Fruit trees produce fruit for people, birds and bees to enjoy, and also provide blossoms, fragrance and shade in the summertime. Fruit trees are fairly easy to grow and require relatively little care, but how do you ensure their success?
This article is a quick guide to what you need to know to successfully plant and care for fruit trees. Use this guide to ensure you get a good harvest of fruit and a thriving asset that adds to the community's enjoyment of the park.
Before you consider anything else, ensure you have the funds to deliver a successful fruit tree. The following costs will be required, through internal or external funding or sponsorship:
- Contamination testing, where relevant
- Site preparation, including weed spraying , fertilizing, mulching and application of a planting medium
- Supply and planting of trees, including staking
In order to avoid the removal or transplant of fruit trees in the future, all relevant documents should be referred to when deciding whether a site is suitable for fruit tree planting. This includes: heritage assessments, management plans, development plans, master plans and concept plans.
Landscape and ecological considerations
Careful consideration should be given to areas where enhancing native fauna and flora is a primary management objective. Fruit trees are exotics and would generally be considered inappropriate for bush and natural areas. While fruit trees can increase biodiversity by providing food for birds, bees and insects, the landscape and ecological considerations may override biodiversity objectives. In particular, this would be the case around fragile ecological environments and significant natural and cultural landscapes, such as Auckland's volcanic cones.
Site selection and location
Consider the following issues when choosing a site for fruit trees:
- soil contamination
- distance from facilities
- safety implications
- archaeological status
- mana whenua and community values
- environmental conditions
- maintenance implications
- expert advice from the Arboriculture and Landscape Advisor
Road bermsRoad berms are typically not suitable locations for fruit trees, due to the following issues:
- maintaining sight lines for drivers beside street trees that have a low canopy spread
- establishing relatively sensitive fruit trees in unforgiving street environments
- managing complaints about 'fruit drop' that have historically been received
- producing edible fruits in soil mediums that may be compromised by surface water runoff from the road
Education and signage
Fruit trees can be used to educate members of the public about the benefits of eating fruit and growing your own food. Interpretive signage should be considered for all fruit tree planting areas, and should be provided at larger scale orchard plantings.
Planting fruit trees:
When to plant
It is best to plant fruit trees in winter, while trees are dormant and water is plentiful.
Prepare the soil
Fruit trees will grow in a number of different soil types, provided there is sufficient drainage.
Cultivate the area where fruit tree planting will occur. If the soil is clay-like, work in Gypsum and dolomite lime to break up the clay. Consider using compost to improve soil fertility.
Carry out mulching, either in advance or at the time of planting. It will conserve moisture, protect the tree's roots, add nutrients to the soil and prevent weeds. 100 -150mm aged mulch is best, but Urea or high N fertiliser can be added to new mulch.
How to plant
- Make sure the soil is well worked before planting.
- Dig a hole that is just deeper than the root system and allows for 20cm clearance around the roots. But be sure not to dig a hole too deep and then bury the tree. Plant at the soil level the tree has been used to.
- Individually fertilise each tree when planted. Gently place the tree in the hole and slowly spread fertiliser in the hole so that the graft is above soil level. General fertilisers are fine, unless symptoms of nutrient deficiency are present. Use three or four handfuls of fertilizer per tree.
- At the base of the hole, spread the roots out carefully.
- Before back filling, position the tree stakes appropriately. Partly back fill and firmly compact the soil as you go. Continue back filling and compacting once or twice more.
- Water well.
Tips for success
Bare rooted trees bought in winter must not be left for roots to dry. Plunge them in water (for no longer than half a day) before planting.
Consider planting companions. Companion planting helps establish a balanced ecosystem and one which reduces or eliminates the need for additional pesticides.
Management & maintenance:
It is important to keep soil moisture up during the first summer, until the tree's root system is established and growing in the ground surrounding the original root ball. At least 40L per week should be given to young trees under dry conditions. Give occasional deep soakings to ensure success.
Many fruit trees are considered 'gross feeders', having high fertilizer requirements. For instance, citrus trees benefit from 6 weekly fertilizer top ups over the growing months.
Hand weeding is preferred to spraying. Weeds compete for nutrients and reduce production.
Pruning is important and should be done in winter. Some species are pruned for shape, others for production and others require no pruning. The council will provide guidance and training on pruning as and when required.
Remove all suckers below graft (if grafted stock, which most fruit trees will be) before they get too large.
Timing of pruning is also important for pest and disease control.
Steer away from chemical control of pest and diseases, as many pesticides kill the bugs and bees needed for good tree health and production. Choose resistant stock that will thrive in Auckland's soils and climate.
Since fruit is not being produced on a commercial scale, the spraying practices adopted by commercial producers are not appropriate.
Trapping and baiting of rats and possums may be necessary for some sites.
Take special care of trees when harvesting fruit. Make sure tears and breaks don't happen. If they do then prune back to sound wood.
Don't allow young trees to bear too much fruit. Fruit production requires a lot of energy that should be used on establishing the plant.
Fruit Tree / shrub selection – recommended species:
Almond (Prunus dulcis)
Apple (Malus spp.)
Babaco (Carica pentagona)
Banana (Musa spp.)
Carob (Ceratonia siliqua)
Cherry (Prunus avium.)
Cherymoya (Annona cherimola)
Coffee (Coffea Arabica)
Feijoa (Acca sellowiana)
Fig (Ficus carica)
Guava (Psidium spp.
Jaboticaba (Myciaria cauliflora)
Lime, Lemon, Grapefruit, Orange, Mandarin (Citrus)
Macadamia (Macadamia integrifolia)
Mango (Mangifera indica)
Miracle fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum)
Mulberry (Black-Morus nigra, White – M.alba, Red –M. rubra)
Nectarine (Prunus persica)
Olive (Olea europaea)
Peach (Prunus persica)
Pears (Pyrus communis)
Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)
Persimmon (Diospyros kaki)
Plums (Prunus domestica)
Pomegranate (Punica granatum)
Rose Apple (Syzygium jambos)
Walnut (Juglans regia)