Don’t know where your food comes from or how it’s produced? Are your keen to get started growing some of your own? If so, fruit trees are a great way to go. They are low maintenance and can pump out good amounts of great tasting, organic food with little effort. They also provide great structure for a garden and can be used as part of your strategic plans to insulate your home.

If you live in Adelaide you’re in luck. We are blessed with a warm temperate climate suitable for a large range of fruit trees. Below is a list of my top 5 (actually, it’s 4 trees and a vine…sorry). Try not to get too bogged down in the detail of specific requirements for each plant and remember healthy soil, water and a bit of pruning generally makes for a productive tree. Here’s a few basic things to remember:

  • Choose your site well. The varieties below love full sun so choose a suitable spot not too far from the house so plants are easy to maintain. Plant the large deciduous trees to the north and west of buildings so that they shade the house in summer and let light in during winter when they drop their leaves.
  • Prepare your soil 6 months in advance. Get a soil test then improve your soil structure by adding compost, sand and gypsum if you have heavy clay soils. Healthy soils are the key to good plant growth. An application of rock mineral dust can add back what minerals have been stripped from your soils by erosion or leaching.
  • Buy healthy plants. This is important! Avoid root bound plants or those where the graft (many fruit trees are attached to disease resistant roots) looks dodgy.
  • Soak your plants with a diluted seaweed solution before planting. Also soak the hole your planting in.
  • Plant trees close together (2-3m apart) if you have limited space and want to restrict their growth. This will make them easier to harvest and maintain.
  • Mulch your plants well (100 mm deep) but not near the trunk as this encourages rot.

My Top 5

This is my Top 5. I cheated, there is a vine included in this list but if I could plant only 5 this would be included.

  1. Figs – They grow just about everywhere and produce 2 crops a year. They can grow quite large but can be kept to size with pruning. Plant them away from foundations and cut away their lower branches as they age. Try “Black Genoa”.
  2. Almonds – Big, beautiful and heavenly scented. Hugely prolific but many need another “pollinating” tree to produce, so if there’s not another close by in the neighbourhood your best off planting 2. Try “Chellaston” or “Californian papershell” or the self-pollinating “Bigs” if you can only plant one.
  3. Lemon – Everyone loves a lemon and you can’t go past “Lisbon” or “Meyer”. They love neglect and plenty of wee so plant them where your neighbors can’t see you with your pants down.
  4. Mulberries – One of my favorites. These trees are exceptionally tough and have the most lovely weeping foliage which provide an ideal place for sheltering under on hot summer days. Choose “White Shahtoot” if you prefer berries that aren’t going to stain.
  5. Grapes – If you have a pergola you need grapes. Grown over the canopy they provide the most delightful shady environment in summer and then shed their leaves to let the sun in during winter. “White muscatel” produces heavy crops but there are many varieties that will suit your needs.

If you get the bug or want to learn more make sure you get in touch and join the Rare Fruit Society (http://www.rarefruit-sa.org.au/). They are an amazing “bunch” with a wealth of knowledge…you will be surprised!

What’s your favourite?