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Growing fruit trees

Having just attended a very busy two days of the Qld Garden Expo in Nambour, I should share some of the things I learnt from talks attended there, before they disappear from the memory. Peter Young of Birdwood Nurseries related that most commercial growers of fruit trees are now restricting the height of their trees to around 3 metres. This done mainly because of WPHS issues for their pickers, all fruit can now be picked from the ground. The growers have pruned the trees so that they spread out more sideways and the harvest has not been affected as much as they expected.  Where possible they have also interplanted. This has further enhanced their harvest. When the trees get their tops taken off, some of the root mass dies back. This knowledge has implications for people like me who grow some of their trees in pots. Obviously it is wise to not allow trees to get too big in pots for many reasons. One of the main worries that I was concerned about was that where I have a tree like a Dwarf Avocado getting taller, I can cut the trees back each year to control  top growth (height), but does the root growth keep on going until the plant is pot bound? I was envisaging having to take these large trees out of their pots and trimming the roots back every few years. Well now I know that I don't have to. If I prune back the top, a corresponding amount of root will die back. So In theory I don't have to repot into ever larger pots, I can control the tree size all round. This means that once the tree has attained a good size that will allow me to get a harvest size that I am happy with, I can leave the tree in that size pot.

Other info relating to growing trees in pots is that the growing mix should be around 30% sand, 60% of a good (four ticks) potting mix, and 10% coir or peat moss. The slow release fertiliser that comes in the potting mix will only provide nutrition for a few months, so you will need to top this up around 4 times a year. I  always put well rotted horse manure in with my mix, down the bottom of the pot so that the roots can grow into it. I then top up the pot with manure a few times each year, and mulch with sugar cane.

If you just use organic materials in your mix, the mix can slump too much, the sand provides some body to hold everything together.

Where a fertiliser bag states " provides food for up to 3 months" (or however long). The nutritional release is like a bell curve, The initial amount is small and gradually builds to maximum after a month and a half. By the time the three months is up the amount is back to almost zero. So to keep food up to you plants, when using the above type of fertiliser you would need to add more after a month and a half, etc. etc.

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Dianne's garden wakes up from Winter

It has been a while between Blogs for me, so thought I would start this off as an ongoing diary for myself over the Spring/Summer Season of 2016.

It has been a big year for us in Ellen Grove and to be honest I couldn’t have done the hard yakka without Husband Graham and Member Darren. The Garden has undergone a lot of work and rearrangements due to the addition of a new Work Shed for Graham.9779188054?profile=original

Many new Fruit Trees have been added, with the Front Garden being planted with Capulin Cherry, Panama Berry, 4 x Coffee K7 Plants, Yacon (in very large pot), Cornus mas Elegant (which is growing very well here). A lot of the planting has been done on the Verge Side.


This part of the Front Garden was ripped up this week to prepare it for next year’s Fruit Trees to be planted into.


These plantings are part of the Bag Garden, they seem very happy.



Strawberry Guava Flowering.


Many Berries have been added to the mix both in the Front Garden and in a new space beside the existing Vegetable Garden. Currant – Red, Currant – Black, White Current (Which are Fruiting), Raspberry – Smoothy, Raspberry – Atherton,  Gooseberry – Captivator, Silvanberry, Chester Thornless blackberry, Jostaberry, New as well as gifted Blueberries and Alpine and Regular Strawberries.

Entry to Old Vegetable Garden

Part of Old Vegetable Garden

Another Side of Old Vegetable Garden

Wall Garden and Broad Beans

Entry to Rose Garden

The new area in Back Garden, was made by layering branches, twigs, compost, cow manure, the mulches up limbs of a very large Quandong, straw, cardboard and newspaper.

Into it has been planted Dwarf Mango - King Thai, Abiu, Dwarf Mango – Irwin, An Avocado, Davidson Plum

Added to our Citrus Collection are, Australian Round Lime, Bush Lemon Tree (hoping this one lives), Australian Round Lime, Yuzu

Still to be planted - Lychee - Wai Chee, Babaco (Grafted), Lemon – Eureka, Myoga Ginger, Finger Lime – Alstonville, Lime – Kassia

The Side Salvia Garden now has some Friends sharing their space, Dwarf Peach – Standard, Dwarf Apricot – Moorpark, Dwarf Peach - Sunset Backyard Beauty, Dwarf Nectarine - Sunset Backyard Beauty, Muscadine Grape – Adonis, Muscadine Grape – Noble

I have forgotten to mention a few of the newies but I am sure you get the gist of it, this place will be a Fruit Forest one day only hope I will be here when they all fruit. I am so happy with the progress of the garden, it has thrived under some harsh conditions at times.

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Wicking pots


As we're going away in a few weeks, leaving the garden for my son to look after, I thought I'd have a go at making some of my fruit tree pots into wicking pots. First I got some cake carriers from the Reject Shop, cut and poked various holes in them, and inserted a filling tube and some wicks. Added a jar of gravel to help support the top of the container.


Filled the reservoir, put it in the pot (needed a bigger pot of course, maybe it would've been easier to simply buy a large wicking pot, but they get a bit expensive, and I've got lots of pots around) and filled around it with gravel, then added the plant and mulched it. I'm happy with the result - hope it works, just have to do eight more! Could probably have used a shallower container for the reservoir, and I will look in a few op shops etc for some. Note the pretty mulch - some worn-out bamboo stakes put thru the mulcher.

Not sure why the last photo is bigger than the rest - didn't look that way when I was doing it.


