THE HARDEST CUT?
(One of a series of articles about growing fruit trees
in Samoa, written by Digby Gotts and published in the 'Samoa Observer'
between December 2000 and April 2001)
One of the main things about growing fruit trees that seems to scare
a lot of people is the need to prune them. After all, how come that by
cutting out lots of a good tree, do you happen to get more fruit than
before you cut it? This seems just a bit contradictory and so many of
us take the easier path and leave the tree alone. The only tree I often
see being pruned in Samoa is the Beach Almond, that spreading umbrella-like
tree with the red leaves often has the top cut out to make it spread even
more. Shade for sitting in is apparently important enough to stimulate
some pruning action. The benefits of pruning citrus and many other trees
are not as immediately apparent, but they are just as real in terms of
improved fruit quality.
The main thing to remember with all the citrus is that the flowers, and
then the fruit, develop on the new leaves at the end of branches. So if
you can see new leaves or flowers, leave the tree alone as you will lose
the crop that is forming. If the leaves are all old, then a tip prune
followed by a rich nitrogen feed, will stimulate a vigorous new growth,
followed by flowers and then the fruit. Because of Samoa’s warm
wet climate, individual branches often do their own thing in their own
time, so fruit form throughout the year instead of being restricted to
one time. Tip pruning the whole tree will encourage a mass flowering.
This would be a good thing for commercial growers, but a family might
prefer to have their fruit scattered throughout the year, so they should
tip prune sections of a tree.
Oranges and mandarins particularly, suffer from several fungal diseases
causing whole branches to die slowly. Pruning out the dying wood as soon
as it is seen, removing the branches from the vicinity, and burning them,
will prevent the fungal spores spreading further. Apart from spraying
fungicides regularly, and expensively, there is not much else that can
be done about the dieback, so it is best to keep it pruned as the simple
Mandarins tend to grow straight up, placing the fruit well out of reach
of all but the most determined children. Again the solution is to cut
the vertical branches in half. Their ends will branch out, and slow down
the vertical growth, allowing everyone to reach some fruit much more easily.
Good quality citrus are grown by inserting buds into a strong seedling
rootstock. The rootstock will continue to send out shoots from below the
bud. Nafanua is now using a rootstock, (Trifoliata), which produces leaves
with three parts to them, so the shoots from the rootstock can be easily
recognised when compared to the normal single leaf. It is essential that
the tree be inspected regularly and any shoots coming from the rootstock
removed while they are still small. At one time last year, I found myself
using a chainsaw to remove overgrown root shoots from some old forgotten
oranges on a Savaii property. This is not to be recommended!
Nafanua has many types of oranges, mandarins, lemons, limes, pommelo
and grapefruit that are suitable for Samoa. Every home should have at