Dragon fruit (pitaya)

Discussion in 'Fruit & Vegetable Growing' started by Mark, Jun 30, 2012.

  1. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    No, I doubt it - for two main reasons:
    Firstly, that particular trellis is in fact part shaded out by the mango tree behind it so it actually gets less sun than my other dragon fruit plants, which happen to be doing much better (probably because I've been giving them more water).

    Secondly, commercial plantations don't use shade cloth at all. They plant dragon fruit out in full sun even in the tropics where the sun is very harsh, but the plants get a lot of water, which reinforces my own theory and testing so far.

    I'm constantly doing mini-experiments with plants on the go on our property just to see what works and what doesn't. I initially thought the same thing (that sun can affect growth and cause die off in dragon fruit vines) but now I'm convinced it doesn't.

    My best guess as to what causes dieback in Pitaya is fungus infection (rust spots) and natural limb die-off due to fractures etc and probably lack of water.
     
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  2. Berkeloid

    Berkeloid Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Interesting! Now my cuttings have roots and are getting plenty of water, I'll have to try putting them back out in full sun and see if those spots return.

    It seems weird if it's a fungal infection that it only appears to attack one side of each stem though. Sounds a lot like a lack of water makes them extra sensitive to the sun, perhaps.
     
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  3. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Yes Mark those are big issues for DF in our country.

    Also think about cactoblastis beetle specially imported to Australia to deal with rampant prickly pear invasions in the mid 1920's. It is still a pesky critter in our domestic gardens & we need to spray against it once it gets a hold.

    I have several types of ornamental cactus & cactus orchids in my garden & all are being attacked to some extent by cactoblastis. Occasionally I spray individual plants with some pyrethrum if they are getting a hold on the plant.

    Our sun is very strong because we have far more full sun days than they would say in Asia where more rain falls & days are regularly cloudy. Its one of the quirks that causes Aussies to have less success with many tropical plants, even though those plants might come from a region closer to the equator than most parts of our country.

    However, once the plant has acclimated & is receiving enough (lots of) water, they do fine.
    Also, they need lots more fertilizer very regularly, but nowhere near as strong as we would be used to applying.
     
  4. Comfort

    Comfort Well-Known Member Premium Member

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  5. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    I love the icons across the bottom of that info card showing how it fits all sorts of dietary situations! :thumbsup:
    Oft times, the best is indeed the simplest.
     
  6. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Super fruit! :D
     
  7. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    I've just been reading some old posts by Joseph Isaac from Philippines.
    He said he was studying agriculture and also said dragon fruit should grow in soil no less than 7, indicating it needs a very alkaline soil.

    So I'm going to do a test (yet another test!) and put a heap of my compost around one of the better producing vines I have to see if that encorouges more flowers or better fruit. I'll also put some around one that hardly produces any flowers to see if it is prompted into production.

    I seem to always manage to make very alkaline compost. Now I can put that perchant to good use! Maybe its the egg shells I crumble in.

    Most of my vines have at least one flower been or coming right now. But as for the bunches of fruit we see on commercial crops closer to the equator, for me that is just a dream! My vines are getting more and more shaded every year from nearby trees.
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2018
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  8. Berkeloid

    Berkeloid Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Not sure that shade is necessarily a bad thing, they seem to struggle a bit in the direct sun, getting grey patches on them as parts of the plant appear to die from sunburn.

    I'll be interested to hear the results of your experiment. I can only keep mine pretty small being a balcony gardener, and so far plenty of green growth but no sign of flowers!
     
  9. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Those yellow patches youvyo got Berkeloid, might be places where the segment has run a bit dry.
    I know they like high humidity.
    Before my new shed, good water was at a premium around my place so I would put the hose on spray and wet the vine and the tree trunk it grew on rather than the soil.
    So far I haven't had any of those yellow patches.

