Washing the tamarillo

I’ve been a bit stymied since moving all my gardening posts over here. I’ve been feeling the need to do a big catchup post and not having the energy or the oomph for it. Besides, those big update posts are boring both to read and write, and don’t really convey what a garden IS, in the end. I’ve also been feeling the need to explain and justify this blog – but who cares? It’s a blog, it’s my blog, it can be whatever it is.  Maybe, like a garden, I have to just start, and see how it grows.

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So instead I’m going to tell you about how tonight it was such a lovely evening that I couldn’t bear to stay inside, so I went out and I washed the tamarillo.

The above photo, and the next few, shows the tamarillo in mid January.

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It’s planted between a mango and an avocado, and to be honest it’s a bit of a sacrificial tree. The idea is that it would grow fast and provide a bit of shelter to the other trees. The avo as you can see is still shrouded in its shadecloth and only starting to find its feet – but that’s a story for another time. This time is about the tamarillo.

You can see above it’s leaning and we’ve had to prop it up – with a very professional rig. We only do things professionally and neatly around here (ha!). This happened to the last tamarillo I had, in my last house – which tree we tried to brace with stakes and ties, but eventually collapsed totally.  This appears to be the only photo I have of it, before it started leaning:

My diagnosis of this is that they are a large-crowned plant with a comparatively small root ball. In both cases I didn’t water enough in the months after planting, so I suspect neither of them developed a large enough root system. This time I decided to give in and prop it up, despite it sprouting a bunch of leaves at the base, I suspect so that it could grow upright again after it collapsed.

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Probably I should clip those off, but they just look so happy to be there that I can’t quite bring myself to do it.

I’m not expecting it to live long, so it doesn’t matter if it’s totally dependent on the prop. About five years is the average, I hear. By that time I hope that the avo and the mango will have mostly filled that space, but perhaps I’ll get another tamarillo to be understory, if we like the fruit enough.

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In January it was just starting to fruit. And it was also starting to get aphids.

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Just a few. Not many. I sprayed it with a detergent solution a couple of times and it seemed to do the trick. Cut to a month later when I’ve not been paying much attention to it, and it was pretty infested. I didn’t get any closeups of it (I didn’t know I was going to blog today) but you can see the difference even from a distance:

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Much barer, much yellower. I think that it gets heat and water stressed pretty easily. After all, it’s an understory rainforest plant, and here it’s hot and dry and gets baking afternoon sun and salt spray. Not very kind to the poor tree, and it’s doing a very good job considering. I do try to water it often but it’s on the same watering system as the other fruit trees so I sort of have to average out their needs. And the tamarillo is the lowest priority for care, poor thing.

Anyhow, I’ve given it a couple more goings over with soap and water in the spray bottle but it’s got aphids on basically every leaf so it’s hard to get them all. Besides, there are ladybugs starting to be attracted to it and I didn’t want to get them too.

So tonight, I came home from work and watered the garden. It was a hot day and it’s going to be even hotter tomorrow – high of 37C this whole week in fact. But it was lovely in the garden with the hose out, and I just couldn’t bear to go back inside. I put the sprinkler on the jasmine up the back behind the tamarillo, and I remembered that  I’d read somewhere, some time, that an effective treatment for aphids is just to blast them off with water. And so, I turned the hose up real high, and I washed the tamarillo.

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It was lovely. I got splashed, and cooled, and my feet in my thongs got wet, and my head got dripped on as I bent down to turn the leaves below. I touched almost every leaf as I blasted the aphids off, and spent some quality time with the tree, and I got the feeling it liked it. Almost like being at home in the rainforest!

I think this would be a fun activity to do with a kid. Very sensory and tactile. I know a water-loving 5 year old that would be ALL about this gardening job, although he might be sad that we’re ‘making the aphids dead’.

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I didn’t get every leaf. The long hose was plugged in to the sprinkler, and the short hose didn’t reach the very back. That’s ok, that’s where the ladybugs are. I counted three. I’d be ok with some aphids always if it also meant some ladybugs always.

Unfortunately I think some of the fruit is burnt – at least, I think that’s what it is. The position seems about right. Anyone more expert than me know what it is and if I should be doing something about it?

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That’s ok. There’s plenty that’s still fine, and fruit isn’t the primary job of this tree anyway, they’re a side benefit.

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As I turned over every leaf I was reminded of a conversation with my aunt where she complained about her tamarillo being similarly infested. ‘But why’ she lamented ‘do they have to all be on the backside? They’re so hard to get to!’ Nature is wily and mysterious that way…

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I think washing the tamarillo might go on my regular roster of garden tasks, even if there are no aphids. Even if it’s just for fun.

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