So if you are still interested in cuttings or plants, please let us know ASAP.
In the course of researching how to support these vines which can develop to over 200 lbs in weight, I happened upon the website of the late Gery Kesslau and his wife Linda Nickerson. I was so taken with their triangular trellises that I wrote to Linda and she very very kindly sent me the following (which I reprint with her permission):
I’m happy to share what we’ve learned about supporting DF over the past 20 years. The triangular support was the only thing Gery could think of that would support DF when we started out. Over the years it did not prove to be the best due to the cost of that much redwood, trying to support it in the ground as the plants got large and top-heavy, and most of our first frames have fallen over in spite of adding steel T-posts on several sides. Gery was a carpenter by trade and even mitered the horizontals which most people would not have done. We eventually adopted the method used by Ramero at the Irving test plot, but with the DF in #15 black PVC pots, extra holes drilled in them with a door-knob bit for better drainage, and a T-post driven through the bottom into the ground for additional support. Then a redwood 2×2 stake with two pieces of 3/8″ x 18″ rebar drilled through the top to form an X to support the frame for the arching branches and then topped with a frame of more 3/8″ rebar with old garden hose threaded on it (the best method) is placed in the pot and then securely wired to the steel post, and one DF plant put in each prepared pot. This method had a lot of advantages–1)Our soil is very bad here and we could put good soil in the pots easier than digging large holes and filling them with good soil; 2)when we watered, we were only watering the pot where the roots were, thereby conserving our very expensive water;3) the pot protected the roots from the gophers that plagued our property; 4)The steel post supported the plant and wood post even if/when the wooden post rotted and broke. If you keep your plants properly pruned, and do an annual compost top dress, these plant will grow and produce for many years.”
Linda also sent me a very long .pdf on dragon fruit growing which is now on our chapter Google Drive. I can send a link to anyone who desires it.
To help with your decision-making process, here is the chart Ramiro put up during his talk yesterday. Eyal commented that Haley’s Comet is very tasty but smaller and more sensitive to heat/cold. (You can click on the chart below to make it bigger and easier to read.)
In the wake of Ramiro Lobo’s wonderful presentation on Dragon Fruit yesterday, I reached out to his friend Eyal Givon (who was also on the Zoom and has a Dragon Fruit farm in Moorpark). I talked to Eyal about our buying cuttings of Ramiro’s favorite varieties from him. This is what he wrote me:
“We mostly grow American Beauty, Physical Graffiti, Delight and Halley’s Comet. We have lower quantities of Voodoo Child, Sugar Dragon, San Ignacio, Valdivia Roja, El Grullo and Laverne Red.
Our best performer is American Beauty. In terms of fruit size, Laverne Red is our record keeper with American Beauty a close second.
Most cuttings are only $5. Red flower varieties are $10. Some very unique/very slow growers are more. We have also rooted plants for sale. $15 in one gallon pots.
Slow growers would be varieties like Frankie’s Red, Colombian, etc. Red flower varieties are Asunta 1 – 5, Ax, Kathie Van Arum, Connie Mayer, Bruni, and maybe a few more. The availability on these varieties is between low to zero, so I can’t promise anything. Also, availability does change, especially on the more rare varieties since people do come here and buy them.”
The chapter is willing to put together a group buy but we need to get some sense of how many people want how many cuttings or plants. If there is limited interest, I will just collect money from you when I have the cuttings in hand. If there is a LOT of interest, I will probably set up a format such as we used for the Plant Sale, where you can pay for what you want on PayPal and I can then forward the PayPal receipts to Eyal before heading out there. Please let me know ASAP at firstname.lastname@example.org
Speaker: Ramiro Lobo
Ramiro Lobo is the University of California’s Small Farms & Agricultural Economics Advisor with areas of expertise ranging alphabetically from Ag Commodities through Subtropical Fruit and on to Urban Agriculture, not to overlook a detour through (and this is a moutful) the Protection of Food From Contamination By Pathogenic Microorganisms, Parasites, and Naturally Occurring Toxins.
He has published many many many papers on such topics as “Sample Costs to Establish an Orchard and Produce Guavas in San Diego County”. “Encouraging Adoption of IPM by Small Scale Farmers,” and “The Sensory Quality and Postharvest Performance of Southern Highbush Blueberry Cultivars Grown in Southern California”. I think it is safe to call him UC Agriculture’s own Renaissance Man.
For our April 10th meeting, however, he is going to talk to us about Dragon Fruit. Or Pitahaya. Or maybe Pitaya, which it turns out is a different genus altogether. If we are very good, he will tell us about the field research he’s been conducting. And teach us about pruning, propagation, pollination, and when it’s the right time to harvest your fruit for optimum quality.
I know many of us (including me)) have tried and failed to grow dragon fruit successfully in West Los Angeles. This is our chance to figure out what we’ve been doing wrong!
Members will receive all Zoom information in the forthcoming newsletter.
photo by Polina Kuzovkova on Unsplash