the majority of crops, it is also good for apricots. If you suspect that you have a very acid soil, buy a pH testing kit and it should have the amount of garden lime to add per square metre to bring the pH to 6.4
Apricots prefer a well-drained soil, so if the soil is heavy, break up the bottom of the planting hole and put a layer of rubble in the bottom of the hole.
In colder climates with harder winters, fan train the trees against a sun-facing wall. Not only does the wall hold the heat, but the tree is easily covered by sacking or fleece if late frosts threaten the flowers.
(See the section: 'GROWING TREE FRUIT' - PLANTING TREE FRUIT).
Apricots are often grafted onto plum rootstock varieties, like St. Julian A to produce semi-dwarf, or Krymsk 1 to produce dwarf trees Alternatively they are grafted onto an apricot seedling such as Prunus armeniaca “mandshurica”, which is a rootstock for apricots that is very hardy and suited to lighter soils.
Moorpark: is a heritage variety introduced in the late 1600s and still going strong! Ripening in late summer each year, it is a late variety. It is self-pollinating. This is a favourite old home-orchard apricot. Moorpark apricots have a tendency to get cracked skins when fully ripe, which means they are not considered commercial, but who cares, Moorpark is still the apricot of choice for small holders and home gardeners who live where there are long hot summers and good cool winters. Moorpark apricot is a freestone apricot (has a loose stone) with bright orange skin and flesh. They are beautiful for drying, freezing and bottling.
Blenheim: is said to be the world’s most popular apricot tree. Blenheim Apricots are considered to be the most succulent and have the best flavour. This is a compact tree that blooms earlier than any other apricot tree, and is self-fertile
Moorpark, Trevatt, Story, Hunter and Riverbrite are the most reliable – all are excellent for drying. Moorpark, Blenheim, Earlicot, Supergold and Katy are very good for fresh eating.
Apricots are usually self-pollinating and will do well on their own. However, if you have the space it is best to plant two different varieties that will flower at the same time, producing even bigger crops.
See: the section: 'GROWING TREE FRUIT' - PLANTING TREE FRUIT.
Choose two- or three-year-old trees, which should produce fruit in their fourth year. Plant bare-rooted trees from late autumn to early spring, and containerized trees all year round if the weather and soil conditions are suitable.
Support & Training:
They can be grown as free-standing vase shaped trees, but I would suggest growing them as a fan on wires, or in areas with colder winters on wires attached to a sunny wall, or solid sun facing fence. This way it is easier to net them, prune them and generally maintain them.
Water the tree deeply and regularly to help promote a burst of new growth before the weather cools.
Conserve water by applying a mulch of compost in spring.
To promote growth after pruning, feed the trees with poultry manure, but keep it away from the trunk. This manure’s high pH helps meet apricots’ preference for neutral to alkaline soil. Fertilise again in spring. Using compost as a mulch should provide adequate nutrition. But if the foliage looks pale, supplement with a pelleted slow-release organic fertiliser, like sheep pellets.
Frost: In cooler areas, grow a late flowering variety such as Moorpark, as well as training as a fan against a sunny wall. This allows you to hang frost fleece down over the flowers if a late spring frost is threatened.
Birds: Again if you grow them as a fan, it is easy to cover with netting when the fruits are ripening to keep the birds off.
It is recommended that Apricots are best pruned in summer rather than the usual practice of pruning fruit trees in winter. Make sure this is done on a hot dry day so that any pruning cuts heal quickly. I also recommend biodynamic tree paste to protect, heal and allow the cut to breathe – see the section: ('GROWING TREE FRUIT' - PRUNING - Some Simple Rules & Orchard Hygiene – Bio Dynamic ‘Tree Paste’):
1 part potting clay
1 part fine silica sand
1 part cow manure
Prune back new growth (it is a lighter colour) by a third. Cut out any long vertical branches and any old non-productive spurs. Apricots bear fruit on spurs, the ripened wood that bears for up to four years. Without regular pruning, new wood is not forced into growth and production suffers in later years. Pruning of apricots aims to balance stimulating the growth of new wood by retaining fruit-producing ripe wood. By pruning apricots in summer, sufficient new growth is produced during autumn and hardened off over winter to ensure the following season’s crop while minimising disease attack.
Harvesting & Preserving:
Bottling: See the section ‘How to Store & Preserve Food’.
Drying: Cut the fruit in half, lengthways, and take out the stone. Then dry the halves on a cake rack in a very slow oven set at 60C (140F) until leathery but not crisp. For long-term storage, place the dried halves in SlipLock bags and store in the freezer.
Pickling: This is the same recipe as pickled plums. They are great with ham, or cheese.
• 600ml (20floz) white wine vinegar
• 12 black peppercorns
• 1 teaspoon whole cloves
• 4 cardamom pods
• 2 cinnamon sticks
• 2 star anise
• 1 kilogram (2 pounds) sugar
• 2 kilograms (8¾ pounds) fresh apricots
1. Bring vinegar & spices to boil then add the sugar.
2. Turn the heat down to low & stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
3. Boil gently for 2 minutes then add halved apricots & simmer for 4-5 minutes.
4. Fill sterile bottles that have been in the oven at 1200C (2480F) for a minimum 20 minutes.
5. Then add seals or caps that have been boiling in a pan of water for 20 minutes and seal the bottles tight.
Apricots are grafted see: Rootstocks above.
Possible Pests & Diseases:
The most common disease of apricots is leaf curl, but they can also get brown rot, shot hole (Coryneum blight) and rust. Pests include oriental fruit moths and aphids.
Leaf curl: Symptoms affects peach, nectarine, apricot and almond trees. The leaves curl up, becoming oddly coloured and misshapen, before dropping off. The fruit drops off too, or turns purple and gets lumpy warts. Young trees seem more susceptible.
The risk of infection is greater when bad infections have affected the tree in the previous season. Remove any affected leaves and fruit at once and burn them or dispose of them but not in your compost.
