Sap rising, fruit set and first fruits

Thanks to everyone who visited George Street Orchard on Sunday as part of the Valley Project and Otago Girls’ High School fundraising tours. It was great to see familiar faces and I enjoyed meeting lots of new people so keen to grow. Thanks also to those who purchased some of my plants – it really helps to keep my nursery habit alive!




Rhubarb and Sweet Purple asparagus


Lettuce and Shungiku. No dig 75cm bed, 45cm path. Yes, I measured. Modern standard dimensions for no dig market gardening and to me it’s the best

It’s such a fun time of year – watching blossom slowly turn to fruit, seeing perennial herbs construct themselves again, launching new ideas and patterns, and witnessing the emergence of crops you’ve been waiting on a few years…

Hover on images for captions and click to expand



Feijoas FAQ

Feijoas (Acca sellowiana) are probably the most discussed crop here at George Street Orchard. People are often surprised that they can grow this far south.


Feijoa ‘Tagan’ in 2014, planted 2010

They are native to South America and range in the wild from latitude 26° – 35°. In southern Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay and northern Argentina they are common to elevations 400 – 1400 m, therefore hill country not as hot as those latitudes might suggest. Feijoas can handle mild frosts, though -9°C will kill fruit buds and -11°C can kill or cut back the plant itself. They generally prefer cool winters (they need 50 hours winter chilling to fruit) with warm and moderately wet summers. The fruit tastes better from cooler areas. Summer temperatures above 32°C can adversely affect fruit set. Sound like Dunedin? Close enough.



Feijoas close to the wall with apples (on m26 rootstock) and blackcurrants in front

We know of mature trees in a few places around the city, for example a private specimen in Anderson’s Bay dating to the middle of last century, and a small grove in the Dunedin Botanic Gardens 5 m overhead. These indicate that it will be a very rare occasion a tree is killed from cold. But do they fruit?


Yup. Tagan

Before you rush to the Botanic Gardens, the fruit there are poor quality and small. However, this is because the trees are probably wild sourced and seed grown.

I have grown, tasted, and will vouch for:

Tagan 1&2:

Very large, delicious, vigorous, fruiting well after 4-5 years. I planted 5 trees about 8 years ago and for the past 4 years have harvested at least 100 kg. The last couple of years it was probably closer to 200 kg. I think the flavour improves over the 6-8 week fruiting period. Sometimes a pale yellow shade to the flesh. Main cropping mid- late May.


Small to egg size, clearer flesh and thinner skin than Tagan. Less depth of flavour but good sweetness. Slower growing than Tagan, though much quicker to fruit. Flowers and fruits more prolifically than other varieties, which may account for the smaller fruit size Twiggy, bushy habit. Similar season of ripening. Possibly the only reliably self-fertile variety. Apollo is said to be partially self-fertile.


Tagan size fruit, clearer flesh like Unique. Lovely flavour, similar season of ripening


Unique, Tagan and Kakariki feijoas

I bought the Tagans because they were advertised as having been bred for South Island conditions. However true this may be, I doubt the breeding has been going on many generations. I am therefore not too surprised that my new plantings (like Kakariki) are beginning to show promise. I expect new plantings of the varieties Arhart and Kaiteri to fruit well too.

As of 5/06/18 I advocate for planting a wide range of early to mid-season varieties (mid to late for us). Heck, try some late ones too, you’ll at least get a tree. Most varieties need a different variety nearby for pollination. Without more experimentation, side by side trials (read: hedges), and taste tests from you and I, it’s too soon to rule much out.

Microclimate caveat: I don’t recommend planting feijoas without already having, or at least simultaneously planting, protection from cold southern winds. They might survive but won’t thrive or fruit well without it (like most fruit). Grow shelter as deep, thick and tall as is possible for the site. Plant them close to north and west facing walls if you can. Our Tagans are in front of a white, slightly east of north facing wall. They don’t receive much sun past 4-5pm in summer as the sun is setting way south of west. The Unique hedge is on the west side of the house and recieves lots of summer afternoon sun 10am till late.