    I've just run outside now between storms to give tonight's flowers a 'rattle'.
    I stuck my hand into one flower and got an unfriendly welcoming party from the inhabiting ants! Obviously that flower didnt need a rattle!:D
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2018
  10. Berkeloid

    Berkeloid Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Interesting. I've only noticed it myself if I've moved a pot around and exposed a section of the plant to more sun than it is used to. I didn't think it was water related because I've had sections 2-3 metres in length with a dead patch in the middle, but the rest of the section continues to put on new growth just fine for months afterwards. I assumed a lack of water would've killed off the whole "branch" from that point on, but of course I am only guessing.

    If spraying it with the hose stopped the yellow patches for you, I wonder whether it could also be a temperature thing, as that would no doubt keep it a bit cooler.

    If only I had more space I'd love to do a comparison between direct sun, various shade cloths, reduced watering, and now spraying with water as well!

    I take it the flowers are self-fertile then? That's something else I have been unsure about and haven't found a definitive answer yet. How many flowers did you get?
     
  11. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    IMG_20181224_092718-01.jpeg IMG_20181224_092649-01.jpeg


    Some types of df are self fertile while others require cross polination. I'm not sure which is which but Mark or google will know. If you would like some started plants of dark purple, self fertile df from the ones that have fallen down, we can arrange to meet on the highway half way between our respective addresses.

    My vines get a fair bit of nitrogenous fertilizer during the year, probably too much sometimes so they are usually green and growing rampantly.

    Sometimes those dead patches might be caused by the cactoblastis moth doing its best to kill the cactus. It was imported to Australia in late 30s I think to get rid of the prickly pear invasion and is still hanging around today.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prickly_pears_in_Australia

    Apparently if a segment is growing long you should cut it off shorter than half way down its length. Some of mine are planted on palm trees as you can see in the above photos and they will quickly run up the tree so I can't reach them. But when the next frond sheds, the wayward segments are dragged down too. So I get a new fully formed plant because it formed roots all the way up the tree truck as it grew. You can see that in action in the lefthand photo. The righthand photo shows a segment running up the left side of the palm trunk almost out of sight.

    This year I have done the pruning to less than half segment length on all vines and feel I am seeing results now with many more flowers than usual. Walking past a vine and catching the sight high up out the corner of my eye, of an inflorecence that I failed to spot previously, has given me many exciting moments this past week.

    As for fertilizer, this past year I just mostly used Crop King 88 (CC88) which is a nitrogenous chemical fertilizer with added potassium used by most vegetable farmers. Each vine gets around quarter cup 4-5 times a year. At one time right before a heap of rain I gave each plant a small handful of chook manure pellets with extra potassium sulphate, blood and bone and gypsum. This also fertilises the palm tree to keep it strong for the df.

    But as I mentioned earlier here, I'm going to do the test with the alkaline compost as well.
    With the plus of the water spraying most days through the dry times the vines are green, green, green!
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2018
  12. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Just a thought regarding a trellis idea for df.

    If I was starting new df now, I would find a spot in full sun with little shading from nearby trees.

    I'd put a hardwood fence post or treated pine square post 2400x 100x100 in the ground at least 600mm deep and either very well tamped or concreted.

    I would sit a tyre at the top using pretty strong right angle brackets bolted through the side walls of the tyre and to the post with coach screws. I think I would need 5-6 brackets on a round post but I don't know yet how I would set up a square post.

    The middle hole of the tyre would be a bit bigger than the post so large brackets would be required.
    This gap would allow the segments to grow up through the tyre and come out the top to lay over the tyre so they didn't get crimped. This crimping allows pest and disease in so I have discovered.

    As the df segments grew, they would hang down making it easy to keep them pruned.
     
  13. Berkeloid

    Berkeloid Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    That's really interesting, thanks for all the info and the photos! I definitely would've taken you up on your kind offer of the self-fertile variety, but unfortunately my balcony is chock full and I don't really have enough space even for the DF I am growing now! If I ever get out of this place and onto a larger block you'll probably hear from me again :)

    Interesting about cutting the long segments to be less than half their length. I have tried cutting the tips off the longer ones - had one get to 3m, half way across my balcony as one segment - and to my surprise it just produced new segments from the cut tip (so much for stopping it from growing over to the neighbour's place). I suppose the idea of cutting them shorter is to get many short segments instead of a few larger ones. Any idea the reason behind this? Will each segment only produce one flower, for example, so more segments means more flowers?

