Queensland Fruit Fly

Queensland Fruit Fly

(Queensland fruit fly. Photo © Agriculture Victoria)

Queensland fruit fly is a significant pest that has been found in areas of Victoria for a few years now. Recently there is evidence the fly is establishing itself in Melbourne and surrounds. It feeds on a wide range of fruits and vegetables, and is understandably causing a great deal of anxiety for both home gardeners and commercial growers. Queensland fruit fly from the start of spring and through summer and autumn. They are able to survive mild winters as well.
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Fruit Tree Espaliering

Fruit Tree Espaliering

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Espaliering is a fantastic way to grow trees (including fruit trees) in smaller spaces. It does require regular work and is definitely not recommended for the lazy gardener or those scared of secateurs, however the effort is well worth it.

Espaliering trees is a way of making them two-dimensional rather than three. It is all about maintaining the height and width of a plant while reducing the depth and is a great way of maximizing the productivity of a warm sunny spot along a wall or a fence. Effectively, it means you can grow what is normally a big tree (or two) in a much smaller space. We have quite a few examples for you to look at in our Edible Alley (located in our driveway) and all the pics on this page are
from that garden (except the large picture above, that one is outside our classroom doors in the nursery). Have a look next time you come down.
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Growing Produce From Seed

Growing Produce From Seed

Packaged Seeds

Growing your own herbs, fruit and vegies from seed is fun, easy and will save you loads of money. Not everything is easy to grow from seed, but you will be surprised how many things are. We have been working hard over the past couple of years to really beef up our seed range, so if you decide to give growing from seed a go you will be pleasantly surprised at the wide variety you will be able to choose from.

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Duo or Multi Fruit Tree Planting

Duo or Multi Fruit Tree Planting

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Duo or multi planting is our preferred option (rather than double or multi grafting) when two or more trees are wanted in a small space. The resulting multi trunked, single canopy tree, is easy to manage and prune. You can radically increase the number and variety of fruit trees in your back-yard orchard with duo or multi planting. This allows you to enjoy a wider range of fruit over a much longer period.
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Tropical Fruit in Melbourne

Tropical Fruit in Melbourne

As summer approaches our taste buds tingle in anticipation of luscious mangoes and other tropical delights. What better than to grow your own? Don’t be put off by the fact that you live in Melbourne, it is possible to grow a range of tropical and subtropical fruit varieties down here. The key to success with tropical and subtropical fruit is finding or creating the right spot or microclimate in your garden that will provide a warm, frost-free environment for optimal growth, flowering and fruiting, as well as providing a well-drained but moist soil. There is nothing quite like the taste and smell of ripening tropical fruit in summer, why not give it a try?

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Lots of Lemons?

Lots of Lemons?

Photo from Wiki Commons

If you have a Lisbon Lemon, you are probably looking at a glut of lemons right now. Even Eureka and Meyer lemon trees are full of fruit, but it is the Lisbons that are just groaning with huge loads of lemons. And these are the best of lemons, super lemony, tart, strong, wonderful skin for grating – the perfect lemon.

So, what to do with this superfluity of lemons? For years my brother has been banging on about his preserved lemons, I have been nodding gently and looking impressed, but secretly wondering what on earth you actually DO with preserved lemons. Then… my niece cooked me dinner one night and it was sensational. I was tactfully asking exactly what was in the dish to take it from good to superb, when she told me how the preserved lemons she had made took it to the next level – and this was in New York, in a kitchen the size of a postage stamp. I asked around, and it seems everyone is using preserved lemons, especially in Morrocan cooking (yet another culinary train that left without me).
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Winter Pruning Fruit Trees

Winter Pruning Fruit Trees

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

The traditional time to prune your deciduous fruit trees is in late winter while they’re dormant, before the buds open. Pruning is basically the removal of selected parts of a tree to control its growth to suit our purposes.

  • Pruning carried out in the first three years to create the trees shape is called formative (framework) pruning.
  • Once the tree has grown into the desired shape, we keep it that way with maintenance (detail) pruning.
  • If a mature tree needs reshaping because it has grown too large or has been neglected, we can restore the shape and fruiting wood with renovation pruning.

Fruit trees don’t need pruning to bear fruit, but, if we don’t prune, the tree can become too large and difficult to manage. Unmanaged trees eventually become overcrowded with non-productive wood, and tend to produce every second year (biennial cropping). When they do fruit they are likely to produce lots of very small fruit that are too high to reach.

