Crop of the Month – December

December 2018 – Crop of the Month
Loquat – Scientific Name: Eriobotrya japonica
Family: Rosaceae
Written by: Kirby Fry

 

Every homestead in Central Texas can and should have something fruiting or ready to harvest year-round.  A fruiting calendar marks a month or time of the year when fruits are ripe in your landscape.  In the fall and winter, a fruiting calendar would mark pomegranate, Asian persimmon, citrus and loquat, pretty much in that order from September through March.  This is handy to know because so many of the fruits we enjoy the most like peaches, plums, and apples fruit in the spring and early summer.

The loquat tree (Japanese plum or Japanese medlar), which we will be discussing here, flowers in the late fall and early winter and bears fruit late in the winter or early spring.  It has fragrant flowers, is evergreen, and is often used as an ornamental tree in landscapes.  It is a frost hardy tree, tolerating freezes as low as 10 degrees, and does well in all of Texas’ soils.

Loquat trees are available in nurseries year-round and should be planted as soon as the fall rains begin.  This is the last of my fall series of 3 trees that can be purchased and planted in containers during the fall – pomegranate, fig, and loquat.  In January we will begin discussing what bare root tree stocks are available to purchase and plant.

 – Planting Tips – 

  • Loquats are easy to germinate from seed for ornamental purposes, but like many other fruit trees started from seed, the seedlings and future trees will not always make fruit or the desired quality of fruit, so it is recommended that for fruit production you vegetatively propagate loquat (with cuttings) from varieties known to bear exceptional fruit.
  • Loquats desired for their fruit production should be planted on the south side of buildings for shelter from winter winds, as a hard freeze will not kill the tree itself, but temperatures below 27 degrees will damage or kill the flowers and fruit.
  • If the tree is purchased in a container with a soilless media, then that media should be gently washed off with a garden hose to expose the roots to the soil around it in its new planting place.
  • Dig a hole twice the size of the container your tree came in, water the soil in as you backfill the hole getting rid of air pockets and making sure the roots have good contact with the soil around them.  Water every 3 or 4 days for the next couple of weeks, eventually reducing the frequency of watering.
  • Fertilize the tree with a slow release, high nitrogen fertilizer once the tree begins to put on new growth.  I like feather meal, bone meal and alfalfa meal.  Mulch heavily around the tree to guard soil moisture and prevent broad leaf plants and grasses from competing with your young tree.
  • The fruit matures in late winter to early spring.  It is about 1.5 inches long and 1 inch wide and has 2 or 3 brown seeds in it.  It is gold or orange in color and has a sweet or tangy flavor to it depending on the variety.
  • Loquat has very few plagues, but as it is in the Rosaceae family, it is sometimes susceptible to fire blight, the same destructive bacterial disease that affects pears and apples.  The treatment is to prune and remove any branches or leaves affected by fire blight and safely dispose of them.

Since the loquat tree is evergreen and quite ornamental, similar to a magnolia tree with its large leaves, it can also be used as a hedge row for privacy, a wind break, or as a back drop for your garden.  Enjoy this beautiful tree by using it to expand your fruit calendar and as an ornamental hedge row!

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