How to grow a lychee tree

lychee

Lychee – Litchi chinensis

Nearly two months ago we ate a bag of fresh lychees and I kept some of the seeds. I just rinsed them and then let them dry in a saucer (above), then planted them out in some soil – nothing fancy it was just some compost because that’s all I had at the time.

Out of a dozen seeds that I planted, four of them thrived and they were transplanted into a small pot each. Each little plant is now about 20 cm high and looking pretty healthy. One is straggling but I think they’ll all make it.

Lychees are self-pollinating, producing both male and female flowers on the same panicle, so only one tree is needed to get fruit. To become productive trees however, they need a week of cool night temperatures (below 20°C) before flowering.
ABC Gardening

The Essential List of Fruit Trees for Brisbane Backyards

fruit_trees

I decided to expand our selection of fruit trees in our backyard. Unfortunately, I didn’t own any useful gardening books on fruit trees, particularly ones that would help me decide which fruit trees are suitable for Brisbane’s climate and are less than 5 metres so that I can cram in a ton of different trees.

Fruit trees for Brisbane

Here’s my mega list of fruit trees suitable for Brisbane:

  • acerola cherry
  • apples, dwarf sub-tropical (Golden Dorsett , Tropical Anna, Tropical Sweet)
  • avocado, dwarf
  • banana
  • barbados cherry
  • blueberries (Sharp Blue – self-pollinating and low chill)
  • calamondin
  • crab apple
  • custard apple
  • dragon fruit
  • fig
  • grapes
  • grumichama
  • guava
  • jaboticaba
  • lemon
  • lime
  • longan (protected from birds and possums)
  • lychee
  • macadamia (pot)
  • mandarin, dwarf (freemont)
  • mango, dwarf
  • mulberry, dwarf (red shatoot)
  • native raspberry (scrambling bush)
  • nectarine (low chill)
  • orange – washington; Lanes late; Valencia and red ruby;
  • pawpaw
  • pepino
  • persimmon (but you’d need to prune it to under 5m)
  • pomegranate
  • plumcote
  • pomelo
  • sea grape tree
  • soursop
  • tamarillos
  • thai apple

Thank you to the knowledgeable people on the Brisbane Local Food ning who helped to compile this great list of small Brisbane suitable fruit trees.

I’d love to hear if you are successfully growing any other fruit trees in the Brisbane area?

If you live outside of Brisbane, you may like the list of trees for a suburban food forest.

Tree planting and watering

Here are a few more steps to assist keeping your trees hydrated:

Add a handful of water crystals to help the plant survive in drought and periods when you neglect to water them. The clear jelly-like crystals absorb and store water.

Plastic aqua spikes or water cones are pushed into the root zone of a seedling or plant to give it a regular watering. A plastic water bottle is added on the other end. You can also add kelp and fish fertilizer to the water to fertilise at the same time.

The local council uses pipes with their road side plantings. These pipes are usually 30 cm long with perforated holes. They need to be inserted into the ground before the seedling or tree is planted in place, and allow water to be directed at the root zones of the plant. This targeted watering prevents water loss from evaporation and is more efficient then watering at ground level.

Tree guards are triangle plastic sleeves that held in place by a three wooden stakes. Other versions are made from pink coreflute plastic. They help increase the success rate of seedling plantings by reducing cold, wind and animal damage. They are used by Landcare in Australia for bush regeneration projects and highway plantings. A smarter version includes a water pouch to provide self-watering to the root zone.

Homegrown Evolution has a great list of self-watering planters.

How to pot a tree

We repotted a number of fruit trees that I’d bought recently. I swapped their small seedling pots to big plastic pots so they could spread out their roots and grow. The basic steps I follow when repotting a fruit tree are as follows:

  1. Add a thick layer of sugar cane mulch or hay at the bottom to allow any excess water to drain out. You could use stones (although it’ll be heavy to lift) or broken Styrofoam.
  2. Add some homemade compost to half way. If you don’t have any compost ready use a middle of the range bag of organic fruit and vegetable mix. Be careful the cheaper bags of compost tend to be filled with stones and sticks.
  3. Mix in a handful of blood and bone, chicken manure, and a spoonful of trace elements. This is to ensure your plant has a good mix of different minerals so it will develop healthy fruit.
  4. Add a handful of water crystals (or cat litter) – If you have time pre-soak them in water and seaweed solutions (optional).
  5. Add the plant making sure it’s straight and back fill to the rim with more compost.
  6. Gently press the soil down and water well.
  7. Add some more sugar cane on top to act as a mulch.

