Visiting Andrew & Wendy Dobbie - Swag’s Nursery

Most of the farm is Macadamias – it currently has 1200. When we first bought it, it had Custard Apples and a menagerie of different fruit trees but you couldn’t drive a tractor through so it was inoperable so we’ve changed it right around to macadamias and the nursery was to keep the cash flow going while the macadamias grew up but now I haven’t got time to do both so the retail side of it is going to be shut down within the next six months. The tropical fruit trees used to be scattered throughout the farm but about 3 years ago, we started to bring them down to the front of the farm so all our exotics are down here. We’ve had frost here for the last 2 years.

I’ve been doing nursery work for around 25 years now and started in Bangalow NSW at Wright’s Nursery and he was a Citrus person and he brought the first tropical stone fruit to Australia. I went into farm management and managed 200 acres of avocado lychee custard apples and macadamias in Northern NSW then got married and we came up here and this is where I got into the exotics – there were a few here but we expanded on that. I’ve tried to show that you can have an ornamental as well as an edible garden. A lot of the plants can be pruned and hedged.

With your fruiting trees, when they say you need more than one for pollination, the pollen on a pawpaw travels 11 kms so if you have one pawpaw in your yard, then the neighbour’s tree is going to pollinate so when you’re buying trees, have a look as to what is in your district. Avocados for instance, because we’re in an avocado area, there’s enough pollen in the area. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a tree 2 metres away, it can be a tree 3 or 4 kms away. Sheryl  Are there any trees that need to be planted close together? Andrew  Stonefruit – Plums, Apricots and maybe Hazelnuts and Chestnuts.

Irrigation  - I don’t believe in irrigation because the plants then are relying on that source of water and you don’t get any deep rooted plants. I found that trees that are irrigated in NSW in macadamia orchards when we had a big storm just blew over and those that weren’t irrigated, they stood up to the storms.

John Hatch What graft do you put onto a Mango eg Florigon, is that poly-embryonic or mono?

Andrew   We generally use the Mono. If you call the top of the fruit the stem end, that’s where your strongest shoot comes from and that is not the original so don’t use this stem end one but the rest will be true to form.  Out of a Mango seed there is generally around 12 seedlings. All the rest will be true seedlings to the parent tree. We take all our seed for propagation from the Kensington Pride (Bowen) and the graft we use is either a whip or a side veneer graft and this is done in peak summer between November to late February.

Acerola or Barbados Cherry   It does not have a viable seed inside. The reason I started pruning these was that I didn’t think they were very big shrubs. I went up to Nambour to someone who wanted his trees identified and he had an Acerola that was 6 metres high x 5 metres wide. They are cutting grown.

Blackberry Jam Bush  Randia formosa    It has a lovely white flower with 5 spiked petals on a long trumpet and it goes to a brown pod eventually and there’s a black juice inside. It looks disgusting but it’s one of the sweetest, nicest flavours I have had from a fruit. Thornless.

Brazillian Cherry Its on the sour side and in the next couple of years it will be on the noxious weed list between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. It’s taking over areas where it shouldn’t be. Sheryl It’s already on the environmental weed list of the Pine Shire.

Burdekin Plum  Comes from the Atherton Tableton and this is the first time it’s fruited.  Stan  They used to catch feral pigs and after penning them for a few weeks, they’d go to the abattoir and be condemned because the skin and flesh would be purple. Andrew  It’s supposed to be a very good cabinet timber.

Brown or Plum Pine   Podocarpus elatus   Australian Native. On the top of the pine cone there’s a little fruit; it’s very sweet - another good timber tree. 

Gretchen  Mine is 20 years and has never done any good. Dennis There is male and female. Sheryl   It’s good as a bonsai  

Canistel  Pouteria campechiana  Sometimes referred to as the Yellow Sapote – It’s like the yolk of a boiled egg  George  We bought a tray from the market for the club once and they came in softer than persimmons and we thought they would be no good but they were really beautiful so I think the secret is to let them go really soft.  I think the taste improves out of site when they get really ripe. Sheryl  A lot of people say the Ross variety is the best.

