If there is one thing that is more gratifying than seeing your flowers bloom, it is enjoying your own home grown fruit. Many Australians seem to have a mental block about growing fruit, though, and put it in the "too hard" basket. Actually, growing fruit is no more difficult than growing anything else. This guide to growing fruit may help you get over your mental block and see your efforts literally bear fruit.
Whether you choose to grow fruit trees or vines, it's probably best to start with something that is likely to grow well in the area where you live. The best way to find out what these may be is to simply ask your local nursery
. In order to give you the best advice, they'll need to know a few things about your property:
- If you want to grow a fruit tree, do you have an area set aside for it that gets sunlight at least half a day? Fruit trees like sunshine.
- Berries, too, like lots of sun and can tend to take over a garden. Do you have a designated place for them? If not, you can grow some species (like strawberries) in pots.
- How is the soil on your property? One of the biggest reasons why fruits fail to materialise or are of poor size and quality is because they don't receive enough nutrients.
Your local nursey will be able to get you started, but after that, you're on your own.
Growing Fruit Trees
Giving fruit trees a good start is crucial to their survival and long term health. The important things to remember when planting fruit trees are:
- Prune the branches of the tree to approximately the width of the roots. Wider branches will stress the tree while it is taking root and die out anyway.
- Water both the roots of the tree and the soil in and around the hole where it is going to be planted thoroughly before and after planting.
- Don't plant the fruit tree too deeply. The roots should begin just beneath the surface of the soil.
- Fertilise the soil after planting. It's best to fertilise just outside the perimeter of the roots, to encourage them to spread out.
- Make sure to insert stakes outside of the roots, to avoid damaging them. Use a flexible staking material. This will support the trunk while still encouraging it to grow strong.
- Apply mulch to the surface of the soil, but do not apply it directly to the trunk. This can cause collar rot.
For a more detailed guide to planting and nurturing fruit trees, see our HI Pages article, Growing Fruit Trees.
Most berries like cooler climates, so if you live in Tasmania, many parts of Victoria or the ranges of New South Wales, you're in luck. If you live in a warmer climate, don't despair. Strawberries and some varieties of blueberries thrive into the subtropical regions of Australia. As with fruit trees, your local nursery can help you choose the right varieties for your climate.
One thing most berries have in common is a preference for well-drained soil. If the soil on your property is clay, consider building a raised garden bed
and filling it with well-composted soil and include peat moss for even better drainage. Whatever type of berry you choose, another thing they have in common is a need for lots of sunlight, so plant them in a sunny location. Also consider installing a drip irrigation system
, since berries need to be watered thoroughly and regularly.
Different types of berries also have different needs:
- Strawberries need to be planted in mounds to elevate them from the surrounding soil and help prevent disease. A strawberry patch can easily be ruined if it is attacked by a soil fungus. This is why so many home gardeners give up on them after the first attempt. Buy certified disease free strawberries and plant them properly and you will get a 'bumper crop' the first time. Also be sure to lay straw around the plants before fruit starts appearing to protect the growing fruit. Find more strawberry growing tips in our HI Pages article, How to Grow Strawberries.
- Blueberries need a very acidic soil (4-5pH), so you will need to test the pH level of your soil occasionally to ensure they thrive and bear fruit. For better yields, grow two types of the same variety of blueberry. For example, two varieties of Southern Highbush are Sharpeblue and Misty. If you choose Rabbiteyes, they will not produce any berries at all unless you plant 2 types together.
Whether planting trees or berries, take the time and care to plant them right and nurture them well during their first few critical weeks. After that, with regular watering and periodic feeding, they will take care of themselves.
Everybody loves fruit. This includes birds and other wildlife, so if you don't want to get your fair share of berry crop, you may need to net your berries to keep the birds away. Fruit trees are a little more problematic for home gardeners, but if you've looked after your trees well and they bear a lot of fruit, there should be plenty to go around. If you don't have time to maintain your new garden or it needs an experts touch, then why not find a local gardening professional
to help you out.