April 2016: Some useful tips on fruit gardens from Harry Harrison

If you missed our garden night in Mid April, here is our interpretation of  some of Harry's tips on growing fruit successfully in the home garden in Adelaide's temperate climate:

  • unless you are an enthusiast, grow what grows best in our climate, and leave the growing of tropical fruits to the tropics.  Adelaide grows exceptional stone fruits, and Harry encouraged gardeners to plant more of what does best, including peaches, nectarines, and almonds, with those living in the hills to plant more apples and cherries.
  • If you do grow stone fruits, don't use loppers to prune them as they cause too much damage to the bark of the tree during pruning - in his opinion, a fine toothed saw is better when pruning.
  • Shape your tree when you plant it - it will save big problems later on.  His key message here was that formative pruning won't harm a plant, so get to it and snip away!
  • Harry spent some time talking about the right way to use your secateurs and pruners with an emphasis on ensuring that you don't leave a stump on stone fruit (stumps die off and will open up a plant to infection).   Ensure you have the sharp edge of your pruner closest to the tree, with the blunt edge of the secateurs having its cutting edge against the branch that will fall to the ground - this means you will have a good clean cut left on the tree, and any damage done by the blunt edge is done to the bit that is pruned away, thereby reducing the risk of dieback and infection.
  • If you want to espalier stone fruit they are most productive if espaliered in a fan shape (branches at a 45 degree angle) rather then the traditional T shape with harsh right angles.
  • When planting trees Harry's recommendation is NOT to place any organic matter or fertilisers in the bottom of the hole, but rather on the top of the soil after planting (for those on heavy clay soils gypsum is ok to put in the bottom of the whole).    His preference is to fertilise small amounts more often, rather then the traditional 3 - 6 x yearly as often recommended by manufacturers.  In his own garden Harry fertilises each month.   He raised a chuckle amongst attendees when he equated  using large amounts of fertilisers on a newly planted tree as the equivalent to expecting a baby to survive on Maccas (McDonalds)  for five nights a week. 
  • Harry talked extensively about planting citrus in late spring through to summer - saying you should only plant citrus when the ground is warm - his method goes something like this .... If you can sit on the ground comfortably with your bare bum, it's time to plant a citrus tree.   In Harry's opinion, citrus planted into cool soils take much longer to establish (often 2-3 years before they begin to fruit), then those planted into warm soils.  His advice is to purchase them in Autumn and over winter them in their pot, planting out when the soil warms.    Again, formative pruning is important in citrus to give your tree good shape and reduce problems later in it's productive life.  
  • In regard to fertilising, Harry's advise for the home gardener is that a balanced, specially formulated fruit tree fertiliser will result in better fruit with more flavour (Gyganic from Neutrog is perfect). 

 Entry to our Garden Nights is by Gold Coin Donation, with all proceeds donated to a charity.  Donations form our Autumn garden night contribution raised $158 for the Leukaemia Foundation.  Thank you for your generosity and kindness in sharing the love of gardeners.

Our sincere thanks to suppliers, Balhannah Nurseries who grow much of the stone and pome fruits we sell, and to Neutrog who manufacture a quality fertiliser for the home gardener right here in South Australia.  The support and after sales knowledge of both these SA companies es exceptional.