Cedar Bay Cherry Eugenia reinwardiana   Sometimes known as Beach Cherry. Native to Australia between mid northern NSW up through the Sunshine Coast here. Part of the Eugenia family and sister to the Grumichama. They fruit in summer so you get fruit from late Dec-Mar. This bush has had a 2nd flowering because we’ve had an extended warm season. It’s a very sweet fruit with a small seed inside and because it’s a slow grower, it can be easily trimmed and is a great hedging plant.

Ceylon Hill Gooseberry Rhodomyrtus tomentose  Lovely small shrub with lavender flowers  Margaret  It likes plenty of water.

Cherry Guava  This red one is 7 years old and just to show you that you don’t have to let them get to 9 metres, keep them hedged and pruned. Pruning it I get 3 crops a year. I get a summer crop which has the fruit flies, and two crops in winter. Great for jam – just boil them up – you don’t need extra pectin.

Chestnut  I’d really think twice about putting a chestnut in your garden as the pod is worse than an echidna as it’s covered in thorns. This is a grafted variety and it has fruited a couple of times but the nut inside is immature. Teddy  What variety is it?  Andrew  Morenii.

Citrus  My fertiliser programme: Winter Spring and Autumn I put on Dynamic Lifter or a locally made product called Supergrowth which has 10 different other elements added to it – blood & bone, fish meal, rock minerals, and in the summer I give it a complete citrus fertiliser which has your boron, potash etc. because in summer you want to give it to the fruit so you get the sweetness in the fruit. I don’t foliar fertilise – I don’t believe they need it because they’re a surface feeder. Sheryl Which rootstock do you use? Andrew We grow all our citrus from seed on Swingle rootstock. 20 years ago they used the bush lemon because it was the most prolific but it also took on all the diseases, it wasn’t rootrot resistant and Gayndah DPI has done a lot of work on them. They released Trifoliata which is a dwarf rootstock – it was frost resistant – it’s a very good rootstock except in the nursery it’s very slow to grow so that’s why you don’t see too much of it around and it also has a resistance to certain varieties of trees. You can’t put Lemons on Trifoliata because they just don’t take – you’ll actually get vertical growth not horizontal so I’ve come to use Swingle which is a semi-dwarf rootstock which is drought resistant and frost resistant and 75% resistant to rootrot and highly adaptable in a nursery situation for all varieties. With our citrus trees on the farm, we don’t irrigate but we did deep rip and we put in chook manure when we planted.  Mulching and keeping weeds away is your key to success. The only bugs I worry about is scale – the Californian red scale particularly because that will kill your citrus – spray with Supricide and for other soft scale you use your white oil. Teddy  How do you stop leaf miner?  Andrew  You can use white oil sprays as it comes in late spring through to summer and its just aesthetic value – those leaves still photo-synthetise for you but it just makes the tree look ugly. It doesn’t actually affect the fruit on the tree.

Coffee  Go to Gloria Jeans!!! The time and effort it takes is not worth it! The beans themselves are edible – just suck the pulp from around seed.  Lovely attractive shrub. 

Ginger  Zinzibar   The Red Behive Ginger When I planted it, the flower stems were worth $3.00 each but when it flowered, they were worth about 50¢!  Very attractive flower – you can dig it out in winter and move it around your place.

Jaboticaba   Fruits on the trunk and the yellow variety is more of an oblong fruit with a furry outer skin. The skin I find is very strong so I just burst the fruit open in my mouth - like a lychee. The fruit has a small bean seed inside. All the jaboticabas are very suitable for box hedging. George  My yellow has more seed than flesh.

Sheryl             Which of your trees are cutting grown?

Andrew           Panana Berry, Bunchosia, Blackberry Jam Bush

Elderberry  Probably classified as a weed in England. It’s very sour but it’s good if you want to bulk up jams – can be trimmed as a hedge. Judy  We tried to shift ours but every little bit of root reshot then we tried to shift those and they reshot!!  Sheryl   Sounds like it’s a weed!