Organic growers are allowed to use copper fungicides, but I don’t like using copper because it is washes onto the ground and over time kills off beneficial microorganisms in the soil, especially Mycorrhizae fungi.
Probably the most successful means of treating leaf curl organically is spraying with the parasitic fungus Trichoderma viride, which is a natural organic fungus that feeds on the other fungus. Regular applications of Trichoderma can eliminate leaf curl completely. Trichoderma should be applied at leaf burst and then 2 or 3 times through the season and in the winter to both the tree and the ground around it to kill off spores, after raking up and disposing the leaves by burning or putting in with the household waste.
USA - Hasiru Liquid Trichoderma from Custom Biologicals, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442 - or Amazon.
NZ - Daltons ‘Organic Bio-Fungicide Powder’, containing Trichoderma virid can be obtained in New Zealand from Bunnings and from Real IPM
UK - Amazon UK (liquid and powder forms of trichoderma).
Brown Rot: The most common fungal disease affecting the blossoms and fruit of almonds, apricots, cherries, peaches and plums. Brown rot (Monilinia fructicola) overwinters in mummified fruit (on the tree and on the ground) and infected twigs.
The disease first infects blossoms in spring and grows back into the small branches to cause cankers that can kill stems. Large numbers of flower-bearing stems are killed when the disease is severe. Developing or mature fruits show circular or brown spots that spread rapidly over the surface and light grey masses of spores are produced on the rotted areas.
• Choose resistant varieties whenever possible.
• Prompt removal and destruction of infected plant parts helps breaks the life cycle of the disease in individual trees and small orchards, and may be sufficient to keep brown rot below damaging levels.
• It is important to rake up and remove any fallen fruit or debris from under trees.
• Prune trees occasionally to improve air circulation and water at their base to keep from wetting blossoms, foliage and fruit.
• Use Biodynamic tree paste to seal all cuts and wounds and protect against insects and disease organisms (see Pruning section above).
• Trichoderma viride spray should be applied every 2 weeks to infected trees starting when the blossoms are just beginning to open and continuing throughout the growing season plus a winter spray of both the tree and the ground around it to kill the spores. If at all possible, time applications so that 12 hours of dry weather follows application.
Shot Hole Disease (Coryneum blight): Most signs of shot hole disease occur in spring, causing spots (or lesions) on new buds and young leaves and shoots. Buds will have a varnished appearance and spots will first look reddish or purplish-brown in colour and about 6mm (¼in) in diameter, then becoming holes.
Good sanitation is key to treating shot hole disease naturally. This is the surest way to keep the disease from coming back. All infected buds, blossoms, fruit, and twigs need to be promptly removed and destroyed. Contaminated leaves around and beneath the tree should be removed as well. Once again I would use Trichoderma as above, and also water the soil with Trichoderma around the tree after the leaves have dropped to kill the spores.
Rust: Regular use of Trichoderma viride or Bacillus Subtilis sprays are worth trying.
Oriental fruit moths: Oriental fruit moth (Cydia molesta) is native to China, but was introduced to Japan and North America and is now also found throughout of Europe, Asia and South America and in Hawaii, Morocco, Mauritius, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It attacks the young shoots and fruit.
Spray the leaves every ten days with Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) after flowering.
Alternatively, use the traditional methods below:
1. Cut off and burn any infested twigs early in the season. Do this soon as wilting occurs and remove about 20cm (8in). Prune trees every year to avoid dense growth, as this growth will restrict the entry of small birds and other predators that will help in control.
2. Remove loose bark and leaf debris from the trunk of the tree, to reduce hiding places for cocoons. Hessian sacking or Corrugated cardboard bands tied round the lower part of the trunk can be used to trap larvae (caterpillars) looking for a place to pupate. Put these around trunks in mid summer. Inspect regularly and kill any larvae or pupae. Remove in early winter and burn. Also remove and destroy any infested fruit every few days.
AVOCADO (Persea americana)
I know it’s not a sweet fruit, but nevertheless it is a very valuable fruit tree to grow if you have the right conditions to grow them. The avocado is a tree native to Mexico and Central America and was a staple diet for many ancient American cultures. Avocados can only be grown in hot, Mediterranean or sub tropical climates.
In New Zealand they grow in the Bay of Plenty and Northland, but they also grow well in the northern parts of South Island in Golden Bay and in elevated sites around Nelson that are sun-facing and protected.
In the USA they grow well in California, Florida and Hawaii. They also grow well in South Africa.
In Australia they grow well in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia.
Avocados contain 25 milligrams per ounce of a natural plant sterol called beta-sitosterol. Regular consumption of beta-sitosterol and other plant sterols are recommended for their ability to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. One avocado contains around 160 calories, 2g of protein and 15g of oil (monounsaturated fat). As a result, growing avocados is a sure way of growing good amounts of high calorific food on a small area of land.
Soil & Site:
Provide a warm, sheltered sunny position. They are frost tender, especially while young, so protect with frost cloth for the first few years. Hardy to -2° to -3°C (28°-26.5°F) once established. Any free draining soil is suitable. Protect from wind when young. Salt tolerant.
Grow rootstock from seed and graft a chosen variety onto it.
Avocados are self-fertile due to having female and male flowers on the same tree. Each sex of flower will open no longer than 12 hours. If the temperature does not exceed 170C (62½°F) the female will not open at all, and if temperature drops when female flower is open, the flower will close. As a result, it is best to plant a different flowering variety for cross-pollination. Avocado varieties have been split into two flowering types. The fruit ripens between late spring through to late autumn
'A' Type - Female opens morning of first day and then the Male opens afternoon on the second day.
'B' Type - Female opens afternoon of the first day and then the Male opens morning of the second day. That is why it is good to have 2 compatible varieties, see below.
Another way to ensure good pollination in the home garden, if you only have one tree, is to let one of the rootstock suckers grow as a pollinator, but you must control this sucker otherwise it could take over and kill the main plant.