In these microclimates, feijoas can produce volumes of fruit only matched by apples, pears and plums (maybe kiwifruit too – watch this space). It’s amazing to have another delicious, solid fruit crop for 6-8 weeks fresh + preserved.

Please comment below if you have anything to add, especially looking for variety comparisons and tasting notes. Now stocking Tagan 1&2, Arhart, and a few more. Most city garden centres stock quite a few varieties, shop around to get the necessary spread. Usually $15-25 each.

These links may be useful:


Kiwifruit…in Dunedin!?

About five or six years ago I planted what was sold to me as a male and a female (Hayward) kiwi potted together. Over the years I have trained them overhead roughly 10m along a north facing wall painted white.


The previous three seasons both vines flowered well but no fruit ever set. During each flowering period the weather was fine and many bees were seen foraging in the blossom. I learned that kiwifruit are often incompletely pollinated by bees (wind is also a vector). One year one fruit happened…


It was delicious, but frustrating that mostly it wasn’t working. It took me a while to figure it out…

The one vine the fruit was connected to had to be female. If the other vine was male, surely there would be more than one fruit. But if it was another female, how could there be fruit at all? I’m pretty sure there are no other kiwifruit in my neighbourhood that could have done the job. Nearby in the garden I have Actinidia arguta (hardy/cocktail kiwi) and the male can pollinise the Actinidia deliciosa (regular/fuzzy kiwi). The flowering periods of the two species only just overlap, with the arguta flowering earlier, which I thought could account for the single fruit.

I reckoned I had two female deliciosa kiwi vines. I learned kiwifruit growers often purchase pollen to ensure good coverage and fruit size, so I bought a few grams and froze it until flowering. I used a small, fine paintbrush to distribute the pollen three times over the best five day flowering window. Only a few days later it became apparent it had worked. It is now 22 January, they look strong and both vines are covered in fruit.


Unless I plant a male I’ll need to purchase pollen every year, but it turns out this could be the best option. Kiwi plants are extremely vigorous, especially the males. For a male to be an effective polliniser it would need to take up at least a few metres of prime growing space and require lots of summer pruning to reduce vigour. I paid $25 for the pollen, so why not use the space the male would have taken up to expand the female and grow at least $25 worth of kiwifruit instead? There is a bit of work (one hour over three days) in painting the pollen but given what I learned about bees, the wind and fruit size I’d probably use a paintbrush anyway between the male and female. As long as I can buy pollen I’m happy. It seems a pretty good option if you are short on space.

I’m glad to have the confusion cleared up – it was disappointing having one of the prime spots in the garden producing only beautiful leaves. This year’s success has encouraged me to make room for the vines to spread out a bit. I had to sacrifice a Tagan feijoa or two, but no worries cause they paid for themselves over and over and things were getting crowded anyway. I have planted new feijoa varieties elsewhere in the garden as a trial and replacement.

Microclimate notes: Kiwis are planted on a wall slightly east of north facing (they miss out on lots of hot late afternoon summer sun but get all of it in spring and autumn. Possibly north-west facing would be best. The wall above and behind the vines is painted white for increased light reflection. The white wall above is kept clear of all vegetation to maintain a large reflective surface (also important for the rest of the lower garden which receives no direct sun for a large chunk of the year). It also makes sense to keep the vines lower for ease of access and to keep them out of the wind. The wall provides near total protection from the coldest southerly winds – this is probably the most important consideration. Other walls and trees provide protection from cooling and drying winds from other directions. The plants are hardy to about minus 12 c, so they won’t die in most coastal Otago gardens, but give them a really sheltered spot so temperatures are elevated during the growing season. The building the vines are attached to is a multiunit housing complex – presumably the residents heat their cold concrete block home and some of that heat escapes to mitigate the cold (probably most relevant through autumn). The best flowering occured from the 29th of November to the 3rd of December so frost is unlikely to bother the blossom.


Dunedin has so many cozy spots where this could happen. I have eaten small kiwifruit from Ravensbourne! I know of successfully fruiting vines in Carey’s Bay and Port Chalmers. Comment below if you’ve seen any fruit nearby, or have anything to add.