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HOW TO GROW FRUIT TREES

There was a time fruit trees were in vogue. Then landscapers, facing space constraints, opted for the now common one or two fruit trees stacked in a corner of the property.

But now, thanks to improvement in plant propagation techniques, growing fruits is now trendy again. Even with small urban plots, varieties exist that can fit even the smallest of spaces –including pots.

 

How to grow fruit trees

With fruits you kill two birds with one stone. Not only are fruit trees a beautiful addition to your landscape, but they will supply you with bountiful fresh fruits. And nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction when you pluck sun ripened juicy fruits grown by your own hand.

All you need to grow fruits is a good understanding of the climate of your area, and space available for fruit growing. Most fruits require a sunny position and well drained soils. Paw paws, Mangoes, and Bananas are hot season fruits .They thrive well in hot areas.

On the other hands deciduous trees like peaches, apples, pears apricots plums and nectarines do very well in cold areas of Limuru and Nyandarua.

 

Size of space

Space is a major consideration when selecting fruit trees especially in urban landscapes. For small spaces go for dwarf and semi dwarf varieties. The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) has done tremendous work in development of fast maturing an small sized trees that can grow even in containers on your balcony. In contrast, the standard fruit tree grows to 25-30 feet (7-9 m tall). Even though the latter have plentiful of fruits, they require a sizeable yard

Variety

If there is one thing you need to know about your fruit tree, is whether it is self-pollinating or it has to have similar trees in the neighborhood for pollination to occur. It is not always easy to tell if a tree is self-pollinating. At the nursery ask questions about pollination. If not check your locality to see if similar trees exist that may pollinate your trees.

Planting fruit trees

Once you brought your fruit tree home, plant it out just like you would for any tree. Space the trees amply to encourage enough air circulation. This prevents emergence of fungal diseases that thrive ibn damp environments. Again, crowding the trees causes them to shade each other-resulting into low fruit yield.

For grafted trees like mangoes, apples and peaches, always ensure the grafting joint is above the ground. Placing it in the soil will have the mother stock sprouting and making amess of your efforts. Always ensure that the soil level at planting is at the same point as it was in the bag. Tree stems when inserted in the soil start rotting away eventually leading to tree death.

Mulching

Mulching is essential for fruit trees. The trees main roots occur in the top 30-40cm range of the soil. In this area, roots from weeds and other plants compete for water and nutrients. A mulch of fir bark, moss or shells will act as an attractive covering to protect or inhibit weed growth, keeping moisture in and heat out. Always spread your mulch within drip line and away from the tree’s base.

Feeding

A healthy vibrant tree will give you abundant fruits. Feed your tree with organic compost or manure. A fruit tree needs strong roots that will support heavy foliage and fruits.  Remember on average, 12000 leaves feed one fruit. A fruit tree also needs to be strong enough to resist pest and diseases that alter fruit taste and reduce harvest. You can boost your organic feeding by addition of 3:3:2 fertilizers. This implies the fertilizer has 3 parts of nitrogen to foster leaf growth, 3 parts of  in phosphorous for  root growth and 2 parts of potassium for  flower, fruit formation and strong stem cell structure .Potassium also helps in resistance to pests and diseases.

Watering

 

New trees will need more watering than established ones. Newly planted trees should be watered deeply once a week. In the cold season watering should be twice a month. Occasionally it may be necessary to dig down the soil using a small trowel to see how well the water has penetrated.

Pruning Fruit trees

Left alone, a tree will not produce wonderful fruits. They need to be managed to reap the maximum harvest and quality. Fruit trees require pruning to provide new year growth-upon which new fruit will form. Prune using the semi pyramid system that does not expose the tree to sun burn. Peaches, apples, cherries and plums require little pruning. Pruning is one aspect where you may seek help the first time you need to do it.

Thinning fruit trees

Once your trees start loading fruits, you may need to thin them out . Too much fruit may overload the tree resulting in feeding stress and resultant poor quality fruit. I have also seen tree branches brought down by the weight of fruits. Keep your fruits about to 1 fruit for every 12 cm   length of fruit bearing shoots. Apples, plums and apricots need twice the amount for every 12 cm.

 

Harvesting Fruit trees

When the fruits of your labour are ready, you can use simple harvesting techniques. You will need a straw basket or a net.

For low hanging fruits on mangoes and apples simply pick them off and drop in the basket.  You can also gently shake the trees to have the fruits drop into the basket.

For high level fruits, a net held by two other people will do. As you shake the fruit tree, the net is held spread out underneath the branch. Fruits drop right into the net.

 

Pruning off the fruit is another way to harvest fruits. Simply cut off the fruit using secateurs.

You can also twist and pull off each fruit for pomegranates which are hard to come off the tree.

Once the fruit harvesting is done, inspect each fruit for bruises, pests or rot. Discard the bad ones into the compost heap.

 

In harvesting your fruits, don’t be selfish. Leave some for birds and other foraging organisms.

 

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