Why not grow a home orchard? What could be better than fruit picked fresh from the tree?
Many home gardeners have given up on fruit trees because they did not really get to enjoy the fruit – the local birdlife, possums, bats, vermin or insects got to it first! That can be a problem, but there are also some ways to outsmart the competition so that the feasting rights and benefits become yours.
While there are insecticides to provide an easy solution to the insect side of this problem, it is quite another thing to deter our native fauna. They are, after all, protected and we don’t want to remove them from our gardens, and we don’t even mind sharing some of the fruit with them… just not all of it. Generally, the problem is that while we wait for the fruit to ripen, the possums, bats and birds are happy to feast on the unripened fruit. If we pick the fruit too early, it will not ripen.
Tree nets are now available, which protect the fruit to a large degree, but they are expensive and if not erected correctly, may entangle animals and birds. An alternative to netting is shade cloth over the canopy of the tree, or using individual paper bags over accessible fruit.
Metal sheet Tree Collars are helpful where the issue is a possum or rat climbing up the trunk of the tree.
To keep birds away from ripening fruit, shiny objects hanging in the tree may serve as a deterrent. CDs, aluminium pie pans, strips of reflective tape, a scarecrow shape in the branches – these will all help keep the birds away. Remember to take down the obstacles after the fruit has ripened and is removed. The ecosystem in your garden needs birds to visit and help with cross pollination.
Another solution for the home gardener wanting to enjoy the fruit of their garden is to choose dwarf varieties when planting. These are easier to manage – whether it is spraying for insects or using netting or shade cloth to protect the fruit. These dwarf plants can also be kept in pots, and placed in a protected environment – away from the natural wildlife.
All fruit producing trees and vines should be carefully pruned after fruiting, and will benefit from regular fertilising. Attending to these will help produce a bigger crop for you to enjoy. Even if you have to share some of it with the wildlife!