Hass: is the most commonly grown avocado variety in the world. The fruit has a high oil content and a very nutty, rich taste. The flesh has smooth texture and thick skin casing. It has a spreading and open habit of medium height. Hass is an ‘A’ flowering variety. This means the female flower is open in the morning; the male flower is open in the afternoon. ‘Reed’ is the opposite; so growing the two together will have better results.
Reed: has large round green ‘cannon-ball’ shaped fruit with a smooth dark, thick glossy skin. Smooth and delicate flavour. The skin ripens green. The fruit has a smooth textured flesh with a nutty flavour. The tree has an erect habit and is salt tolerant.
Reed is a B flowering variety. This means the female flower is open in afternoon, and the male flower is open in the morning. Pollination happens when there is a lap over period when both sex flowers are open. Plant with ‘Hass’ (‘A’ type) if you want better pollination.
See: Planting Tree Fruit.
Avocados are shallow rooting, therefore stake young plants and mulch well to protect the surface roots and retain moisture. Add two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser in and around the hole prior to planting. When planting do not disturb the root system! If planting in clay soil it is better to grow on a sunny slope, making sure you break up the bottom of the planting hole with a crowbar and create a gravel drain running out of the bottom of the planting hole on the downward side of the slope.
Support & Training:
Stake for the first two years. Avocados require early training. When the tree has reached about one metre in height, cut back the central stem at around half a metre to three lateral branches. The following year, cut back each branch by a third, to two sideways pointing buds to create six main stems. Training early will help restrict the tree's height, and fruit will be produced closer to the ground and more evenly throughout the tree.
Winter and spring rainfall is probably sufficient but watering in the summer might be necessary. Do not let young trees dry out, but neither should they sit in water.
Mulch around young trees with about 10cm of spray-free straw after weeding the soil; after that sow with red clover around the tree and mulch with the clippings on a regular basis, around the feeding roots.
An application of Eco or Organic Fertiliser in early spring, will help soil texture and improve the plant’s tolerance to Phytopthora (root disease).
If you do prune, the ideal time is just before bloom or just after fruit set. Minor pruning can be done at any time, but avoid late-season pruning, which can stimulate excessive tender growth that is likely to be injured by frost. Prune sparingly and remove as little green wood and as few green leaves as possible.
Harvesting & Preserving:
The fruit are ready to pick between late spring through to late autumn, although this varies with different varieties.
Avocados are unique in that they ripen once they’re off the tree. That means that if you’re not ready to harvest them all yet, the best place to store your avocados is on the tree! Do not wait until they drop, because they will be well on the way to rotting. The longer the fruit is left on the tree, the higher the oil content and the richer the flavour they will develop. But leave it for too long, and the oil inside the avocado will turn rancid and the fruit will naturally fall from the tree. The best way to tell whether your fruit is ready for harvest is to pick one nice, large, dark avocado from your tree, and then leave it out on the counter at room temperature. At this point, the thing will be rock hard – all you have to do is wait for it to soften up.
Bud or whip & tongue graft chosen variety onto seedling rootstock.
Possible Pests & Diseases:
Phytopthora: This is a root disease. To help avoid this problem, plant into well-drained soil and mix in one handful of Trichoderma viride powder or granules at planting time into the soil around the roots.
CHERRY (Prunus avium)
There is nothing like a fresh sweet cherry, or several, or a lot – definitely one of my favourite fruit.
Soil & Site:
Full sun is required for sweet cherries. They do best on deep, fertile, well-drained soils. It is essential to deeply dig the soil and add plenty of organic matter before planting.
Planting Tree Fruit.
In colder areas grow as fans against a sunny wall on dwarfing stock – (see below).
The problem with cherry trees is keeping the birds from eating the fruit. We have found by experience that the only sensible way to grow cherries is to grow trees as fans on true dwarfing stock ensuring easy netting against birds, easy maintenance and harvesting. Gisela 5 USPP 9622 semi-dwarfing stock is the one to search out for.
Compact Stellar: This semi-dwarf 3-4m (10-13ft), self-fertile, cherry tree is ideal for fan training. It produces large, dark-red fruit that is firm and sweet. The Compact Stella has delicious fruit that is more resistant to cracking. The tree is small and compact, bears at a young age, and is self-fertile. Fruit ripens in late January (southern hemisphere) late July (northern hemisphere), and requires 700 to 800 chill hours.
See above: Planting Tree Fruit.
Support & Training:
A small stake will be needed while the tree is young and canes will be needed to train the fan branches. For training fans see: TRAINING.
Spray with liquid seaweed and/or compost tea every few weeks during the growing season.
Apart from the annual mulch of compost or rotted manure, mulch during the growing season with 4-5cm (1½-2in) grass clippings or spray-free straw, leaving a little gap around the trunk.
Mulching annually with well-rotted compost or manure is usually sufficient, along with a dressing of seaweed meal or fresh seaweed that has had the salt hosed off.
In late summer pinch out any shoots growing outwards away from the training wires. Cherries produce their fruit on one and two-year wood, so if you cut back these as you would with an apple, you will be cutting out your fruiting wood. The main pruning should be done as soon as possible after fruiting. Once the fruit is picked, prune the fruited shoots out, tying the replacement shoot into its place. Repeat this process every year.
Harvesting & Preserving:
Pick when ripe and enjoy as much fresh fruit as you want to eat. The rest can be bottled, frozen or made into jam.
Bottling: All the old recipes for bottling fruit always include sugar syrup, but sugar is not necessary. You can safely bottle all fruits in water, or better still in fruit juice or the juice from the cherries, by following reliable bottling directions for preparing and processing the fruit.
When bottling cherries without sugar, use high quality fruit. Over-ripe fruit will soften excessively. Added sugar does help to preserve the colour of the fruit, but this can also be achieved by using ascorbic acid obtained from a chemist. Use ¼-½ teaspoon crystalline ascorbic acid or 750-1,500 mg (0.026-0.053oz) crushed vitamin C tablets per quart of fruit. You can pre-soak the fruit in lemon juice instead, but this will affect the taste. Just follow the usual bottling instructions, but use ascorbic acid and fruit juice instead of sugar.