Feijoas  Good for hedging – lovely blue foliage. Spectacular house plant. The petals on the flowers are edible. It’s a bit like a lilly pilly – very sweet – so I really go for the flowers not the fruit. Varieties: Large Oval and Mammoth. The only one that has fruited was Mammoth. Large Oval hasn’t done anything. In NZ they pick them off the ground but over here you’ll find that they’ve already been stung. Throw a mosquito net over it and tie it down at the base once the fruit has set and you’ll save that fruit. The NZ climate produces much sweeter nuttier flavoured fruit but here we just don’t seem to have that. If you’re in a colder area where you get heavy frosts, then you can grow your Feijoas. Sheryl  I have a PBR variety called Duffy which fruited heavily after many years but you must net with a fruit fly net but I saw them in a local fruit shop in perfect condition. Andrew They were probably sprayed with Lebayacid or Rogur. There’s a guy up at Bundaberg making Feijoa wine. If we want to send them to the markets in Victoria, we have to dip them in Rogur which is systemic so the fruit absorb it. Sheryl  I think they’re taking Rogur, Carbyrl and Malathion out of the market. Andrew  It’s still used for dipping fruit in. When I was in NSW all our Avocados and Custard Apples were dipped in it before sending to southern markets.

Giant Lau Lau   Sygygium aquarius

Grumichama  Eugenia dombiii

Fruit around the 4th year. Bright glossy green leaves. Good hedge plant. White flower in Spring followed by a cherry and they are identical to a cherry shape and feature. Sheryl Which is the best aspect to grow them in? Andrew They burn in full sun of 40º days but I find that I get two crops in the shade whereas in full sun they produce one crop. Grows to 4 mtrs.

Guava The Indian is a white fleshed guava. The Hawaiian Guava is pear shaped and these are used in the juicing factories and you wouldn’t drink the juice when you see what goes in but it’s all sterilized so don’t worry!!  Sheryl  When I use to do stopovers in Melbourne, I’d always head off to Myers to have one of their pink Guava juices. Andrew  If you’re worried about fruit fly, then eat it in a dark room!! The yellow Cherry Guava is more of a Pineapple flavour whereas the red is a more distinct Guava flavour. Sheryl  Excellent taste  Andrew  I’ve hedged a 5 year old Cherry Guava Stan  It’s like a Densicon Guava I got off Kaspar.

Hazelnut  Hasn’t fruited as yet.  Gretchen   Mine’s had nuts but when you open them up there’s nothing inside. Andrew  I don’t think we’re in the right area  Sheryl  You don’t think it’s a pollination problem?  Andrew  With the high humidity we do get funguses that can attack inside the nuts.

Ice Cream Bean  Inga edulis   Fastest growing fruit tree that I know of. Good shade tree – possums like the fruit. Seeds are polyembryonic. I’ve been planting them at schools for the kids to enjoy. It’s actually a legume so it adds nitrogen to your soil. Sheryl  – be careful where you plant the ice cream bean as some people classify them as a weed - they’re a little hard to get rid of but it is excellent for shade. There’s another variety called mortoniana

Jaboticaba  Myrciaria Cauliflora   A good hedge plant. Grown from seed.  Out of 3000 seeds, this is the only variegated one I’ve come across. A good tub specimen. Grown from hardwood cuttings

Kei Apple   Dovyalis caffra    Lovely plant but spikey – I have trimmed these back mainly to keep them bushy as I’ve found that plants that are over your head are a waste of time. Sheryl  It’s excellent – tastes like an apricot but I’d suggest you grow it as a hedge to keep out…..! George Apparently there’s male and female. There’s one in the Botanical Gardens that produces excellent fruit. You’ll find birds nests 200mm in.

Kerriberry  Is a cross between the Raspberry and Blackberry. A nursery on the mid north coast of NSW pollinated them and came up with Kerriberry so with this variety you pay a royalty. I run the mower over it every year. Sheryl  What time of the year do you run the mover over it? Andrew Anytime it’s out of  control!  Eat when they are a dark purple colour. Sheryl  They’re weedy so you’ve been warned!

Loquats  These 2 varieties I have actually fruit in winter. In NSW where I came from they were the fruit fly host because they fruited in early spring so that was the first fruit for the fruit fly to attack but up here they fruit in winter and you don’t get the fruit fly so it’s a really good plant for the backyard.

