What do you get when you plant a number of different fruit trees in the same hole? A ‘Family Tree’ with a super long harvest! This clever idea from Waimea Nurseries is a great way to grow lots of fruit in a town-sized garden.
The Family Tree is actually a selection of deciduous fruit trees planted very closely together, with branches pruned to grow outwards. Without looking closely, the trees appear to be one. They only take the space of one regular tree and instead of getting a glut of fruit over a week or two, you get a steady few months’ supply and a more interesting selection of early, mid and late season varieties.
You can make a Family Tree with almost kind of deciduous fruit. The trick is to choose just one family of fruit for each tree as they need to have a similar growth habit. Your family tree might comprise three to five different apple varieties, or you could combine peaches and nectarines.
How to grow a Family Tree
1.Select three to five varieties of the same fruit type.
2.Prune each tree so that it only has branches on one side of the tree, with the branches starting at around the same height on each tree. It might seem that this would create an unbalanced, weak tree with the weight all on one side, but these will be counterbalanced by the roots from each tree growing together and forming a very strong anchor.
3.Dig a large hole, about 1m wide by 40-50cm deep.
4.Arrange the trees in a circle in the hole, leaving a gap around 30-50cm between the trunks of each tree, with all branches facing outwards.
5.Mix some compost to enrich the soil before returning it to the planting hole. The soil should be firm around the roots but not heavily compacted. Water to help settle the soil around the roots.
6.Tidy up any pruning, making sure no branches are crossing or growing into each other.
7.If the site is exposed to wind, support the trees with a strong stake in the gap between the trees, using soft fabric ties to connect the trees to the stake.
1.Don’t use dwarf varieties (dwarf rootstocks are ok).
2.Make sure all trees are on the same type of rootstock so that the roots growing together have the same vigour.
3.Choose varieties that are either self fertile or cross pollinate each other.
Recommended Family Tree combos
Plums: December to March
Plumcot Scarlet Sunrise
Apricots: December to February
Peaches: December to March
Flatto Sweet Cap
Nectarines: December to March
Early Red II
Flatto Button Bright
Peach/Nectarine combo: December to March
Nectarine Early Red II
Peach Coconut Ice
Flatto Nectarine Button Bright
Apples: February to May
Pears: January to May
Note: Varieties are listed in order of maturity, with the approximate harvest range noted.
Ask for trees grown by Waimea Nurseries at your local garden centre. The best range of fruit trees are in store during June and July.
Watch the Family Tree video on www.waimeanurseries.co.nz