    Your trellis idea is interesting. It sounds like the way they are grown commercially. I read somewhere that the fruit are only produced on the segments that hang down, and not on the ones that grow upright. Are all your flowers on segments hanging down?
     
  14. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    I'll do some checking tomorrow and take a few photos.
    Xmas for me is a no go due to no family who cares or is on this side of the world so I generally do some quiet gardening so as not to annoy the neighbours.
     
  15. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Merry Christmas to all who read this today!:popcork::popcorn::eat::feedchooks::wave::pic::twothumbsup:

    Here's a collage of photos I took this morning of DF flowers.
    Interestingly most are on upward pointing segments.
    Most that have already flowered were on downward pointing segments.
    I don't think you can read anything into that though.
    Its just co-incidence.
    When you expand this photo you will see I have circled each flower.

    Dragon Fruit flowers on upward pointing segments collage 1500x.jpg

    You'll note in one photo 2 flowers on the one segment.
    Commercially, they get many flowers on each segment.
    Yes shortening the segment is to produce more segments or get more flowers depending on time of year.
    So there are 2 main times of the year when you prune segments.

    Firstly in the early part of the growing season after fruiting to create many new segments & to clean out the whole vine of old segments.
    Second pruning is the shortening by 2/3 before flowering to promote more flowers on each segment.
    In Australia we have a noticeable growing season beginning early to late spring depending on when the rain comes & when winter finishes & sun comes out.
    In Asian countries they don't have a winter or a noticeable beginning to growing season so they probably prune by a particular month.
    But here we would do the first pruning probably in February after the fruit is finished but while the plant is still actively growing.

    Then throughout the year we would do maintenance pruning to remove those wayward segments, like yours that want to run to the neighbour's place!
    Also remember that it could be running away to find the sun!
    Then around early spring, whether there has been rain or not, reducing all segments by 2/3 will promote flowering.
    I think pruning time would also be fertilizing time in Aust.

    Extra K (potassium) & Ca (calcium) would be added to the mix in spring to aid good strong flowering & fruit retention.
    So spring fertilizer would be NPK = 4:10:4 (or as close to that as you can buy) + lime.
    Note that lime does not always supply calcium and therefore alter pH, it depends on what sort of lime/calcium is used.
    At the other times of year that pruning occurs, a fertilizer higher in N (nitrogen) & P (phosphorus) would be used. For those times I use Crop King CC88 with extra chook manure pellets.
    Now I will also make sure the pH is around 7-7.5 by adding my own compost or lime.
    So NPK would be around 12:4:12 or again what you can buy close to that ratio plus alkaline compost or lime depending on soil pH.

    I too have been working this out by trial & error over several years.
    So what is written above is a combination of what I have previously gleaned from other people or google plus what I learned from my own trials.
     
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  16. Berkeloid

    Berkeloid Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Thanks for all that info and the photos! That's really interesting, I'm learning a lot.

    Yes in my case you are absolutely correct, the wayward segment was definitely running away to find the sun, as it was going for the sunniest corner of the balcony. I wonder whether there is any benefit to many short segments vs a few longer ones? I know the points between segments are pretty tough so perhaps if you could get a segment division to occur at the top of a trellis, you might be able to get away without the tyre or similar - not sure.

    Very interesting to hear and see you have flowers on upward and horizontal segments. I presume these will develop into fruit as well, so what I read about fruit only developing on the downward hanging segments is wrong!

    When you say you prune to "clean out the vine of old segments" is this purely cosmetic, or do you know whether the fruit are only produced on new segments that have not fruited before? Sorry for all the questions but you really know your stuff :)

    I'm so jealous of how many flowers you have gotten!
     