Sheryl  Which varieties fruit in winter?  Andrew  Champion and a local one I’ve named Golden Belle

Macadamias  Careful where you walk – we get 3.2¢ each for these but this one would be worth 4¢ because it’s got a thinner shell!!  Sheryl  Is that the shelled or unshelled price?  Andrew  Shelled   John Has the industry recovered from the slump from a few years ago? Andrew  Yes because the marketing is a lot better now and the shonks are out of the industry but are still being chased by the legal people. The Macadamia is Australia’s only native exported food crop and grew from Bauple to Coffs Harbour. In NSW there’s Tetraphylla which is native to there. It has a pink flower, spikey leaf, red new growth, wrinkly shell and is not really wanted by the processors. Qld we have Integrifolia which has the round leaf. Sheryl  Which one do you think is suitable for the backyard? Andrew  Own’s Choice was developed down in northern NSW and it will have nuts on it all year round. I have one similar here called Greiber’s Special. This will have nuts on it most of the year – has a rounder leaf. Christina Do you get die-back in Macadamias? Andrew  Yes.  The reason the nut trees grow so well is that once we reach this stage (30 years old) we have no weed control to do, no sun, they are semi-deciduous but are classified as evergreen and we mulch all that leaf up with our front deck mulcher mower and it chops everything up and the soil here now is 4-5 inches of mulch which is old sticks, leaves, husks, and you can still see the roots coming back up through it. We get around 10kgs per tree. We have a machine that has an attachment which works on the golfball harvester principle. A small one is around $350 from Macmaster in Lismore. Stan  Do they ever shake the trees? Andrew  They used to bring in the Pecan shakers in NSW but quickly realised that it shook the trees out of the ground and it killed the tree so its better for the nut to drop on the ground because that’s when it has its highest oil content. We try and harvest every 2 weeks to get the green nut because if you leave it any longer than that, the nut quality starts to go off. The factory doesn’t want any nuts under 19mm. Sheryl  Andrew has a large length of very holey rubber on the floor to stand on which he got from the Caboolture Market very cheaply.

Midyim Berry  Austromytrus dulcis   I’ve hedged it – likes well drained soil. It’s a native and it grows along the beach areas. The Council is using it around shopping centres but because it doesn’t get looked after, it doesn’t look as healthy as these bushes. Grown from seed – has a small white speckled fruit pH of around 4 – 6.

You’ll notice that we have swales and because we have a gentle slope, we get a lot of rain but because it has been so dry, it has been shedding the water so when you have swales, the rain pools in the swales so you get a deep watering effect so the trees get maximum effect from the rain. Some I plant on the high spot of the swale.

Nashi - Shinseki is self pollinating and fruits very well.  However my other Nashi - Hoshi and Koshi have not. We had 2 very slight frosts last year which may have caused this. Sheryl  Do you think they would fruit in a non-frost area? Andrew  There’s a guy in Mooloola who is surrounded by gum trees in a frost free area and he brought in fruit and showed me.

Noni  The new wonder plant – better than Viagra and can cure every disease known to man!!!!

The fruit will go white - they’re full of seed and they crush them down to make the juice.  Merv  The Aborigines used the roots for dye and they call it the dye plant. John  The leaf is used as a vegetable.

Panana Berry  From New Guinea. This tree fruits for nine months of the year – overpowering sweet berry with tiny little seeds, cutting grown. Do your cuttings at the beginning of summer. They need a heat bed and a misting area to grow and you should get 90% success rate – use a semi-hardwood cutting. If the fruit doesn’t set, then it’s probably still a young tree. Once the birds find it, just forget it!

Peanut Tree Bunchosia  argentinia

Eat when orange – very crunchy and crisp. If you let them go red, they taste totally different from the crunchy ones and I prefer the crunchy style. The red are a bit too strong for me.  The seed is supposed to be edible too.  It will fruit constantly – this is about it’s 4th crop. Lenzie  Mine flowers but it won’t fruit. 

Pepino  Pepino dulce   I wanted to build a retaining wall so I got a whole heap of tyres from the rubbish dump then decided to take them back to the dump but they wanted to charge me $25.00 so I filled them up with soil and planted Pepinos because they hang down and if they touch the ground they go rotten very quickly and we’ve had some great crops off them. You can also use this method with Sweet Potato, Pawpaw, Potatoes and Pumpkin and when you want to pick your Potatoes you just take out tyre by tyre.

