GARDENS continue to shrink in size and yet folk still want to grow their own in the push for organic gardening.
One can grow most vegies in pots, but how about fruit trees? Not a problem if you select the right type of fruit tree, with a range of dwarf varieties now readily available.
With dwarf trees, it is the tree that is dwarf, not the fruit, which is full size. I recommend a container at least 40cm across the top. Wooden barrels are ideal with a few provisos.
Firstly, when new and they have been allowed to dry out with wood shrinkage the metal bands tend to fall down. Nail some galvanised clouts in several places under each band. Make sure that there are plenty of drainage holes in the bottom. Next, paint the inside with a couple of coats of bituminous paint, such as Ormonoid, available from most hardware and paint shops. This will stop the wood rotting and the barrel will last for many years.
Then put a layer of charcoal in the bottom of the barrel about 50-75mm thick. This not only improves the drainage, but also acts as a soil sweetener. Use only premium potting mix. Do not crowd the containers too close together allowing good air circulation and place them in full sun.
The only type of container I do not recommend are ones that taper in at the top, like an Ali Baba pot. If the plant dies and it has been in the pot for some time it will be almost impossible to get it out of the pot without smashing it.
All the favourite apple varieties are available on naturally occurring dwarf rootstock and including Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Red Fug. Especially recommended are Trixzie Pink Lady and Trixzie Gala, both are miniature trees in their own right. These will grow to about 2m with a 1.5-2m spread. All apple trees require cross-pollination. Your local garden centre will advise you on the best varieties for this purpose. By growing a number of varieties, you can be picking fruit over an extended period. For example, Trixzie Gala will mature 25 days after Red Delicious and Trixzie Pink Lady about 54 days after Red Delicious.
On to nectarines, which many people may not know are a smooth-skinned peach.
The Trixzie series includes Trixzie Nectazee nectarine with yellow juicy fruit on a semi-freestone. Next is Trixzie Pixzee peach, a semi-clingstone also with yellow, juicy fruit. Trixzie pear is a green-skinned, sweet, rounded pear.
All this group are miniature trees and ideal in a container or for a small garden. They grow to just 1.5m tall with a similar spread and are self-pollinating. One great advantage is they are easy to net against birds and possums.
In spring, when the first green leaf shoots appear start a feeding program. Initially, Maxicrop Seaweed Plant Nutrient is ideal to encourage strong root growth, changing to a high potassium plant food as the buds start to form. This will encourage more flowers and subsequently more fruit.
Plants in containers will need more attention to regular feeding as with constant watering a proportion of the plant food is leached out.
WE have passed the shortest day of the year and it is now all downhill to spring, so let’s get busy:
All deciduous ornamental and fruit trees can be planted now.
Plant winter flowering Clematis napaulensis, the honeyeaters love the nectar.
Plant Hellebores for winter and early spring flowers.
When winter flowering iris, Iris unguicularis is a great fragrant, cut flower, except do not cut the flowers. Go to the base of the flower stem and pluck the flower and it will last longer.