Freezing: Cherries are best frozen fresh (uncooked) in single layers on trays, then packed into freezing bags or containers, when frozen.
Graft onto Gisela 5 USPP 9622 semi-dwarfing stock.
Possible Pests & Diseases:
Cherries are particularly prone to bacterial canker and silver leaf disease.
Bacterial Canker: Main symptoms are sunken, dead patches of bark and small holes in leaves. Spray regularly during the growing season with liquid seaweed and/or compost tea as a preventative measure. As bacteria cause this canker, then an anti-bacterial spray is needed, after cutting out the affected twigs and branches in the summer, which allows the wounds to heal better. Then spray with an anti-bacterial garlic and clove spray, made by crushing several garlic bulbs and several cloves in a mortar and pestle, then add 2 cups of water, a few drops of eco-liquid soap and sieve. Better still leave overnight before sieving.
Silver Leaf: is caused by a fungus that travels under the bark in the sap. The main symptoms are leaves turning silvery and then the branch, or branches dying back. Prevention can be helped by only pruning Prune in summer or early autumn if possible, when the weather is warm and dry, applying a paste of Trichoderma virid powder to the cuts. Also spray regularly with seaweed and compost tea.
If there are signs, cut out the affected branch or branches and burn or dispose of in your municipal waste. Paint the cuts with a paste of Trichoderma viride powder to kill any spores. Drill three 7mm (¼in) holes 2cm (¾in) deep, spaced around the main trunk, around 15cm (6in) up from ground level. Then stuff the holes with Trichoderma viride powder and plug the holes with clay, or Blue-Tack if you have no clay. Trichoderma viride is a predatory fungus that will travel up the sap to eat the silver leaf fungus.
Birds: Sweet cherry trees must be netted against birds, making sure the netting is not up against the fruit, as the birds will peck through. If you grow a fan then they are easily netted.
Aphids and Leaf-roller Caterpillars: Spray with homemade Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray – in the section ‘Pests & Diseases’.
FEIJOA (Acca sellowiana)
Feijoa is a warm-temperate to subtropical plant of the myrtle family, native to the highlands of southern Brazil, eastern Paraguay, Uruguay, northern Argentina, and Colombia. Feijoas tolerate light frosts, so they are a fruiting option for places with cool winters and warm summers. Trees can grow to 2m-3m (6½-10ft) high and are approximately 1.5-2m (5-6½) wide. In the Northern Hemisphere, this species has been cultivated as far north as west coast of Scotland, but under such conditions it does not fruit every year, as winter temperatures below approximately −9°C (16°F) kills the flower buds. Summer temperatures above 32°C (89°F) may also have an adverse effect upon fruit set.
Feijoas are somewhat tolerant of drought and salt in soils, though fruit production can be adversely affected. They are tolerant to partial shade, and regular watering is essential while the fruit is maturing.
Feijoa plants require 50-100 hours of cold or chill to set the fruit. Their natural climate is temperate highlands, so they simply do not fruit in hot or really cold climates.
Soil & Site:
Feijoas will grow in most soils, but produce the best fruit on a heavy but a free draining soil. Choose a sunny position. In the UK it might be worth trying to grow them in Cornwall, Devon or Somerset, or in a large tub in a conservatory.
Feijoas are usually propagated by grafting, as cuttings are difficult to root. So they are grafted onto one-year-old seedlings, not because the rootstock has any particular properties such as apple rootstocks.
Kaiteri: – This modern quick growing feijoa produces an early crop of large, pale green, sweet fruit. Needs a pollinator, like Unique.
Unique: – This is our favourite variety and in our opinion has the best taste. An early-season, prolific bearer of fruit from a young age. This variety produces dark medium-sized soft, sweet and juicy fruit. Self-fertile.
Feijoa trees don’t transport well, so make sure you are planting them in a final spot. Feijoas can be planted all year round. Autumn is an ideal time to plant as this allows the roots to establish themselves over winter in preparation for a growth spurt in spring.
Dig a hole, approximately twice the depth and width of the root ball of the tree. Gently place the tree in the hole and fill with compost/soil mix. In windy areas stake the tree, to give the roots time to secure themselves into the soil.
Feijoas will also make a fantastic hedge that will tolerate wind and coastal conditions. They can also be planted in containers, in groups in an orchard, or blended into ornamental garden plantings.
Support & Training:
Feijoas are generally sturdy self-supporting bushes, but it is a good idea to tie small young plants to a cane, to avoid wind-rock, until the roots are established. The best way to train them is with four or five main branches growing out from a 30cm (1ft) leg in a vase shape.
Feijoas are fairly hardy plants and once established should only require watering during long dry periods.
We mulch down our Feijoas with 3-4cm (1-1½in) bark chips, scraped aside temporarily when we want to add compost or other organic fertilizers, replacing the bark chips.
Mulch annually with well rotted compost. Spraying with liquid seaweed several times during the growing season will help to keep them healthy and productive.
Feijoas also like good phosphate levels, but this is best obtained by encouraging Mycorrhizae fungi, because Mycorrhizae are very efficient at sourcing and making available difficult to access phosphorus. One way is to collect pine leaf mould from under pines, making sure it has white fungus growth in it, and apply it as a mulch.
Pruning: Flowering occurs at the base of new seasons growth it is therefore important to prune early in the season (if pruning is required) to ensure growth happens for flowering to occur. Pruning is required to maintain the desired shape and to stimulate the production of more flowering wood. Prune feijoas so they are open enough to allow bird pollination, wind movement and sunlight in for fruit ripening. Remove weak and damaged branches back to the main branch and thin the tree, if required, by removing internal branches back to the main trunk.