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Freckle, Black Spot or Scab on Apricots, Peaches, Nectarines and Plums

Freckle, Black Spot or Scab on Apricots, Peaches, Nectarines and Plums

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

This is a fungal issue affecting stone fruit. It is seen as small dark spots on immature fruit, becoming round brown freckles, sometimes scabby, on mature fruit. It is often just cosmetic and the fruit is perfectly fine to eat, however it become so dense that the fruit is rotten or shrivels and falls off. It is mostly apparent towards the end of the season, as the fruits swell and ripen. At this stage it is too late to do anything about your current crop. However, there is plenty to do to avoid future problems.
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Gummosis (Bacterial Canker) in Apricots

Gummosis (Bacterial Canker) in Apricots

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

This disease has become almost endemic in apricot trees across Melbourne. It is now a disease that we need to prevent, live with, and manage. Gummosis is identified by the gum or sap that oozes from a wound in the bark of the tree. The wound can be from splitting during a rapid growth phase, physical damage from whipper snipper, mower or other accidental damage, or from boring type of insects.

When you first notice the oozing sap, look carefully to see if there is any frass or sawdust in the ooze. If there is, then you have a boring insect causing the damage. Insects tend to attack trees which are already stressed, so it helps to increase the vigour of your tree with a good watering and fertilising regime. Make sure it has good drainage and optimal pH.

Gummosis is a bacterial infection, so while spraying with a fungicide might make you feel proactive, but it is unlikely to solve your problem. The better approach is to start with good hygiene and clean up all fallen leaves and plant material on the ground. Trees are at their most susceptible as they are coming out of dormancy – do not prune over this time. You should always prune apricots in the warmer months (NOT in winter). This allows for a more rapid sealing of the pruning wound and reduces the opportunity for the bacteria to gain an access point to your tree. Only prune when the weather is dry. When pruning you should always disinfect your secateurs frequently during the process. A small spray bottle of methylated spirits will do the job. Make sure your secateurs are sharp to prevent any tearing and pulling.

Feed your apricot with a fertiliser high in potassium and phosphorus to encourage flowering and healthy growth. A good N:P:K ratio is 6:3:9. Fertilise in late winter, again in mid spring and lastly in mid summer if needed. Avoid feeding in late summer and autumn, as you do not want a lot of soft sappy new growth going into winter. This takes longer to harden off and is more susceptible to bacterial infection.

Promote good vigour in your tree by keeping the pH slightly alkaline. In this area (Manningham), the natural pH is neutral to slightly acidic, so an application of lime is a good idea. Fertilise regularly and water well, but ensure your tree is never sitting in water or is overly damp. Good drainage is important for apricots.

Apricots are prolific early bearers and a heavy load of fruit on young sappy branches can lead to splitting, especially in the branch crutches. You can thin the fruit, cut the branches shorter, prop up the branches or tie up the branches with broad soft ties. Splitting allows the bacteria an entry point – and is to be avoided whenever possible.

Gummosis will eventually shorten the life of your apricot tree, but in the meantime, you can live with it and still have a very productive tree for many years.

Grafted plants explained

Plant Grafting (Photograph by Bulleen Art & Garden)

It’s easy to get yourself totally confused and muddled when immersed in the heady world of horticulture – hybrids, cultivars, cross pollination…the list of terms goes on and on. But, there is one horticultural concept that we are hearing a lot more of – grafting, and it’s one that home gardeners need to get their heads around.

Rather than an act of political deception, grafting in plant terms means physically combining the desirable properties of two (or more) plants to form one “super” plant. Confused? Think about it like this – take the legs of your favourite supermodel or actor, and attach to these the torso and head of someone else (think my head on Angelina Jolie’s legs!) It’s all about the fusion between the lower half (called the rootstock) and the upper, aerial parts (called the scion).

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Citrus Trees General Information

Citrus trees offer glossy green foliage year round, with sweetly scented flowers and beautiful and edible fruit. There are few trees that are as ornamental and practical as a citrus tree. Citrus are a must for every back yard. Varieties include: Cumquats, Grapefruit, Lemons, Limes, Mandarins, Oranges, Tangelos, Pumelos and various others.

