Welcome to the exciting world of home grown fruit production. Now that you have made the decision to grow your own fruit, we would like to help you succeed by providing you with the following guide. The guide has been compiled to help you through some of the common pit falls that may confront you, the new home fruit grower.
If you are planning on planting a number of trees in an orchard situation, there are a number of factors that should be considered prior to the actual planting of your trees.
Most fruit trees are vulnerable to strong winds. If possible, consideration should be given to planting a windbreak at least 12 months prior to putting in the orchard. Fruit trees such as ice-cream beans, seedling avocados, macadamias and jakfruit as well as some of our fruit bearing natives all provide fast growing, productive, well-formed windbreaks. Another fast growing alternative is clumping bamboo. These plants produce a very fibrous root system which can serve a dual purpose of stabilising soil structure on steep sloping sites as well as providing a good source of mulch once established.
We are very fortunate here in the sub-tropical region of SE Queensland as we can successfully grow such a wide variety of fruit trees however, the long term success of your fruit trees can be greatly influenced by your soil type, depth and structure. The survival success of some fruit trees such as paw paws, citrus and avocados can be determined largely by the soil type/depth that they are grown in, whilst the flowering and fruiting habits of other fruit trees can be strongly influenced by soil structure/water holding ability. Fortunately for the home gardener, there are numerous fruit trees that are quite tolerant of their growing conditions and will perform well in a wide variety of soil types without the need to greatly alter the existing soil type / structure that exists on your property
Good soil drainage is of the upmost importance when choosing where and how to plant a fruit tree. The biggest enemy of the home gardener to achieving success in growing the many so called “hard to grow” fruit trees varieties, such as the Avocado and Citrus, is water logging. Excellent drainage is essential, especially in high rainfall areas. A good rule of thumb to determine if your chosen position will provide adequate drainage for your fruit tree is to fill your newly dug hole with water and observe how long it takes to drain away. If the water takes longer than one hour to soak away into already moist soil, your plant will probably drown during the next wet weather event. This poor drainage condition is typical of heavy clay based soils and if this is the case for you, it is strongly recommended that you build up a mound of soil approximately 1.8 – 2.5 m across and at least 300-400 mm higher than the natural ground level and then plant on top of this mound. When constructing a mound to plant onto, care should be taken insure that all the materials used to construct the mound (garden soil, composts, etc. ) are thoroughly combined together and with the base soil. This insures a more gradual change of soil structure and type as your new tree’s root system starts to grow. An alternative to building a mound is to plant into a raised garden bed of a similar size. Once again, you need to thoroughly combine all the soil/composts together so as to create a well - drained soil mix that will be required by your tree.
Fruit trees can vary greatly in their resistance or susceptibility to pests and diseases and extreme weather conditions. By selecting a mixture of different types of fruit trees and or varieties you will find that if one tree does fail to produce a good crop in a particular year, normally you will find other trees will be able fill the productivity gap. The home fruit grower is far better off having a continuous supply of fruit with early, middle and late season fruiters, than a big glut of fruit all at once. By careful selection of fruit tree types/varieties you can have an abundant supply of fresh fruit for most of the year. In short diversity rules! A mix of fruit tree varieties will enable you to spread the fruit bearing season of your trees and give you an alternative fruit crop if one particular crop fails.
As a general rule, most fruit trees require a well-drained, sunny position, that is 3 - 4m in diameter and clear of obstructions such as buildings or other tall vegetation. If you are a home gardener who only plans to grow the odd one or two trees in their back yard, tree spacing may not seem to be much of a concern to you however, many neighbourhood disputes are caused by the lack of forethought when it comes to the positioning of trees on properties. Sufficient room should be left around your fruit trees so that they can develop and grow to their full potential without overcrowding or causing an obstruction/intruding onto building or other property whether it be your own or your neighbours.
If you are fortunate enough to have sufficient space to allow you to plant a small orchid, it is wise to plant your trees far enough apart so as to leave adequate space between trees within each row for tree canopies to only just touch when fully grown. As a general rule, trees in this situation trees should be planted a minimum of 3 to 4m apart within a row however, this distance will vary depending on the type of trees you are planting. For instance, Avocado, Mango, Pecan and standard Mulberries will need much greater distances of up to 5 -6 m (depending on varieties) whilst, Paw-paw and Jaboticaba may require as little as 1 to 2m spacing’s. Inter row spacing will also vary depending on the type of trees planted within a row and should be at least the diameter of the largest tree within the row plus sufficient space to permit vehicle traffic between it and the adjacent tree row. Again, as a general rule this distance will normally be around the 7m (i.e. 2m for your tree’s canopy either side of the row plus 3 meters for your vehicle giving a total of 7m for inter row spacing).
When planting tree varieties that require good to excellent drainage (Citrus and Avocados) it is desirable to form mounds up for each tree /tree row, so that water quickly drains away from trees and can then flow down the inter row space. This also gives a deeper layer of top soil for the tree root system. On gently sloped land, trees can be planted in rows running up and down the slope however, on steeper slopes, consideration should be given to aligning rows across the face of the slope to prevent soil erosion.
If the tree rows are aligned across a slope, tree mounds should be aligned in such a way as to permit water run off to flow gently across the hill face and into grassed drains on the side of the orchard. Careful attention should be paid to mound alignment so as to prevent water ponding. The provision of surface drains to prevent run-off from neighbouring properties above the orchard will also assist in preventing excess water from entering the orchard thus reducing the risk of water logging.
All soils, composts, etc. used to construct these mounds should be thoroughly blended together and combined with the base material to insure an even distribution of soil within the mounds. This will help reduce any plant shock that may be uncounted as your trees starts to grow and sends out new root growth.
The installation of a reliable irrigation system is essential for the long term success of fruit tree plantings. For ease of installation, all necessary pipe work should be installed prior to the planting of any trees. There are many different setups available ranging from a simple drip irrigation system controlled by a mechanical tap timer through to a fully automated computer controlled system with moisture sensors. The choices are many and varied however; I believe the most important feature is reliability. Your trees will need to be watered on a regular basis throughout the year especially during the heat of summer if you expect to reap the rewards of all your hard work.