You can also prune the trees to keep them at a manageable height, because they are capable of reaching 4.6m (15ft) in height and width over time.
Harvesting & Preserving:
The fruit falls to the ground just before ripening. Leave on the ground under the tree until they feel soft to the touch, then harvest. They will keep for a short time indoors. We have not had great results from drying them. Cutting them in half and scooping out the inner flesh to eat fresh, boil down to make fruit ‘leathers’, or freeze the flesh in zip-lock bags is the easiest ways to preserve them. Feijoa jam and chutney are also great ways to use feijoas.
Graft onto one-year-old seedlings – see Rootstocks
Possible Pests & Diseases:
The main pests of feijoas include leafroller, mealybug, and Australian guava moth.
Guava moth: attack the fruit, while the others do not cause significant damage but in large numbers may reduce yields by damaging leaves and growing shoots.
Leafroller: This pest can be easily dealt with on a small scale by pulling off any leaves that are rolled up with the caterpillar inside and thrown away, or burnt.
Mealybugs: are small insects covered with a white mealy coating; some have white hairs attached to their bodies. The bugs feed by sucking on the plant juices. These can be killed with a homemade garlic+chilli+ginger spray, (see the section ‘Pests & Diseases’).
Australian Guava Moth: This pest is only found in Australia and the northern part of North Island New Zealand. From the outside the fruit has circular brown patches with excreta extruding from infested fruit and nuts. Feeding by the caterpillar leaves rotting, brown patches, excreta and mould inside the fruit, making the fruit inedible and causing early fruit drop before fruit is fully ripe.
Physical control - Cover green fruit you wish to protect with fine mesh cloth such as curtain netting to prevent moths laying eggs on fruit. Secure with tape to the supporting branch. Remove fallen and rotting fruit and associated leaf litter from beneath trees and bury or burn it - this will destroy pupating moths.
Myrtle Rust: see: GUAVA Cherry in the 'GROWING SOFT FRUIT' section.
FIG (Ficus carica)
Soil & Site: They will grow on any soil as long as it is in a sunny spot, free draining, yet moisture retentive. The only way we could grow figs that fruited in Shropshire, UK was as an espalier in a greenhouse. Figs grow well in containers and are ideal where space is limited. These spend the summer outdoors and are overwintered in a cool, frost-free place like a conservatory. They can also be grown successfully in the southern counties of the UK as a fan, trained against a sun-facing wall. Of course they also grow well in Asia, Southern Europe, Australia and South Africa and the warmer states of the USA.
They are usually grown as cuttings on their own roots.
Black Mission: Among the most popular and available fig varieties in the world. This variety produces sweet pear shaped fruits that ripen into rich, dark purple-black with delectable strawberry red flesh. Great for jellies and jams. Plant in full sun.
Brown Turkey: Large glossy green foliage and a vigorous growth habit with large fruit that are purplish brown with pink flesh and a rich flavour. A favourite fig for jam and preserving. Likes the sun and protection from harsh frost. It is hardier than many varieties.
French Sugar: produces medium sized fruit with green skin and red very sweet flesh, hence the name. Will crop best if grown in a warm sheltered spot.
If you have a light soil, cover the bottom of the 60cm (2ft) deep planting hole with rubble and stones to restrict the trees growth to encourage fruiting. Mix in compost with the topsoil filling.
Support & Training:
Train as an open-centred vase shape, with three main initial branches, each one divided into two, etc. Alternately, train as a fan on wires, or against a sunny wall on wires. The advantages are that it is easier to net against birds and it will take up less room.
In their first year the young fig will probably need regular watering until established. If there is a dry period when the fruits are forming it may be necessary to water to swell the fruits.
Mulch down with 7cm (2¾in) spray-free straw or around 4cm (1½in) grass clippings.
Rich feeding will only lead to the production of vegetative growth at the expense of fruit, but watering and/or spraying with liquid seaweed several times during the growing period will help fruit production and keep the fig healthy.
The tree will need netting when fruiting, as birds are particularly partial to the fruit, eating out the flesh and leaving the skins.
Cut out old wood in the winter and thin in the summer to allow sunlight to ripen fruits.
Harvesting & Preserving:
Harvest regularly as they ripen. I have not had much luck drying figs, they get too dry, but I will try making fruit leathers by blitzing them in a food processor and drying the puree in our dehydrator.
Take 30cm (12in) long cuttings in the autumn after leaf fall and bury half deep in soil outside until rooted.
Possible Pests & Diseases:
Never had any problems with diseases, but you will have to net against birds.
GRAPEFRUIT (Citrus × paradisi)
For: Soil & Site, Rootstocks, Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Mulching, Feeding, Pruning, Propagation and Possible Pests & Diseases see: LEMON.
Dwarf Grapefruit can be grown in tubs in colder countries, and overwintered in conservatories. Otherwise, grow in places with cool winters and long summers.
Varieties: Golden Special: A hardy grapefruit that will grow in colder areas, but not in cold winters. It is a very juicy, sweet grapefruit with few seeds. It will eventually grow to5m high, but I would keep it to 2½ - 3m at the highest.
Golden Special Dwarf: is a compact tree great for containers. Only grows to between chest and head height. Produces large, well-flavoured fruit that are great for juice as well as marmalade.
Star Ruby: is a popular variety with medium-sized sweet, juicy fruit. The skins are yellow and flesh is a rich red. The red colouration contains lycopene a powerful anti-oxidant. This one is not so hardy, likes a nice sheltered position in order to fruit well so plant in a warm sunny protected spot.
Wheeny: This Australian variety is a medium sized tree and has large, good quality, pale yellow fruit from late spring to autumn. The fruit has thin skin and very juicy flesh with a mild flavour. Usually has a bumper crop every 2nd year.
Harvesting & Preserving:
Pick when they have been yellow for some time. Some prefer to wait until they are starting to fall, which means they will be sweeter – it’s a matter of taste. They will hold on the tree for a long time. They can be salted and preserved like lemons (see: LEMON). Grapefruit also make great marmalade with or without added oranges.
