Landscaping with food-growing as a focus provides the opportunity for creative, productive and dynamic garden design. My family and I recently revamped the southwest corner of our garden on a divine autumnal day, planting locally grown avocado trees as the central element. This corner of our garden is the most protected from the salty ocean breezes that would damage the growth of the tree. The kids helped to weed the ground with their little fingers, and then watered in the trees once planted – an excellent use of remote learning time! Although it will be a few years until they reap the fruits of their labour, hopefully they will remember that it doesn’t take too long to eat the fruits of your hard work.
Growing fruit trees at home can be incredibly rewarding and give us access to many fruits that are either not readily available at your local grocer, or expensive. It is one of the great pleasures of food gardening to plant an apricot, avocado or pomegranate, watch it grow in the first few years in eager anticipation of large harvests of fresh, clean fruit. Good harvests don’t just happen though. A moderately healthy fruit tree will generally produce fruit on its own each year, but to get good-quality fruit we need to care for our trees. And heading into winter is an important time in our trees’ annual cycle, particularly for our deciduous trees.
Once our deciduous trees have fruited and are heading into their dormant period, a good feed will provide the tree with vital energy used to produce your harvest. It is also important to keep the irrigation systems active until the trees have become dormant so they access this food and reduce the risk of fragile growth, drying and dying. Now is also a good time to prune your deciduous trees – in particular your stone fruit, which can be susceptible to fungal problems. Pruning after fruiting and before dormancy will help to avoid this.
Checking for pest and disease problems at this stage is also a good idea, and an organic maintenance spray such as pyrethrum or eco-oil wouldn’t go astray, especially if aphids or pear and cherry slug are hanging around. Picking up any fallen and rotting fruit will help reduce the risk of further pest and disease problems. The end of harvest time is satisfying – the fruit picked and bottled, the jams made, the sweetness savoured. The final care of the tree finishes the cycle.
Looking after your fruit trees makes a big difference in both the quality and size of your harvests. And you can always find space for another tree or two. But how to decide on the next tree to plant? Fruits that don’t travel well – figs, apricots, white peaches or nectarines – can provide an incredible experience for young and old to plant, taste and care for. So ask your tastebuds: what should I plant next?
Drew Cooper, Edible Gardens