Quince & Almonds   Judy – Do they grow here? Andrew – Yes, with the quince I’ve had one fruit each year! No almonds as yet but I’ve been pruning to take wood so I’ve probably been taking the flowering wood off. Judy  I thought they liked wet winters and dry summers. Andrew They probably do but we’re very experimental here and we can such a varying climate that we can get such a lot of things fruiting where a lot of people can’t.

Pitomba  This is it’s third shift! I had it out in a dry area and it didn’t like it; I had it in a shaded area and it didn’t like it there either and this is a wet area which gets irrigated twice a day and it seems to be growing quite well.

Pomegranate   The one I have has very large fruit – variety Wonderful.

Raspberry Rubus ellipticus    This sweet yellow raspberry fruits in summer and is native to the Bellthorpe Forest which is up behind Maleny on the way to Kilcoy. I chop this back in summer to ground level so it’s very rapid growing but very prickly.

Star Apple This is a grafted variety called Tahiti and doesn’t have the bronze leaf on the back. This is one of the best fruit quality.  Sheryl   What is the difference between this one and the bronze leafed one?  Andrew   This one hasn’t fruited yet.

Wampi  There are grafted types as well as seedling – the only one that has fruited is Guysam, the other is called Teempay but it hasn’t fruited as yet. The Guysam has given me 2 crops. It’s related to the Citrus and it has a lemon-lime flavour.  Merv  I’ve read that if you want good Wampi, you should only grow one because if you grow 2 or more, you’ll get seed. Sheryl  Who has a seedless Wampi?  Dennis  I got one from Kaspar  Sheryl  We’ll be up visiting you in 2 years to check it out!!  Andrew  It might be a pollination problem  Lenzie  Someone said it needed a dry spell. Andrew  This year we’ve had the wettest year since 1974 and this has been in constant fruit.

Wax Jambu An Asian fruit – crisp and if you take a bite off a foam esky, you’ve got the flavour! Sheryl  I love Wax Jambu – excellent for juicing but susceptible to fruit fly. Very attractive on the tree and there’s around five colour variations.

Tropical Fruit  Being in a fruit growing club, we all like growing things we can’t grow! I lived in New Guinea for seven years and I’ve loved Rambutan. They tell me it won’t grow but I want to prove them wrong! You’ll notice I have a frost protection guard around it – you fill up the cells with water and it becomes self standing. During the day the sun heats the cells up and during the night the water is warmer than the outside air so the heat permeates up around the plant so it keeps the frost out. If you have a smaller plant, you can close it in around the plant and it’ll protect it. They’re reusable – at the end of winter, tip the water out and keep a bit of baby powder in it. $8.00 each or 3 for $20.00. Sheryl  What other trees do you use it with?  Andrew  I’ve had a lot of trouble with Green Sapote so I use it with them and maybe Abius – when they get high, just wrap paper around. The time of the day when frost kills is just before the sun rises and if you have any dew or moisture on this type of grass, it’s going to freeze and it freezes the trunk so it freezes the actual sap around the trunk. We used to have huge problems with Macadamias in NSW – we used to have to paper every one of them right down to the ground. If you left a small gap between the paper and the ground, then that tree would die because it would freeze the cambium layer so therefore it was just like ringbarking your trees. Sheryl  We have had other members who’ve tried Rambutans but they say they get to 2 years and die but I don’t know whether they used any insulating material. George  Langsat and Duku ??  Teddy  Santol? George Yes Santol will grow here.

Dwarf Black Mulberry – only grows half the size of a normal mulberry tree Sheryl Grafted?  Andrew  No, it’s cutting grown  and has a very nice black fruit.

Longans  fruit in February – not as sweet as the Lychee – translucent flesh. Means Dragons Eye in Asia.

White Sapote  Reinnake and Pike – keep them chopped back as they get too long and leggy.

Sheryl  Any problems? Andrew  Fruit fly because the skin is edible but they’re great for flavouring milk shakes Sheryl  Mel Siddall used to have one that he would freeze and it was fantastic

Don There’s a problem with scale also – spray with oil.We also have Green Sapote & Mammy Sapote.