GREENGAGE (Prunus domestica ssp. claudiana)
Definitely one of my favourite fruit; if you like plums you will love greengages with their uniquely sweet flavour.
They require a warmer climate than most plums, and we were too far north in Shropshire, in the UK to grow them, but in the southern counties – no problem.
Soil & Site: Greengages like deep loam or clay soils that are well drained, with a soil pH of 6.0-6.5. For heavy clays break up the bottom of the planting hole. See: PLANTING TREE FRUIT above, to create the ideal conditions for your young tree. Pollinators: Coe’s Golden Drop plum is the best mutual pollinator for greengages.
• Myrobalan: semi-vigorous – 5m (16ft)
• Saint Julian: semi-vigorous – 4.5m (15ft)
• Ferlenain: semi-dwarfing – 3m (10ft)
• Mont Clare: semi-dwarfing – 3m (10ft)
• VVA1: semi-dwarfing – 2.5m (8ft)
• Torrinel 24: semi-dwarfing – 2.4-3m (8-10ft)
Old English Greengage: Our favourite for flavour and the one we grow. Very popular, succulent, sweet, smaller fruit with delicious flavour. Mid to late season.
Cambridge Gage: Partially self-fertile, but benefits from a pollinator. A more reliable and heavier cropper than Old English. Late season.
Reine Claude De Bavay: A self-fertile European greengage, which crops heavily. Richly flavoured fruit. Late season.
For Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Mulching, Feeding, Protection, Pruning, Harvesting, Preserving, Propagation and Possible Pests & Diseases – see: PLUM
LEMON (Citrus × limon)
I have used Lemon as the default site to provide information about all citrus mentioned, apart from information unique to a particular citrus.
Most citrus trees like Mediterranean, subtropical or tropical climates, but will tolerate temperatures down to around –20C (280F), so parts of the world with temperatures below that in winter are not places to grow citrus, unless they are grown in a tub on dwarf stock and kept in a heated greenhouse or conservatory.
Citrus are gross feeders so it is important to fertilizer Spring and Autumn with Eco or Organic Fertiliser making sure the fertilizer is not up against the stem. Remove any fruit for the first year so the citrus tree can get a good growth structure.
Soil & Site:
A rich soil with a pH of 6.0-7.5 in full sun is ideal for all citrus – (see the section: GROWING TREE FRUIT - PLANTING TREE FRUIT, to create the ideal conditions for your young tree).
Having inherited large citrus trees 4 to 5 metres (13-16ft) in height, we have found them very difficult to manage, especially in treating scale insects and the resultant sooty mould they produce, as well as the problems of pruning and picking. So we are slowly converting to citrus grown on Flying Dragon dwarfing rootstock, which is much easier to handle, but citrus grown on Trifoliata stock can also be kept at a manageable height by pruning – the choice is yours.
Flying dragon: is a dwarfing rootstock, which will allow the tree to grow to approximately 2.5m (8ft).
Trifoliata: is the most widely used, it is vigorous allowing the tree to grow to 4 or 5 metres (13-16ft). It is also tolerant of heavy and wetter soils and creates increased frost hardiness.
Lisbon: An old heirloom variety. This lemon came originally from Portugal via seed to Australia a long time ago. It has good cold tolerance, but prefers a sunny sheltered spot. It is very productive and vigorous. It has a sharp citric bite.
Meyer: The Meyer Lemon is one of the hardier lemons with a high juice content. It is a soft lemon, easy to juice and with high oil content in the skin. It's not as acidic as some other varieties. The Meyer is a good home garden lemon. It crops reliably and the fruit holds on the tree for a long period of time. It can grow to a large tree in time reaching 4-5m (13-16ft) after a number of years.
Genoa: This is a thornless lemon, which has large juicy sour fruit, which ripen from late winter to mid summer. The fruit is medium sized with greenish-yellow flesh that is almost seedless.
Yen Ben: The Yen Ben lemon has become one of the favourite varieties. It is an improved version of the old fashioned Lisbon variety. It has a thinner skin than Lisbon with fewer seeds. It is long keeping. The fruit are large, oblong and firm. The skin is very good for zest and dried lemon peel. It is hardy, both heat and cold tolerant.
Lemonade: This is an old Kiwi favourite. The lemonade tree produces fruit that looks like a lemon but is sweet enough to eat like a mandarin or orange. The flavour is refreshing and tangy, and of course good for making lemonade! Anyone who's tasted one wants to grow them. Kids really like them. Grow as for a lemon. Protect from frosts when young.
Plant container grown plants in winter and spring – avoid planting during frosty weather.
Support & Training:
Staking is only necessary when first planted. Train in a vase shape and keep the bush low enough for easy maintenance and picking.
Keep well weeded to avoid competition, by mulching and mechanical weeding where necessary.
Mulch down with 7cm spray-free straw.
All citrus are heavy feeders, needing annual applications of animal manure, or blood and bone, or fishmeal. In New Zealand you can buy ‘Daltons Fert Pellets’ citrus organic formula, comprising:
• Horse Manure
• Seaweed Extracts
• Mineral Gypsum
• Organic Matter
• Dolomite Lime
• Chicken Manure
• Sheep Manure
I also suggest several sprays of liquid seaweed during the growing season to avoid magnesium deficiency, which is seen by yellowing between the leaf veins.
Up against a sunny wall is best in colder areas, but not necessary.
Pruning Citrus Trees:
Unlike many fruit trees, which can be pruned to encourage fruiting, citrus does not work like that. However, there is every reason to prune citrus:
• To train the bush as an open vase shape
• To maintain the bush at a height that is easy to manage and pick
• To thin out shoots to open up the foliage
• To cut out dead or diseased twigs and branches
• To remove any overlapping branches
• To cut off suckers from the base
Train as an open vase shape on a 60-90cm (2-3ft) leg – TRAINING above).
