Guide to Growing Figs, Citrus Fruits and Pineapples
Let us now consider the cultivation of some fruits that are more on the exotic-side.
It is perfectly easy to growoutdoors, particularly against a sunny wall or fence, but they do a great deal better under glass and far superior varieties can be used. There are two ways of going about it: they can either be grown in pots or in the border. Pot culture really only has one thing against it; you have to spend more time watering in the summer. The advantages, though, are overwhelming. You have far more control over the growth of the tree, it takes up much less room and it is certain to carry more fruit than a similar-sized tree in the border.
A 9 or 10in (23-25cm) pot is fine, but a rather different compost to that suitable for other fruit plants is required because, if it is a touch too rich, thewill simply explode into growth at the expense of fruit. For this reason, John Innes Seed compost does well, provided that the is improved with some pea-sized mortar rubble.
When potting, firm the compost down really well both below and around the roots so that they have to fight for everything that they need. Repotting every other year is normally quite enough and should be done as follows.
After leaf-fall, take the tree out of the pot, loosen the roots a little and cut them back so that there is a gap of about ‘A in (1.25cm) around the rootball when the tree is replaced in the pot. Fill up firmly with fresh compost and forget about it for another two years.
In the autumns when you are not repotting, just loosen the top 3-4in (75-10cm) of compost and replace it with fresh.
Depending on the amount of heat available (and its cost), early March is the earliest feasible time to start the trees into growth and, by doing it then, you will still get two crops a year: one in the early summer and the other in about September. A temperature of 55-60°F (13-16°C) is needed to get the plants going and they must have full light the whole time. Once the foliage is growing nicely, the temperature can be allowed to rise to about 80°F (27°C). At that point, keep the air and the compost moist with plenty of water and feed about once a month with a tomato(high potash).
During the spring and early summer, new shoots must be stopped at five leaves to encourage more to develop; it is this second generation of shoots that carry the autumn crop.
Negro Largo is one of the best for indoors with Bourjassotte Grise as an alternative.
Oranges and Lemons
Oranges and lemons can also be grown more or less anywhere that has sufficient light and heat and, in many ways, sunroom extensions are ideal as you can enjoy the beautifully.
We will deal just with oranges, but all other citrus fruits follow along the same broad lines.
Once again, there is the choice between pots and borders and, once again, pots are the better of the two. Choose a size in proportion to that of the plant and make sure that the drainage holes are adequate; none of these tropicals and subtropicals can stand a hint of. A reliable brand of John Innes No. 3 is as good a compost as any.
The pots can be moved onto a warm and sunnyduring the period June-August.
Let us start with their cultivation in winter. Oranges will survive at any temperature above freezing, but, remember, the lower the temperature, the less water they will need and no feed at all. They will start growing in March or April and will come into flower in the summer; the resulting fruitlets pass through the winter small and green. This is normal as they will continue to grow with the arrival of the warmer weather and will ripen in the summer.
Throughout the growing season water must be given freely, with overhead spraying on hot days to maintain a moist atmosphere. This should be stopped on warm days when the trees are in flower as scorching can result. A general liquid feed will be needed, starting off fortnightly and increasing with the growth rate to weekly, but returning to fortnightly towards the end of the summer.
Oranges need no regular pruning. Simply maintain the shape of the bush and check any new shoot that is getting out of hand.
Scale insects,and the ubiquitous greenfly are the main pests.
When propagating, pips are fun and free, but seldom give rise to a variety similar to the parent. It is far safer to take heelabout 6in (15cm) long from existing plants in early autumn; give them plenty of bottom heat. Malta Blood and St Michaels are good varieties, but Ruby Blood reigns supreme.
It may appear to be moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, but, if you can maintain a minimum night temperature in the greenhouse during the winter of 60-65°F (15-18°C), you might be able to grow.
However; you will also need to keep the temperature at 70-75°F (21-24°C) by day in the winter with a night minimum of the same during the growing season. Along with this, the temperature variation should be kept to about 10°F (5-6°C) if possible, though, in the summer, up to 100°F (38°C) is tolerable for short periods.
The compost required by pineapples is nowhere near as exotic as the citrus fruits; two parts of fibrousto one part of is quite suitable. The addition of some well-rotted manure or will make it even better. Above all, though, it must be free-draining, so never firm it down too much in the pots.
As with other bromeliads, watering and feeding should be kept to an absolute minimum in the winter, but it is hard to over-water pineapples in the spring and summer. During this period, a general liquid feed should be given monthly, but both this and the watering should be reduced when the fruit is ripening. Give as much light as possible at all times by keeping the plants close to the glass.
Any really serious pineapple grower in the UK will very probably build a special bed for the plants to fruit in, but this is not vital and a succession of pots, from a 4in (10cm) for the young plants up to about 9in (23cm) for fruiting in, is quite normal. For really big plants, you can even go up to a 12in (30cm) pot.
With the exception of greenfly, pests are much the same as for oranges.
The simplest way to start growing pineapples is to cut off and root the rosette at the top of a bought fruit. These can usually be twisted off quite easily and modern varieties have the advantage in that they are spineless. Tidy up the base of the ‘cutting’ with a sharp knife, give it a touch of rooting hormone powder or liquid and stand it in a 50/50 peat/sand mix or seed and cuttings compost. Err on the dry side at this stage as rooting will be quicker and there is less risk of a fungus rot setting in. You will probably find it hard to achieve, but a bottom heat of 90°F (31°C) should be aimed at.
Start the propagation in the spring so that the whole growing season lies ahead; at the end of which, the top should have rooted. Once rooted, pot it up and away you go. Plants can also be raised from seed, but, here again, a great amount of bottom heat is needed and the plant will take three to four years to reach fruiting size. Nothing need be done to encourage the plant to fruit; it will do so in its own good time, but there is this terrific heat requirement. Without it, success will be limited.
However, once a plant has fruited, you have the best propagating material of all because suckers arise from the base of the stem. These can be taken at any time from March to September, according to when the fruit was removed, but the larger they are, within reason, the more likely they are to root. Pull off the suckers, tidy up the base, pull a few of the lowest leaves off, dip the base in rooting compound and stand them in the compost so that just the base of the lowest leaves are covered. Ais a handy tool for rooting.
As you can see, heat is the main need if pineapples are to be grown successfully, but, given this, they are not too hard.
Ripley Queen and Smooth Leaved Cayenne are the varieties most likely to give good results.