  17. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Reason for the tyre is because the whole plant is very heavy. The segments will break or crease if too much weight is hanging off the point where it goes over the trellis.
    That then allows an entry point for disease. Also I think the plant then disregards parts growing beyond the damaged place so there wouldn't be flowers.
    From looking closely at any photos I can get hold of, the commercial farmers in Asia do seem to prune heavily to keep segments short & prolific.
    I think the plant can more easily supply nutrition to downward hanging flowers & fruit. Maybe I will see my upward pointing fruits fail or only be small or dry, etc.
    This same premise applies to all fruit trees. Orchardists try to get the branches horizontal.
    Flowers only occur on new segments.
    Actually the Asians sell their fruit in large 'pot plants' of fruiting segments tied in bundles & placed into pots.

    Here is a photo of pots for sale in a market trussed up in the traditional way, first photo in the other DF thread:- https://www.selfsufficientculture.com/threads/dragonfruit-growing-different-method.1125/

    If you google DF you'll find many photos of the fruiting segments trussed up like this for sale. I remember someone thinking that was how the fruit grew! They wanted to know how to prune the unruly vine into the potted shape they saw in the markets!;)
    We have refrigeration, they simply cut off the whole segment to keep the fruit growing until needed. :idea:

    So after harvesting the fruit, the first pruning has been done. Then they go along and remove almost all the segments hanging over the tyre or frame, just leaving enough so the plant doesn't fall back down the post.
    This promotes many new segments to sprout from the original 'trunk' growth.
    So when I say I prune to clean up the vine, this is what I am aiming to do now. I only began doing this method season before last, because my plants were still relatively young & not nearly as vigorous as those in the equatorial regions. Also, before I discovered what the problem was with my soil & water, none of my garden grew very well so all plants had to be coddled along so I didn't prune too much.
    Now that I have solved that huge dilemma, I could get right into pruning for optimum plant health & fruiting....if only my arms worked! Now I have the secret after all these years to growing food here, I am loosing the use of my arms. Its unlikely I will be able to prune my DF after this year's fruiting because I originally set them too high, not knowing I had this physical issue creeping up on me. If I can get some help I can go along & reduce the whole plant height but for me it means taking them of the palm tree trunks and virtually starting a new branching height all over again.

    So Berkeloid, you could do that. Set your DF to branch much lower on your balcony to get more sun (maybe around chest height?), rather than higher up near the ceiling or under the roof. Then cut the segments off once they reach the floor. Perhaps you might have a bit of a mess of segments growing on the floor for part of the year but they would sure get more sun. Then after fruiting, just cut all that growth off again almost back to your original branches from the trunk.
    I think most Asian farmers allow 4 branches from the main trunk (4 segments being originally set to form the trunk allowed to grow to the branching height) then keep cutting back to those at pruning time. If a branch fails to grow new segments because it has ended up too short, remove it to prompt the trunk to produce a new branch segment.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2018
  18. Berkeloid

    Berkeloid Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I can see the need for the tyre if the segments themselves will bend, but I'm wondering whether if the bending point is right on the thin tough link between two segments whether it might work - one for my own experiments one day I think!

    I will be very interested to hear how you go with the flowers on the upright segments and whether they produce fruit any different to the downward segments. I didn't realise it was common wisdom that most fruit trees produce better fruit on horizontal or downward pointing branches, but makes sense I guess!

    I'm surprised DF are sold still attached to the branch. I guess they grow quite readily and you have to prune them anyway so no big deal losing half your plant I suppose, but it's still surprising to me! I wonder how long they last like that? The ones you find in the supermarket even during the harvest season look like they are on their last legs so they certainly don't seem to last very long once picked.

    I will definitely try growing the DF differently now. The body corp painted the complex a few weeks back so I had to move everything inside and live in a jungle for a few days (which I thought would be nice but it makes the indoor humidity go through the roof) which meant pruning everything right back. So it will take a few months for the DF to regrow with the little amount of sun I get, but I'll aim for limiting them to chest height and getting them to hopefully hang down after that.

    Incidentally I tried dehydrating the offcut segments of the DF to see whether that improves the taste, and they go nice and crunchy like chips but sadly they still taste pretty green...

    Have you posted elsewhere about your soil/water issues? It sounds like it was quite a major issue so I'm curious what the solution was. I have a slight suspicion that my issues aren't entirely related to a lack of sunlight but could also be soil related, so I'm trying to learn a bit more about managing soil quality now too.
     
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