Black Sapote I have a grafted variety that’s 7 years old and I’m still waiting to see fruit on it. The rest are seedlings and they’re fruiting at 3 years old. I’ve heard of a grafted one taking 9 years to fruit! To pick the fruit wait until it starts to yellow on the tree before you take it off and let it go to sogginess and then blend it with cream and you have the best chocolate mousse and it’s healthy for you if you use a lot fat cream!!!! Merv   There’s male and female plants 

Sapodilla  They’re growing really well up the road but not here – perhaps my pH is not right.

Teddy  Some are smooth and some are gritty – which ones are which?  Andrew  You’d have to get the grafting wood off the right fruiting tree to make sure.  Sheryl  Anybody growing Sapodillas?  Judy I’ve had one for 12 years but it hasn’t done much and I think it’s gritty. Sheryl  Do you think this one should have a close pollinator?  Andrew   It did have one but it died. 

Sea Grape  This is suppose to be a small tree but I’m very dubious as to what this means as there’s one in the Botanical Gardens that’s 30 metres high! You need two to pollinate. They’re great by the beach and get new red foliage on them. This one was knocked by the frost for 2 years but this year it’s grown really well. The only person I’ve heard that’s had fruit is a guy out west and apparently they are constantly fruiting. There’s male and female. Sheryl Peter Young has one.

Pests  The case or bag  moth is a bad guy – just squash it!  Sheryl What do you do about rats? Andrew We have 3 dogs and or we get a guy in who has a licence to shoot but we use also use rat blocks - Tom Cat, Bromikil and Racumin but the best rat trap to use is a piece of 3” PVC pipe about 1 ft or 30cm long – drill a hole in the centre, put the rat block in the centre of the pipe and thread a piece of wire through the whole and rat block (the block comes with a hole through the centre) then jam the wire into the ground or sit it in the fork of a tree so no dogs or other animals can get it but the rats can get in and they can’t take it off the metal spike and every week we check each station. We buy them through a produce store. Ted  Would owls be affected if they ate the rats that had taken the bait? Andrew  Animals don’t tend to eat the entrails when they’re pulling an animal apart.  Rats live amongst the pineapples  Sheryl  We use Peanut Butter very successfully in our traps to catch mice and Bob says that the black plastic Safe & Sure brand seems to catch more than the other types.

Boron  Woodiness in fruit is a boron deficiency so putting on boron before flowering will probably help. You get it in citrus, avocado.  Sheryl So how much should you put on the various plants? Andrew We use to apply it to the Macadamias because they said it helped for nut set and we’d put on 4kgs in a 1000 litres and we’d do 5 applications a year.  Sheryl At what stage of development?  Andrew At flower bud development. 3 before flowering and you’d be starting once your nut harvest had finished so you haven’t got much time but once the nuts have set you’d be still applying trying to get some in for next year.  Sheryl  Foliar?  Andrew Yes, people do use borax which was around before the foliar spray but now it comes in liquid form which is so much easier to use especially on a large scale because there are problems with the dust flying around so that’s why we use the liquid. I’d be applying borax on the ground in your case because you’re only using it on a small scale  Merv 4gms per litre is very high concentration  Andrew With borax the only leaves that take it up are the new growth. The harder leaves in the macadamia won’t take it up and absorb it. On the ground it has to do with the pH so if your pH is right for that plant, most of the nutrients are available in the soil. If you have an imbalance in your pH, it can lock up your copper, sulphurs, borax etc. and it can’t get it so although you might be applying fertiliser to the tree, if your pH is wrong, all the fertiliser is doing is sitting there.

John Ambrose:  The Java Blue Bananas can grow as high as the Lady Finger in that they do not have a very big bunch but mine haven’t been very successful as they’re growing against the house in the flower garden with shrubs around them. They have this beautiful blue tinge to the skin while they’re still green and then they turn yellow like a standard banana. More like a Lady Finger in taste and texture than a Cavendish. They’re very susceptible to Panama disease. The DPI recommend that you remove the tree that’s affected, inject it with either glyphosate or 2-4-D and then inject every plant adjacent to it then when they die, just cut them down but unfortunately that’s the end of that patch.

Authored by: 
Andrew Dobbie
Sourced from: 
STFC June July 2004