Growing Conditions

Citrus trees prefer a full sun position. They will grow well with up to half a day of sun, but will produce more foliage and less flowers and fruit with less direct sunlight. They need to be protected from frost, which damages the foliage and fruit, and from wind. Good drainage is necessary for all citrus. Soils must therefore be well drained. Planting citrus in raised beds or pots is the best option if the drainage is poor. The addition of compost to the soil may help improve the drainage. Soils should be neutral to acid in pH to successfully grow citrus. Citrus are shallow-rooted trees and thus require regular watering especially during the hot summer months. Avoid digging or planting around the base of the tree. Keep the area under the tree free of grass and mulch well. Smaller varieties of citrus are ideal grown in large pots or tubs. Try Cumquats, Myer Lemons, Tahitian and Kaffir/Makrut Limes.

Mulching

Mulch Citrus in spring to conserve moisture during the hot summer months. Be careful not to build the mulch up around the trunk of the trees, as this may cause collar rot. Remove the previous years mulch before putting a new layer down.


Feeding

At a minimum citrus should be fertilised with Fruit & Citrus Food in early September and again in early March. In addition to this, under the mulch layer, a layer of manure and compost may be spread. Some older leaves may yellow as flowering is initiated. If the trees are well fertilised, mulched and watered during summer then an autumn application of fertiliser should be all that is required to keep the leaves green in winter. Alternatively, a liquid fertiliser may be used in winter as a quick green up.

Pruning

Pruning is really only necessary to remove dead wood and to cut out branches that are rubbing against each other; or to shape the tree as desired. Citrus Gall Wasp is prevalent in this area, so prune out all galls. Remove all shoots that come from below the graft.

Watering

Citrus are not deep rooted trees and thus require regular watering. Care must be taken to ensure they have
adequate water during the hot summer months. Do not over water citrus trees.

Pests

Aphids: usually found on new growth, particularly in spring and autumn. Squash by hand or use Garlic and Chilli sprays, Pyrethrum.

Scale insects: various types of scale affect citrus trees. These will be different colours, and are usually found near the mid vein and on the stems. Again, spring and autumn are the usual seasons when these are more
prevalent. Squash by hand or spray with White Oil or Eco Oil making sure to cover the insects.

Citrus Leaf Miner: These leave silvery trails in the leaf and the leaf edges curl inwards. Control using White Oil.

Citrus Gall Wasp

Citrus gall wasps (Bruchophagus fellis) are small (3mm) shiny black wasps native to northern Australia. Adult wasps emerge in spring, often timing emergence with the onset of a flush of new growth. The wasps have a limited flying range, so, unless they are moved by the wind, they tend to re-infest the trees they emerged from. After mating, the female immediately lays her eggs into the soft new season flush.
Best practice includes:

  • Reduce the amount of soft spring flush growth by pruning (and gall removal) and fertilising in late summer or autumn instead of late winter and spring .Use a balanced fertiliser rather than a highly nitrogenous one.
  • Spraying with Overhaul – a Kaolin clay product in spring and summer
  • Placing sticky traps (see below) into the trees around spring to catch emerging wasps and prevent them mating and laying eggs into the new growth. Adult wasps don’t fly far. They can be moved good distances by wind, but will tend to re-infect the tree they emerged from. Hence traps are useful to prevent re-infection.
  • Remove galls before spring, wrap and place in your rubbish bin (NOT your greenwaste bin).
  • Where possible, get neighbours involved and protecting their trees as well.

Sooty Mold and Ants: these are secondary problems arising from another pest problem. The presence of Sooty Mold and / or Ants is usually an indication that there is a Scale or Aphid problem. The Ants and Sooty Mold feed from the sticky exudate of the Scale and Aphids. Control the Scale or Aphids and these other problems will disappear.

Mineral Deficiencies And Other Problems

Iron Deficiency
Yellowing, mainly of the newer growth, with the veins standing out in green. Apply Chelated Iron at recommended rate. The pH of the soil may be too alkaline, making the iron is inaccessible to the plant. A trace element mixture may be added to the soil, to cover various other deficiencies.


Lack of Fruit
Trees purchased with fruit on may not fruit for several years after planting. It is best to remove the developing fruit early on young trees, so that more energy is used up in root and foliage growth to establish a strong tree. Heavy crops of fruit may result in smaller sized fruit. To avoid these problems it is best to thin out heavy crops, by thinning the newly set fruit on each branch by half to two thirds. Wheeny Grapefruit tend to fruit every second year and Mandarins may produce such dense growth they fail to fruit. Other causes usually result from uneven growing conditions, over fertilising and drought or waterlogging.

Click the following links for further information on each type of citrus…

Cumquats
Grapefruit
Lemons
Mandarins
Oranges
Tangelos