Favourite fruit: from the garden to the bowl

Peaches on tree

WORDS & IMAGES Linda Brennan

No matter where you live, there’s an abundance of fruit you can grow and enjoy. For those living in warm, dry-summer areas, your favourites may include figs, citrus and pomegranates. In Queensland, it’s often tropical fruits like mango, banana and avocadoes that people love to grow and eat. For those living in cool temperate climates, you’ll be sure to have apples, quince and stone fruit among your favourites to eat, grow and preserve.

Here are a few golden rules for growing healthy fruit trees:

Start with the soil
Wherever you live and what you’d like to grow, cultivating a rich, living soil is important in order to achieve the best possible crop. Improve clay soils with gypsum and compost, or add compost to sandy soils. Humates* in liquid or powder form are also a terrific addition and boost soil fertility and carbon storage.

Beneficial microbes assist by making minerals and nutrients available to the plants. Adding compost and worm liquid or making your own seaweed or other garden teas will add beneficial microbes. You can also purchase microbe brews online.

Good drainage is essential for most fruit trees. You may need to plant on a large mound of improved soil to provide free drainage for fruits such as citrus.

Choose suitable fruits for your climate and soils
While diversity in your garden and on your plate is a good thing, trying to grow fruits that struggle in your soils or climate conditions can be disappointing. I suggest starting with tried and true fruits for your area rather than, for example, trying to grow tropicals in a marginal climate.

Our grandparents grew many varieties of fruit like apples, pears and grapes that we just don’t see today. The old-fashioned heirloom varieties were chosen for their characteristics of flavour, use, harvest time and tolerance to soils and conditions. If you choose to grow heirloom varieties, you will not only perpetuate genetic diversity, you’ll most likely achieve a longer harvest season and a range of flavours and textures. You may take cuttings from local heirloom trees such as the wide range of heirloom apples in Tasmania, or support a local grower who is propagating heirloom fruits.

Small space?
For small gardens, you don’t have to be precluded from fruit trees, as long as you have sun access. Espaliered fruit trees grow along a flat plane of wires or walls and make sensational living artistic features. Miniature or dwarf grafted fruit trees will also ensure that you can grow several trees in a space that would normally only accommodate one tree.

With a little planning and not too much room, you can be growing your favourite fruit and enjoying the pleasure that comes from harvesting from your garden straight to the fruit bowl or table.

* Humates are stable carbon and organic material, the result of the breakdown of plant and animal remains over a long period of time. They are essential for soil fertility and carbon storage and available in dissolvable form or as a liquid, from nurseries or online. Suppliers include Nutri-tech Solutions; Plant Health Solutions; Seasol Pty Ltd; Nutrifert (sold as Humasol).

For a breakdown of fruit suitable for your area including top tips for success, grab a copy of Sprout Magazine Spring 2017 issue at your local stockist or online, posted directly to your door.

Linda Brennan is a horticulturist and educator with a wonderful teaching garden. Find out more at www.ecobotanica.com.au. For the chance to win a copy of Linda’s new book A Delicious Bunch: growing and cooking edible flowers, subscribe or renew your subscription to Sprout this Spring.

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