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How to grow fruit trees

Posted: 8am 27 Apr 2021

Now is the perfect time to plant fruit trees, with the worst of the heat behind us, but it is not as simple as just sticking one in the ground. Redcliffe Garden Centre horticulturalist Tylor Elmsley says there are some key rules to follow, which differ depending on the type of fruit tree.

Citrus trees

“They love lots of food – in the form of fertiliser, organic matter, compost and manure because they are producing lots of fruit and putting energy into that fruit,” Tylor says.

“The plant draws the nutrients from the leaves and puts it into the fruit.”

If the plant is in a pot, it will need a good quality potting mix. You can even buy a citrus potting mix.

“The more specialised, the better. It takes the guess work out of it,” he says.

Planting: Dig a decent hole about twice the diameter of the pot. Cover with mulch to stop the soil drying out. Plant in an open position, with full sun.

Fertiliser: In about 4-6 months, when the tree has fruited, add slow-release fertiliser to pots. For plants in the ground, you can add manure and rich fertiliser. These cannot be applied to plants in pots because the soil becomes too concentrated and will burn the roots. If the leaves become discoloured, it is an indication the plant needs fertilising.

Pests: Because of our humidity, citrus trees are susceptible to citrus leaf minor, mealy bug and scale on stems. The best treatment is white oil. Fungal and bacterial problems can also arise and are best treated with fungicide such as wettable sulphur and mancozeb. If you have ants, they are usually attracted to other pests. If you get rid of the other pests, the ants will most likely disappear too.

If the plant is in a pot, you can flood the pot to get rid of the ants. If it is in the ground, you really need to eliminate the primary pest.

The best way to ensure a healthy crop, is to sacrifice some of the fruit.

“When people see fruit on their plants, they get really excited but it’s a good idea to pluck most of the fruit off,” Tylor says.

It will allow the plant to use its energy more efficiently to produce good quality fruit and overall plant growth.

“If you leave them all, none will ripen. Divert the plant’s energy to just a few. And remember, a plant that exerts itself is more susceptible to pests,” he says.

Tropical stone fruit

The varieties at Redcliffe Garden Centre have been grown for Queensland conditions, so they do not need ‘low chill to set the fruit’.

Tylor says now is a good time to plant them, but warned they are deciduous, so will drop their leaves in the cooler months.

Planting: The type of soil needed is similar to citrus trees – good quality and high in organic matter, trace elements and minerals.

Fertiliser: Follow the same regimen as is recommended for citrus trees.

Pests: Trees can have scale and mealy bugs and fungal problems. The best treatment is to move them into the sun and water them less. You can also use a fungal spray. Grasshoppers can also be a problem.

Fruiting: The trees will fruit in early October.

Blueberries

Planting: Prepare acidic soil, with lower PH, such as soil you would use for azalea, gardenia and camelia plants. You should also use fertilisers specific to these plants. They can take full sun, but like a little shade to protect them from the afternoon sun.

Tylor says there are many varieties to choose from.

“It you’re into blueberries, you could have different varieties that fruit at different times of the year, so you’re always picking blueberries,” he says.

The plant grows as a shrub, which needs to be pruned (about one third removed) each year after it has fruited.

Pests: They can get scale on stems, discolouration of leaves, spotted leaf fungal problems and rain spots. All can be treated with wettable sulphur or mancozeb.

Fruiting: It will fruit from October to January.

Bananas

Planting: Choose a position with full sun most of the day. Prepare deep, rich soil with plenty of organic matter. Water regularly. There are some dwarf varieties that are even suitable for pots.

Fertiliser: Apply fertiliser every six weeks. Use lime, compost and manure. You can buy a five-in-one product, which will give banana plants all they need.

Pests: Banana plants are hardy, with disease and fungal problems the biggest threat. New varieties are quite resilient.

Fruiting: It could take 2-3 years for the first fruit to appear and it typically happens in the warmer months. The plant will send out suckers at the base. You need to focus on the main sucker and the second one that will take over when the main one has finished fruiting.

Companion planting

Some varieties of plants will not only add a splash of colour to your garden, they will also keep pests away from your fruit trees. These include marigold, tanzy and comfrey. They have fragrances pests do not like.

They will also attract pollinators to the garden. Other flowers to consider are salvias, buddleja, panzy and viola. They will help bring the bees in.

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