When to Prune:
Winter is a good time to prune citrus because the citrus borer beetle is not around to smell the citrus oil from the cuts and come to lay their eggs on the cut surface, where the grubs hatch and bore holes into the expose wood eventually killing the branch.
Selectively trim back the fruiting twigs after you’ve picked, thinning out the shoots to keep the foliage open. You can also shorten branches, but always back to a lateral. You can paint over exposed cuts with Biodynamic Tree Paste (see: PRUNING) to encourage healing.
If you live in a frosty climate that can go below freezing, it is good to wait until late winter when the worst of the winter has passed as pruning can expose the foliage to air frosts. If you do get frost damage on your citrus, leave it on until the new growth starts in spring. This way you can see where you need to prune back to as it takes a while for the damage to work it’s way down the branches. The frost-damaged foliage also protects the rest of the tree.
Cut out any growths coming from the base of the tree. These suckers are either from above the graft, or from the rootstock that the tree is grafted on. Maintain one main stem, cutting out all other growths.
Overgrown Old Citrus Trees:
Citrus on old rootstocks can get quite large. We inherited 3 overgrown Tangelo, Lemon and Mandarin trees and are in the process of reducing them over several years. If you remove too much of the branches in one go you risk killing the tree. The best approach is to do it in stages over 2 or 3 winters to let the tree recover and build up new growth. The goal is to reduce the overall size of the tree to make harvesting easier and promote the growth of new fruiting wood.
Cut back the main branches to within 1m of the main trunk, but no more. Always cut the branch to a junction with a lateral, which will become the new branch, as new growth will only come from buds near the cut. Try to prune back the tree by opening up the middle forming a bowl shape, and spacing the new potential branches evenly.
After pruning hard, the new growth can be very dense, so the new growth will need thinning out. The tree will also need fertilising to bring the tree back to full health and production.
Harvesting & Preserving:
Lemons have fruit on throughout the year. Unlike other kinds of citrus, lemons do better when picked only when they are fully ripe. Fully ripe lemons are a deep golden yellow and do not have any hint of green on the rind. It is best to cut the lemons off with a stalk, back to a bud. This will help to produce two new shoots where there was one and encourages more lemons next season.
• 10 lemons washed and dried
• ½ cup salt
• Hot red peppers, fenugreek seeds & cardamom pods (optional)
• An earthenware pot or preserving jar with seal
• Olive oil
1. Wash then soak the lemons in cold water for 2 to 3 days, changing the water several times
2. Drain the lemons; then partially quarter them lengthwise, leaving the ends intact
3. Slide one teaspoon of salt into each lemon, and store in the pot or preserving jar
4. Cover the lemons with water that has been boiled, then cooled
5. Cover with 6mm (¼in) of olive
6. Seal the pot or jar and wait one month before consuming
This method can also be used for limes, as they are seasonal unlike lemons. The harshness of the lemons or limes is reduced by this method, but the flavour remains. Great used with meat or other dishes, or can be added to summer salads. Just take a few out at a time, as you need them.
Possible Pests & Diseases:
Scale Insects: The most obvious pest is scale insects, which attach themselves to the underside of the leaves and suck the sap. As the sap has too much sugar for their liking, they excrete the excess sugar onto the leaves below, which then grows a sooty mould, which interferes with the plants photosynthesis by cutting out the light. The sooty mould is therefore a bi-product of the scale insect.
I have found that spraying every winter with a 50/50 mix of Neem oil and Pyrethrum up under the leaves thoroughly where the scale insects are, will kill them, making sure there are no bees flying at the time. For every 1 litre of water add 15ml (3 tsp.) Neem Tree Oil + 5ml (1 tsp.) Pyrethrum + a few drops of eco-washing up liquid. Then two days later, spray the tops of the leaves with Trichoderma spray, which will kill the sooty mould. After three of four days power hose the dead sooty mould off. Check a week later to see if the live whitish scale insects have turned black and dead. If there are still some alive, spray again with the Neem oil and Pyrethrum spray.
White fly: can also be a problem, which can be dealt with by spraying under the leaves every two weeks with homemade Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray or Rhubarb Leaf Spray – (see the section ‘Pests & Diseases’ - HOMEMADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES).
Magnesium Deficiency: Yellowing citrus leaves: Apply Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate)
• Water the soil with 20g (approx. 1¼ tablespoons) per metre of tree height, dissolved in a watering can – 1L for every 20g (2 pint for every ¾oz).
• Water in well after application, taking care to wash any product off the plant foliage
LIME (Citrus aurantifolia)
For: Soil & Site, Rootstocks, Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Mulching, Feeding, Pruning, Propagation and Possible Pests & Diseases see: LEMON
Bearss Lime: Lemon-sized oval fruit with a thin adherent rind - pale greenish/yellow at maturity. Greenish acidic juicy pulp that rarely has seeds.
Tahitian: Fruits are the size of small lemons, with thin skins, seedless and juicy, acidic flesh.
Mexican Key: This Mexican lime is best known as the main flavouring ingredient for Key Lime pie. This lime is excellent for cooking as they are very tart/bitter Limes. Easy to peel with thin skin. Fruit is small and strongly flavoured. A moderately vigorous small to medium tree – 3m (10ft) – with spreading habit and nearly thornless. Densely dark green foliage with compact habit.
Harvesting & Preserving:
Harvest from mid to late summer. Limes are yellow when they are completely ripe, but are best picked while they are still green just before they ripen.
MANDARIN (Citrus reticulata)
For: Soil & Site, Rootstocks, Planting, Support & Training, Maintenance, Mulching, Feeding, Pruning, Propagation and Possible Pests & Diseases see: LEMON
Encore: Vigorous selection with high ornamental value as well as large crops of firm fleshed, easy to peel fruit. Excellent flavour. Long hanging period on the tree. Miho (Satsuma): Easy peel, cold hardy Satsuma mandarin with heavy crops of juicy, mild flavoured seedless fruit. Slower growing and well suited to growing in containers. Very early to ripen. Silverhill (Satsuma): An early ripening Satsuma that has thick skinned, easy peel, sweet and juicy fruit with segments that easily separate. This variety grows well in cooler areas.
