October 2018 – Crop of the Month
Pomegranate – Scientific Name: Punica granatum
Family: Punica granatum
Written by: Kirby Fry
Once the fall rains begin in late September or early October we can begin to plant our edible beneficial perennial gardens. Perennial plants, just like annual plants, need optimal planting conditions for success. A few conditions are achieved at this time of the year, which include – fall rains, cooler temperatures, and nursery availability in containers.
A couple of my favorite nurseries for buying containerized fruit trees at are Far South Wholesale Nursery in Austin, Texas and Bloomers Garden Center in Elgin, Texas. Pomegranate, fig, and loquat are all available in containers during the fall at these nurseries.
I’ve chosen Pomegranate as the crop of the month for October because it thrives during Texas’ hot summers, it can tolerate poor soil conditions, and my daughters, like so many others, love the fruit which is very high in antioxidants. Like crape myrtle, it is in the Lythraceae family. It does better in the central, south, and west parts of Texas, and does not like hard freezes. Some varieties of pomegranate can be grown as far north as the Dallas / Fort Worth area. The wonderful pomegranate is the variety most commonly sold and planted in Texas.
– Planting Tips –
Pomegranates should be planted in rows from east to west, about 12 to 15’ apart. The rows should be about 15 to 20’ away from one another. Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball, backfill with native soil, build a ring of soil around the newly planted tree, and then fill that ring at least 2 or 3 times with water after planting allowing the water in the ring to soak in each time.
Fertilize the tree with an 8-8-8 organic slow release fertilizer, and possibly add another source of organic fertilizer that is higher in nitrogen like an alfalfa meal. Pomegranates need a deep watering every 10 days or so from late spring through the summer. If the tree gets too dry and then early fall rains come the fruit will split, so even-watering is important for good fruit production. A humid summer may lead to fungus growing on the trees and forming fruit. Neem oil, and insecticidal soap will reduce most fungus and insect plagues.
Pomegranates will shoot up a lot of suckers from their base. Three to five trunks should be selected and allowed to flourish, the remaining suckers should be pruned back annually. Prune on a regular basis and do not prune too much in one year as this will expose too much of the trees’ vascular system to mold and fungus.
A healthy pomegranate sapling requires 3 to 4 years of growth before it begins to produce fruit. The fruit is ripe in September, about 60 days after the tree flowers.