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Sweet Potato Tower


PURPLE/PURPLE sharply defined tri-pointed leaves

WHITE/PURPLE softly tri-pointed leaves 

PURPLE/WHITE heart shaped leaves 



Some time back Glenyth posted a pic of her sweet potato tower and a few of us thought it was such a great idea we tried it out ourselves. Not only would it give tubers but lots of edible leaves.

Below: Back in January, starting out with a few shooting bits of purple/white variety.

NOTE - I didn't keep a record of what was used for potting mix on the first occasion but feel it was Searles potting mix.

9779054262?profile=originalAbout a month later in February...

9779054693?profile=originalAgain in May...

9779054900?profile=originalAnd in July....

9779056677?profile=originalI attended an Annette McFarlane talk yesterday about growing veg and she told me sweet potato should be ready to harvest 4 months from planting. Enough for me! My patience was running out anyway.  Annette also advised keeping the leaf growth contained with trimming to encourage tuber growth.

NOTE: Information from Yates: They are semi tropical plants that need at least five months of relatively warm soil to grow good tubers. Hence it’s best to get the shoots planted as soon as the soil has lost its winter chill.

I had another experiment going with swt potato growing in one of the raised beds in it's rich soil. Lots of plant growth, but the tuber that I harvested a few days ago lacked flavour. Perhaps it had life too easy!

9779057290?profile=originalCutting back the growth with Hugo's help.

9779057690?profile=originalI wondered if the plant might have grown down into the soil, so enlisted the help of my strong son to empty out the bag.

9779058072?profile=originalAll the growth removed....ready for emptying.


9779060261?profile=originalThe crop. Not as much as I would have hoped but still a good haul of quality tubers with good colour.

9779060276?profile=originalAll scrubbed up and ready for use.

NOTE: I no longer scrub tubers before storage. Encourages rotting.

9779061060?profile=originalPropagating sweet potato would have to be one of the easiest things, and can be done in a variety of ways using portions of shooting tubers or stem cuttings. Any bit of stem with leaf nodes should provide new growth but with so much material to work with I like to use these bits....

9779061474? they provide such tidy new cuttings.

9779062268?profile=originalPotted in good potting mix (Searles this time) and dipped into the weed tea to moisten the pot.

9779063278?profile=originalThe end result, Heaps of potential new plants for replanting or sharing.

9779063898?profile=originalEleven days later the cuttings are putting up new growth already and growing well.

9779064855?profile=originalBelow - Replanted with purple/purple variety (sharply pointed tri point leaf).

I have turfed out the contents of the two other regular potato bags and will do these up with different sweet potato cuttings - purple/white and white/purple.


Here's the crop out of an entire 4x1.5m bed full of good rich soil. Much the same as out of one grow bag of potting mix!



Now May 2014 and I've just cropped two of the last grow bags of sweet potatoes. From memory I used some mushroom compost I had to hand mixed with potting mix, not a happy combination for the spuds who's leaves looked very sad in these last batches.

Still, the crops weren't too bad. Especially for the purple/white ones which produced big fat tubers this time. I much prefer the long skinny ones. Cuttings were taken from the plants pictured above.

Four of the tubers had rotted in the bag.

9779066301?profile=original9779067289?profile=originalThe white/purple are very pernickety growers and did not produce much crop, but what I did get was very good eating.

9779068458?profile=originalBoth varieties have been replanted in a mix of Searles potting mix and 5 in 1.




What a dismal failure today's crop was. I'd be dead of starvation if relying on this crop for sustenance.

Small crops and the potato weevil has made an appearance again. I've come to the conclusion that the grow bags need to be moved each time as the weevils have most likely set up a breeding ground in the soil under the bags. Finding suitable sunny spots for the bags isn't easy in a small yard like this with lots of fruit trees and veg beds.

Bags were filled last time with composted horse poo. Obviously not the right stuff for a good crop.

And I've definitely lost my purple/purple over time. I can only assume I planted up the bag incorrectly one occasion.

Below - The purple/white bag and crop. Heart shaped leaf CORRECT.


9779070682?profile=originalBelow - White/purple and crop - one spud in the entire bag. Softly Tri pointed leaf CORRECT.
9779072687?profile=original9779074273?profile=originalBelow - what is supposed to be purple/purple with a sharply tri pointed leaf is INCORRECT. I've lost them somewhere along the line. These are in fact purple/white with the heart shaped leaf.


Crop is actually purple/white. Lots of weevil damage in this bag. Half of the crop had to be tossed into the weed tea bucket.



I will try replanting with Searles potting mix which is a bummer as it's more expensive than the composted horse poo.

One purple/white bag did not have much leaf growth but reasonable crop.

The other purple/white (the one I had supposed was purple/purple) had lots of leaf growth and a reasonable crop half destroyed by weevil. Moving the grow bag.

The white/purple plant had little leaf growth and just one small tuber.

Lack of sunshine shouldn't have been a problem but I'm not home to check how much through the day.


All three bags this time around are growing exceptionally well using Searles potting mix. Bags were also moved to avoid the potato weevil. Lots of healthy leaf growth on all three varieties.

Ferreted around the other night looking for a spud for dinner and found this purple/white growing near the surface. Perfect inside. It made great oven chips.


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Container growing tips


This week I posted a new article to my blog on container growing, which I thought would be of interest to the city dwellers in this group with limited food gardening space. The article talks about the challenges and how to overcome them, resulting in reasonable levels of productivity, whilst still using organic methods. You can read the article here. Please fell free to comment either on this site or on my own site.

Happy gardening
Peter Kearney
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