Our mandarin always produces too many fruits, so to avoid lots of very small fruit, we have to drastically thin them in the autumn, while the fruit are about 2-3cm (¾-3in) diameter. Reduce any bunches to one larger fruit, and pick off any smaller ones. This will give you plenty of large tasty fruit.
NASHI PEAR (Pyrus pyrifolia)
Resembling apples more than pears, Nashi have thin skins and a crunchy flesh that is very juicy and has a subtly sweet flavour.
Soil & Site:
Choose a location in a fertile, well-drained soil that receives full sun. Sandy soil can be improved with the addition of rotted compost and heavy soil also benefits from the addition of well-rotted garden compost or animal manure. Heavy soil also benefits from added grit, or coarse sand to improve drainage.
Nashis are usually grafted onto quince rootstock, producing smaller trees, which is what I would recommend as they are easier to maintain.
Housi: This is a beautiful Nashi pear with bronzed round fruit with a mild flavour. The creamy flesh is low acid and therefore very sweet. Self-pollinates but will do better with a companion such as Pear Kosui. Ripens around March. This Nashi pear is early cropping with large golden-brown skinned fruits that ripen on the tree.
Kosui: This Nashi pear has medium sized slightly flattened fruit of high quality. Tender sweet flesh that is crisp and juicy. A strong hardy disease resistant cultivar. Needs to be planted with a companion, Hosui or Shinseiki for best results. Ripens around early autumn.
(See the section: GROWING TREE FRUIT - PLANTING TREE FRUIT)
Support & Training:
Nashi pear trees are typically best trained and maintained using the central leader method – pyramid and spindle form. The idea is to create a tree that has a central leader (a single dominant trunk from the roots to the uppermost top) with very well spaced radiating main branches.The overall shape of the tree should be openly pyramidal. They can also be trained as espalier, as long as they are on quince rootstock (see the section: 'GROWING TREE FRUIT' - TRAINING TREE FRUIT).
Water around the base of your young trees in dry periods, making sure that soil gets enough water for roots to be fully soaked. If you have a number of trees growing and live in a dry area it may be worth setting up a basic irrigation system to take care of this.
Fruit thinning is important. Nashi pear trees will often develop more fruit than the branches can physically support, so thinning will help relieve the possibility of breakage. Also, allowing too many fruit to develop results in great numbers of small and poor quality fruit, so thinning the young fruit gives the remaining fruit more nutrients and light, and consequently higher quality fruit. Lastly Nashi pears that over produce fruit in one season may not produce at all the next season. Thinning helps maintain more even annual fruit production.
Optimal fruit thinning is best done before the fruit is larger than about 2cm (¾in). Prune off all but 1 fruit in each cluster! This sounds like a lot, but it is worth it.
Mulch around base of newly planted trees, especially if you have sandy soil. Cover a circle as wide as the spread of the branches with a finger-deep layer of compost, rotted manure or old straw and replenish mulch when necessary. Make sure the mulching layer doesn’t touch the stem of your tree as this can cause it to rot. This should be done for the first three years after planting. Thereafter you can plant borage, comfrey, dill and fennel beneath your trees to draw nutrients from deep in the soil and to attract beneficial pollinating and predatory insects.
In autumn/early winter apply about 3cm (1in) of well-rotted garden compost around the base of the tree, especially the area of the feeding roots under the outer edge of the main stems. An application of powdered seaweed is also good at this time to supply trace elements and potassium.
If you have birds pecking the ripening fruit you may need to net the trees, which is easier if you an espalier trained tree.
• Keep the tree’s size down (if desired)
• Enhance the tree’s structure to avoid future branch breakage
• Enhance fruit quality through opening up the canopy and fruit thinning
• Increase fruit production
Prune in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. In summer, prune off overly vigorous shoots and “water sprouts”
Annual maintenance pruning consists of thinning twiggy branches to allow light and air to penetrate further into the canopy. Also remove any dead, damaged, diseased or crossing branches. Remove any branches growing from the central leader that have not been selected to be part of the main structure. You may remove the ends of the main branches annually to keep the tree at a desired size.
Main branches do eventually get old and slow or stop producing fruit. When you identify an under performing branch, remove it and cultivate a replacement.
See the section: GROWING TREE FRUIT - TRAINING for pruning espalier trained trees.
Harvesting & Preserving:
Knowing when to harvest Nashi pears is much easier than European pears. When the predicted time of ripening (as indicated in the individual descriptions above) arrives, taste one of the larger fruit on the tree. When they taste good, harvest them. Ripe fruit also often have a slight softness to them.
Propagation: Graft variety onto quince rootstock.
Possible Pests & Diseases:
As always, prevention is better than cure (see: the beginning of the chapter: Pests & Diseases). Here are some household tips:
• Remove and dead or diseased stems and fruit regularly.
• Sweep and compost fallen leaves.
• Mulch and feed, ensure constant moisture during dry weather.
• Spray regularly through the growing season with compost tea with added liquid seaweed, to boost the trees resistance to pests and diseases.
Coddling moth: is a common pest and hanging traps amongst your trees in mid spring can reduce numbers. See also APPLES for how to reduce coddling moth.
Fireblight: is a particular problem with pear trees that have lots of soft fresh growth. Signs of infection are leaf shoots and fruiting spurs turning black. Reduce the likelihood of an outbreak by not over-feeding with nitrogen-rich manure or fertilizer. Once infected, trees can’t be helped other than by cutting out effected tip growth and diseased wood and burning it. Dip secateurs in methylated spirits between cuts. As well as the above advice, I have found spraying every two weeks with Trichoderma viride along with cutting out effected shoots has been quite effective – (see the section ‘Pests & Diseases’ – The New Generation of Biological Products).