by Wally Richards


About this time each year, fruit tree nurseries lift the new season Delicious fruit trees out of the ground and either wrap the roots or bag them into planter bags, secured with twine as the roots have been cut.

It is very important that as soon as the tree is out of the ground, the roots are covered and kept moist. If the bare roots are left too long they dry and the up-lifted tree dies.

Every now and then I hear from a gardener that purchased a deciduous fruit tree (or ornament including roses) planted them and later in the spring the tree will leaf up and likely flower then nothing.

The reason is the tree was already dead but had enough sap to be able leaf and flower before it ran out of steam, having dead roots that cant take up moisture etc.

Likewise if you cut a branch off a flowering deciduous tree now that has flower buds on it and place the branch into a vase of water then it will flower later on when it is ready to do so. The branch is clinically dead with enough sap and vigor to flower.

Gardeners often don’t realise that they purchased a dead tree because it had appeared to come to life then faded.

Ideally you return the dead tree to the place you purchased it from with your docket as proof of purchase for a replacement or a refund. Likewise when you are buying deciduous plants you must keep the roots covered and moist till planted and even then, if the soil is dry, regular watering is needed.

Evergreen fruit trees such as citrus and feijoa are often available all year round, but the best time to buy and plant is in the autumn/winter period as they have a new season of spring to establish before going into summer.

Citrus trees must have free draining soil as they will die of root rot in heavy wet soils. I have found the best way to overcome this problem is that you plant the young tree into a 50 to 100 litre plastic drum or plastic rubbish tin.

You drill 50 mm holes using a circular drill saw, four in the bottom and four in the sides at the cardinal points about 100mm up from the base.

You then bury the container about a third into the soil where you want it to grow.

Use compost to plant into the container along with blood & bone, sheep manure pellets or any manures available. I don’t like citrus fertiliser as it is acidic, harms the soil life and does not have sufficient potash in it.

There are varieties of fruit trees that suit most climates in NZ, even some types of apricots that don’t require the chilling of winter as found in areas of the South Island.

Some fruiting types require more maintenance than others having seasonal pests or diseases. The most hassle-free and great producers, from a fairly early age are Nashi pears and Feijoa and prior to the guava moth in the north of NZ were fairly pest free. Nashi may in the middle of summer have some damage to the foliage from the pear slug pest which are easily controlled by sprays of Wallys Liquid Copper.

A tree ripened Nashi pear is so juicy and delicious when grown naturally.

Feijoa is another favorite of mine and there are a number of types readily available in NZ garden centres these days. Here are some examples:

Unique: (my favorite) An early season, prolific bearer of fruit from a young age.

This variety produces medium sized fruit with smooth, soft, and juicy flesh. A truly self-fertile variety.

Triumph: Produces medium to large sized oval fruits with firm skin, juicy and moderately soft flesh and an excellent sharp flavour.

Flesh somewhat gritty but with good seed-to-pulp ratio. Ripens late in the season. Good pollinator for Mammoth. Needs a pollinator. Which means you need two to have good crops.

Mammoth; Produces large, soft, round to oval fruit, with thick, somewhat wrinkled skin. The flesh is slightly gritty, and the quality and flavour are very good.

A strong growing tree of upright habit, it will grow up to 3 metres tall. Bears larger fruit with a pollinator (Triumph is a good option).

Anatoki; An early season variety with lush dark green leaves on a very attractive plant. It produces exceptionally sweet round fruit. Needs a pollinator.

The tree is quite vigorous, with large deep green foliage.

Apollo: A vigorous and productive variety that produces a medium to large oval fruit with smooth, thin, light green skin. Ripens mid to late season. Flavour very pleasant, quality excellent. This is an upright, spreading tree that will grow up to 2.5 metres tall. Semi self-fertile.

Bambina: A dwarf variety, with thin edible skin surrounding sweet aromatic pulp bursting with flavour. Bambina is a good choice when planting in a pot. Self-fertile.

Wiki Tu: Producing huge fruit on a dwarf growing (2.5m), Wiki Tu is an easily managed, slow growing tree. The sweet and meaty fruit has a firm texture and good keeping qualities.

A mid-late season fruiting variety, it is partially self fertile, though is best with another variety nearby for cross pollination.

Remember Feijoa are gross feeders so a good dose of blood and bone and animal manure should be applied under the tree in the root zone in the spring. As they start to bud up in the spring give them a monthly dose of Wallys Fruit and Flower Power till harvest.

Now here is an interesting thing in regards to stone fruit and in particular nectarines and peach both of which suffer in spring with the curly leaf disease which can reduce or completely lose the crop.

A few years ago I spoke to an elderly lady gardener who told me that see had an orchard with both nectarine and peach trees and never any curly leaf disease. The reason being she grew them from stones (stones or seed from inside the fruit) This meant they were not grafted and grew on their own roots.

She told me also one time she purchase one each of the super dwarf nectarine and peach and planted them in her orchard. These two had bad curly leaf disease every season but it never spread to her other stone fruit trees.

My conclusion is that it is the graft that makes the trees weaker and hence the reason for being attacked. Maybe that’s the reason with grafted roses that always have problems

Also if you do plant stones or pips (from pip fruit) where they are going to grow and mature it only takes two to three seasons before they are bearing a small crop of fruit and of course they have cost you nothing.

So choose a nice fruit and plant the stone or pip which maybe similar as the parent but not exactly the same. Mark where you plant it with a stake as it may take a while for it to germinate.

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