CUSTOMISING FOOD PRODUCTION TO YOUR NEEDS
There are almost as many fruit and vegetable/herb growing growing systems as there are types of fruit and vegetables to grow.
Everyone has their own personal preferences.
As a general rule, for those with limited space, dwarf fruit systems have grown in popularity because they remain highly productive but are a more manageable in size and take up less space. As they say in the marketing blurbs -Big Fruit from Little Trees and that's exactly what they provide.
Similarly vertical herb/vegetable systems offer efficient use of space and water for those with limited space or mobility who would prefer to access to fresh food at their back door. BUT most available systems fail because they provide insufficient soil volume to sustain healthy plants. Our system is practical, we use 4.7 litre containers attached to farm gates with each row watering the one below. It can't get more practical than that!
Gardening is not rocket science if you look after the basics: soil; water and light.
Always use premium potting mix in potted plants; water plants until water runs out the bottom of the pot then stop. For in ground plantings, water well until fruit is picked and then keep as lean on the watering as possible. This encourages less vigorous growth and a higher percentage of the plants resources are dedicated to producing fruit the following season.
The following list of considerations apply equally to those choosing to grow fruit trees in pots or in the ground.
Some considerations in planning your orchard / veggie garden include:
- Site Characteristics:
- Aspect- how much direct sunlight does the site receive? Minimum 6 hrs; the more the better.
- Climate extremes and Micro climates- Consider chilling unit requirements for desired varieties; Consider exposure to Frost and Extreme temperatures. Consider micro climates created from the built environment (walls, pergolas,hedges. wind breaks etc)
- Soil - consider drainage, depth,soil physical, chemical and biological health.
- Access to water; automatic/manual
2. Personal Characteristics - Wish List versus Reality
- How often do you walk past site per day?
- How much time and knowledge do you have to maintain orchard; fuss free or high input?
- What fruit trees, herbs and veggies and how many do you want to grow?
- Investment in an orchard can be an investment for the long term - its worth considering whether you want to be climbing ladders to pick fruit or prune trees in ten years time!
3. Sharing or Excluding
- Depending on where your orchard is located it is well worth considering what other creatures will also like your orchard plants and fruit (possums, kangaroos, wallabies, birds, deer) Do you want to share, or exclude?
- Do you want to install training wires, trellis's or have free standing trees.
Fruit Systems - Fit for Purpose Trees or Right Tree for Right Location
Without wanting to oversimplify what is a highly refined technique Practical Horticulture aims to set your fruit trees up for a productive life for its chosen location. Whether this is along a wall, in a pot or in a small orchard, Practical Horticulture uses a combination of Espalier designs and/or Pruning Techniques to ensure your purchased fruit tree is "fit for purpose."
Espalier is part art and part science.
The basic premise is to prune a plant into a desired shape, predominantly converting a three dimensional plant into a two dimensional plant. This technique dates back thousand of years with many civilisations having claimed the technique as their own. Depending on the ultimate end use of the plant, Practical Horticulture Fruit Trees are pre-pruned into either a 2D shape ( Stone Fruit- Fan) , Apples (T-Shape) or a V-Shape (both Stone Fruit and Apples) or compact and bushy suited to many potted dwarf fruit and citrus and some small acreage orchards.
From our perspective we see the combination of using:
-specially selected semi-dwarf, dwarf plants or regular fruit trees
-espaliered to a 2D shape or other pruning shape (Vase, Fan or Compact)
-using specially selected plants for pots that require no or little pruning
as providing the tools with which we can offer small space gardeners the opportunity to enjoy seasonal produce without compromising on crop yields or taste.
Having said all of the above, there's no better way to learn than having a go yourself, Fruit trees and citrus are incredibly forgiving and as far as pruning goes i always have the philosophy that cutting back more is better than less in most situations.