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Gardening: Passionfruit

Hi Gardeners

The word passion means any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, and gardeners are no different. Your passion is the excitement of gardening. This energy comes from within, with gardeners being able to overcome most obstacles put in their way. We gardeners are good problem solvers.

With passion, lets’ tackle….

PASSIONFRUIT

This evergreen vine bears white and purple flowers along with delicious fruit. They thrive in a frost-free area with light well drained soil. The vines are usually trained on a trellis or a fence. Trellises should have wires at 1.2 metres and 2 metres, running north-south to get the maximum sun. Always provide wire or wire netting for the passionfruit tendrils to cling to. If you need to plant more than one (1) vine, they should be at least 2.5 metres apart.

When fertilizing use a ‘Citrus and Fruit Tree’ fertilizer at the rate of 500 grams per vine when growth starts in spring. Follow up with a light side dressing of ‘Sulphate of Ammonia’ every 3-4 weeks through summer.

As passionfruit are quite shallow rooted, it is important that your plant receives a good deep watering every 5-7 days. Mulch of course, but do not allow the mulch to touch the stem. Passionfruit vines planted in spring give a light crop in autumn and will bear well the following summer.

After they finish fruiting, cut the vines back if they are too dense, allowing for better air movement. This also encourages new laterals on which fruit is formed. After 5-7 years your passionfruit might become spindly warranting replacement.

Passionfruit are ready to harvest when they turn from green to either purple, red or yellow (depending on variety) when ripe and fruit usually falls to the ground.

OBSTACLES

Leaf Drop

This can be caused by old age, dryness, excessive moisture, fungus or mites. The leaves have a life cycle and once they have reached maturity it is common for them to drop off the vine. If a vine becomes stressed due to lack of water, this clever vine will drop the older leaves thus reducing the loss of water through transpiration. Remember to water regularly. If the soil becomes waterlogged or is poorly drained the leaves will drop. Fungus usually only occurs with really wet conditions. If the leaves have brown spots use ‘Mancozeb Plus’ repeating every 2 weeks for 6 weeks. If the leaves are grey us a copper-based spray, doing two (2) sprays, one (1) week apart. Mites usually occur in late spring and throughout summer. There will be a red tinge to the underside of the leaf and sometimes the fruits’ skin will go brown like a potato. Spray with a ‘Miticide’ every 2 weeks for 6 weeks.

Flower Drop

Passionfruit will abort flowers once the vine has set its’ carrying capacity of fruit. A healthy vigorous vine will carry at least two hundred (200) fruit. Birds like parrots do take a liking to the flowers, but the vine will produce more flowers to compensate. Flowers will drop if the vine comes stressed like us humans, and like us, its’ main needs are food and water. A trace element mix maybe required. Extreme cold can cause flower drop, but this does not usually affect us in the sub-tropics.

Damaged or Marked Fruit

Wrinkled green fruit generally drop off the vine prematurely. This is caused by an insect called the ‘passion vine bug’, ‘green vegetable bug’ or ‘stink beetle’. Usually in the home garden very little fruit is affected, and it is hardly worth the cost and effort of applying a spray. If a spray is required a general insecticide is adequate.

Browns spots or oily blemishes are due to fungus attack usually associated with inclement weather. The fungal spores breed in large numbers and the leaf is usually the first indication of fungal problems. So attack this problem as you would if the vine had a leaf fungus

Fruit fly is not considered a problem with passionfruit. When stung, fruit will have a small pimple on the skin but the fruit is generally not affected and no larvae develops.

Small fruit is usually a sign of vines old age or the vine is in poor health. The vine should be replaced every four (4) years. This keeps the vine vigorous and less prone to fungal and insect attack.

Small misshapen and very hard skin fruit is a virus which can appear on poorer quality vines. The breeding program over the years has worked towards producing superior fruiting and virus resistant varieties.

Poor fruit set or no fruit set can be the result of poor pollination meaning the absence of bees. The only answer is to attract bees to the garden by planting flowering shrubs and flowers. You can also plant several vines in close proximity to each other and this will encourage small insects such as natijulid beetles to transfer pollen between the flowers of different vines.

I hope this list of do’s and don’ts will help you grow a successful passionfruit crop.

Happy Gardening

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