I use the same basic method for repotting a native tree – leaving out the extra nutrients at step 3, and using a decent quality native soil mix in place of the compost. Although these days I have started planting out native seedlings straight into the ground. Natives can be touchy and do not like being transplanted.

An alternative to using a pot is a planter bag. These are lightweight bags made from tough plastic with handles. They are easy to move and allow good aeration.

Any other hints?

Mulch vs termites

The guy behind us decided to put up a fence about half a metre inside his property. I’d never seen this done before, which was a little strange because we would have been more then agreeable to get the rusty school style fence replaced. The neglected back corner was over run with grass and I regretted not putting a thick layer of tea tree mulch down.

A few days later the wooden fence was finished and it was growing on me. It should shade our vegetable patches a little (but not too much) and will also act as a bit of a wind break. I’ve decided to liven up the area and put in a hedge of low maintenance lilly pillies.

Matt pointed out that our termite inspector would not approve of the fence. (The inspector looked like he could have stepped out of a Ghostbusters movie.)

“It’s way too close to the bare earth” and “those wooden posts should have steel bottoms”!

The biggest bump we had when buying our house was finding termites in the laundry, which we promptly had treated. Matt had to cut off all the wooden palings underneath the house so there was a decent gap between the ends and the ground. A very grubby job. Since then we get our place checked once a year for peace of mind.

Last time I asked the inspector about mulch.

He said “Nup don’t put it anywhere near the house.”

“What about cypress mulch? It’s supposed to repel termites.”

“Nar, I wouldn’t use it. Don’t believe any of that marketing stuff. If you’d seen some of the damage to houses that I’ve seen termites can do. No mulch or wood near the house!”

Trees for a suburban food forest

I haven’t mentioned that we have about 10 dwarf fruit trees in pots, that we purchased at various times in 2008.

To decide which ones to plant, I made a list of all the trees that were under 3-4metres high, could be grown in a pot and trimmed to size and/or available as a dwarf. I was surprised at the variety available. When purchasing trees also consider their suitability to your climate, water requirements and whether or not you like the fruit they produce. If you eat lots of apple (say), you may like to consider getting a few different varieties – one that fruits early, one middle and one late season.

Here’s a list of suitable trees for suburban backyards:

  • Acerola Cherry
  • Apple (d)
  • Atherton Raspberry
  • Australian Round Lime
  • Avocado (d)
  • Babaco
  • Bananas
  • Black sapote
  • Blackberry
  • Blueberry
  • Boysenberry
  • Calamondin
  • Cape Gooseberry
  • Casana
  • Cassava
  • Ceylon Hill Gooseberry
  • Cherry
  • Chilli
  • Chinese Water Chestnut
  • Choko (v)
  • Cocona
  • Coffee
  • Comfrey
  • Currant (Red or Black)
  • Davidson’s Plum (p)
  • Fig (d)
  • Finger lime
  • Ginger
  • Goji Berry
  • Gooseberry
  • Governer’s Plum
  • Grape (v)
  • Grapefruit (d)
  • Grumichama Cherry
  • Guava
  • Jaboticaba
  • Japanese raisin
  • Jelly Palm / Wine Palm
  • Jerusalem Artichoke
  • Kakadu Plum
  • Kei Apple
  • Keriberry
  • Kiwifruit (v)
  • Kumquat (d)
  • Lemon (d)
  • Lemonade (d)
  • Lillypilly
  • Lime (d)
  • Loganberry
  • Loquat (d)
  • Macadamia (d)
  • Madrono
  • Mandarin (d)
  • Mango (d)
  • Medlar
  • Midyim
  • Miracle Fruit
  • Monstera
  • Mulberry (d)
  • Naranjilla
  • Natal Plum
  • Olive (d)
  • Orange (d)
  • Passionfruit (v)
  • Paw paw
  • Peach (d)
  • Pepino
  • Persimmon (d)
  • Pineapple
  • Plum
  • Plumcott
  • Plummelo
  • Pomegranate (d)
  • Raspberry
  • Rhubarb
  • Sea Grape
  • Strawberry
  • Tamarillo
  • Tangelo
  • Taro
  • Tea
  • Ugni
  • Yacon
  • Youngberry

Legend: (d) – dwarf available; (v) – vine; (p) – pot.

These edible trees, vines and others may be available in Australia from:

Please let us know if you have any other recommendations.

Update – I have more recently compiled a list of fruit trees for Brisbane backyards.