GROWING AND NURTURING DRAGON FRUITS
If you’ve never heard of dragon fruit, you might be familiar with its other names: strawberry pear and pitaya or pitahaya.Dragon fruit (or pitaya) comes from a cactus of the type Hylocereus. It’s a fast-growing crop, and the plants can produce for more than 20 years once established.
Dragon fruit will likely agree with your palate if you prefer sweet-tasting, rather than sour fruit .Some people compare the taste of dragon fruit to a combination of kiwi and pear. So if you’re a fan of these types of fruit, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll fall in love with dragon fruit
The demand for Dragon Fruits is increasing nowadays as they have a lot of health benefits. Almost all age personality can consume Dragon fruits from children to the aged. In addition, Dragon fruits taste sweet as compared to other exotic fruits. Due to these unique characters, many farmers are looking toward Dragon fruit farming.
Dragon fruit can be planted as ornamental plants, but they do bare delicious fruit that is rather tasty. In fact, it is often used in jams, ice cream, fruit juice, and wine.
One plant can produce fruit for 20 to 30 years, so if you plant one, be ready for a lot of dragon fruit.
The thick fleshy stems can grow upto4m,in a single growing season and must be trained and tied onto a single pole or a trellis of about 1.8m high. precast concrete poles are widely used and three to four plants can be trained onto one pole.
Dragon Fruit Cactuses are self-fertile. You will get fruit with only one plant. However, adding an additional Dragon Fruit Cactus will drastically increase the size of your crop.
TYPES OF DRAGON FRUITS
Regardless of the type of dragon fruit that you are growing the fruit will be green until it is ripe. At that time, it will either be bright yellow in coloration or red. The inside pulp of each piece of fruit will be filled will small seeds that look similar to those that can be found in a kiwi fruit. The three types of dragon fruit are:
- Hylocereus Megalanthus – This type of dragon fruit has a white fruit flesh and a yellow shell. The shell of this variation is a bit thornier than the rest of the variations, so it is rarer to see in a garden.
- Hylocereus Undatus – This is a variation that has the same white flesh, but the exterior of this fruit is red in color.
- Hylocereus Costaricensis – This type of fruit is red in coloration on both the shell and in the flesh. The flesh is often a deep red coloration that looks almost unnatural or blood–like.
This plant is able to grow in any soil that is well draining, but it prefers to grow in soil that is slightly acidic with a pH level that is between six and seven.
Sandy soil is the best option for this plant; if it is not available, just ensure that it is well draining soil.
Each plant should be applied with10 to 15kg of organic compost, thereafter increase the amount of organic fertilizer by 2kg per year.
To ensure that the dragon fruit is growing properly, give it some fertilizer every month during the active growing season. During the cold winter months, you will want to stop feeding your plant for a few months.
Because this plant is a cactus plant, it is important to make sure that you are watering it properly. Only water the plant when the top of the soil is dry to the touch, and do not allow the plant to sit in water. The soil needs to be moist, not soaked.
Drip irrigation can be used for effective water usage.
The base of the plant can see a little shade, but the tips of the plant require full sun to ensure that the plant blooms properly. If too much shade is given to the plant, the fruit will not do well.
Dragon fruit will not grow in cold climates, so make sure that the temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent damage from occurring to the plant.
For optimal growth, the temperature needs to be between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pests and Diseases of Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit are generally tough plants but watch out for the following problems which can crop up:
- Caterpillars – pick these off by hand as soon as you see them.
- Snails and slugs – young plants are most vulnerable as snails and slugs can chew away large sections and interfere with the initial training of the main stems. Less of an issue with established plants.
- Fungal problems – high humidity and overhead watering can sometimes cause various diseases to develop on stems, flowers and fruit. Prune off badly affected sections and if the plant is congested remove additional branches to improve airflow. Adjust your watering regime to eliminate overhead watering. Improve plant strength with weekly applications of eco-seaweed.
- Split fruit – usually due to excessive watering/rain when the fruit is ripening.
- Stem/root rot – most common when grown in poorly draining soil or regions which have cold wet season. Work on improving soil drainage or move into a pot with a well-draining potting mix.
Harvesting Dragon Fruits
Fruit is ripe approximately a month after flowering but this can vary with local conditions. Fruit will not continue to ripen once picked so you need to look for other signs before picking.
Check that the colour of the fruit is bright and even all over and the small “wings” on the fruit are starting to wither. Lightly press the fruit in your hand and if ripe it will give just a little. Pick by twisting the fruit off the plant or cut with secateurs.
The skin is not edible but the seeds are just like a kiwi fruit.