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Sustainable life: How to grow your own fruit in every season

Mia Swainson

Home grown fruit tastes better. 

Juicy, crunchy, sun-kissed… Yum. Yes, there is a reason. It’s about the way your fruit ripens. Fruit ripens for longer on your trees at home, creating a sweeter and more complex flavour. Commercially grown fruit is picked early, so that it can ripen as it’s transported to cold storage, warehouses and the supermarket. Eventually, it’ll make it to the fruit bowl in your kitchen.

Canberra’s seasons make it a great place for growing fruit trees. There’s something to harvest in every season. In spring, it’s mulberries. The sweet, juicy berries leave my children’s fingers covered in dark purple. Summer time is peak fruit season. Our garden produces apples, pears, apricots and plums. Then as hot days make way for the cooler nights in autumn, it’s time for some lesser known fruit to be harvested. We have fijoas, quinces, persimmons and figs. Winter time is the citrus harvest. Lemons, limes and mandarins for eating and for making marmalade.

Here are my top tips for getting home grown fruit, every month of the year!

  1. Use the patio to grow citrus in a pot. Lemons are my favourite fruit to have in excess. I use a few in cooking, every week. When there’s extra, it’s time for lemon curd, lemon tart or lemon meringue. Citrus don’t like frost so when they’re young, its best to keep them in a pot, close to your house and frost-free. After a few seasons, they’ll be a bit bigger and acclimatised. Plant them out in a frost-free part of your garden. Our lemons produce fruit year from May through to October.
  1. Embrace a mulberry. They’re big trees and great for kids to climb. Black mulberries are also great for kids to eat, if you don’t mind a bit of mess. Mulberries produce sweet, black berries in the spring time. They’re frost sensitive, so a late frost can reduce your crop significantly. Our tree produces fruit in November and December.
  1. Plant bare rooted fruit trees in winter. A bare rooted tree is just that – its roots are bare and not covered in soil. Any deciduous fruit trees can be sourced bare rooted, including apples, pears, plums and nectarines. During winter, trees that have been grown in a field are dug up when they’re dormant. As long as the roots are kept moist, you can plant them directly into your garden and they’ll bud and grow that spring. Canberra’s speciality nurseries in Yarralumla and Pialligo stock a good range of bare rooted fruit trees. In Canberra you can grow a variety of different apple trees, giving you fruit from January, through to May.
  1. Discover feijoas. This sweet, green fruit is sometimes known as a pineapple quava. Peel away the tough, green outer layer and enjoy the sweet seeds and flesh. Fijoas are a hardy, evergreen bush. They’re commonly used as a hedging plant in Canberra. Without water, they produce fruit that’s about an inch long, thin and with a small edible part inside. If you put your grey water onto a tree in March, as the fruit are growing, you can produce fruit the size of a cricket ball. Want to try one? Check out John Dicerbo’s stall at the EPIC farmers market next autumn. In our house, we have fijoas from April to early June.

The pleasures of home grown fruit are so much greater than just eating. It’s the joy of being showered in apple blossoms, of watching your fruit grow and of guarding it against the parrots. With a little planning, you can enjoy homegrown fruit throughout the year.

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Mia Swainson

Mia Swainson is passionate about creating a more sustainable world and believes that everyone can make a difference. Trained as an environmental engineer, Mia has worked in sustainable development with the Australian Government and community sector for more than 15 years. Mia’s work has taken her around the world to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and back to Canberra. She currently tends her kitchen garden, cares for three young boys and is growing her executive coaching consultancy (miaswainson.com.au/wp). More about the Author

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