Casimiroa

Casimiroa

I was approached one day in the library by an incredibly enthusiastic young Maori man living on a large block of land two kilometres south of Te Paki Stream. He had read my second book, Beyond the Search, and hence knew of my experiments with self-sufficiency and in particular with the planting and care of subtropical fruits in Golden Bay. He is extremely keen to plant subtropicals so that ‘my people can taste fruit they’ve never tasted before.’ There is already an abundantly fruiting white sapote (casimiroa edulis) on the land on which he care-takes. I’d like to dedicate the remainder of this column to a few suggestions for planting in our uniquely warm and subtropical Far North. If you are living on a sheltered property here are a few fruits to consider planting in frost-free areas.

Ugli Fruit

Ugli Fruit

First, obviously just about any citrus tree thrives in our area provided you supply it with enough magnesium. Epsom salts are a good source of magnesium. I have planted lemonades and ugli fruit while living in Peria precisely because these fruits aren’t often available at markets.

Cherimoyas have been grown successfully in the Far North for at least two decades. You’re probably best to buy grafted trees as they will begin fruiting earlier (especially if you summer prune the growing tips).

Cherimoya

Cherimoya

Cherimoyas provide delicious, slightly acidic white-fleshed fruit from July to December.

Bananas are an obvious choice in a warm location and do very well provided you ‘feed’ them with plenty of mulch. Grass and hedge clippings will give the necessary nitrogen to banana palms which grow rapidly in summer. And a sprinkling of wood ash in the spring won’t be remiss. Mulch will also eliminate or at least minimize the need for supplemental watering during a dry summer. Source banana pups from friends already growing successful varieties such as the Samoan Misi Luki or the Tongan Ladyfinger.

Lady Finger Bananas

Lady Finger Bananas

Most trees are happy to be transplanted in autumn but bananas probably do better when planted in
spring once soils warm.

I’ve mentioned in the past about black sapote being successfully grown in the North Hokianga. This delicious fruit has brown creamy flesh reminiscent of chocolate mousse. One large fruit is a rich meal. I met a man at a gathering ten years ago who told me he’d planted a block of black sapotes outside Mangonui. I’d like to find out how those trees have done.

Black Sapote

Black Sapote

Dave and George Austen coaxed mangoes to fruit at Exotic Nursery just outside Kaitaia in the late 1990s. These green-fingered brothers were successful with lychees, pawpaws and babacos as well. I’ve watched a mango tree struggle in the nine years we’ve been in Coopers Beach. I suspect we’ll need a little more global warming before mangoes really take off here.
An internet search will locate subtropical nurseries with the plants you desire. Happy planting!

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.wordpress.com

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