He is one of our first customers and has been on of our biggest supporters. He has visited us on open day and it was so lovely meeting him and his family.
Kevin has also contributed to our dragoon fruit trellis ideas.
Thank you so much for this blog post and I hope people enjoy reading it as much as I did.
What suburb and state are you located? Ironpot, just outside of Rockhampton, 4701 QLD
How long have you been an avid gardener for?
I remember first being interested in gardening when I was a kid. I was really into breeding chooks and growing bananas as a teenager until I was pressured by society into becoming a depressed moody shit too scared to admit to having hobbies or interests beyond complaining about how bad my parents were .
It wasn't until I was living in China years later that that I became once again actively interested in growing things. It wasn't until we bought the block in 2019 however that I was able to actually start growing anything.
What is your history with gardening and horticulture?
As above. Have always liked getting my hands dirty, but was diverted by uni and work etc and then living in crappy units (overseas and in australia) without any gardens. I ended up with a degree in environmental science, but focused on computer-based remote sensing systems instead of on hands-on work in the field. I still feel very deficient in relation to my knowledge of botany/gardening/horticulture. I'm been involved a bit lately with a volunteer group doing revegetation work, so I'm picking up a bit of botany knowledge from that. If I could do my time over again, I probably would have done agriculture or horticultural science with more of an active hands-on approach. In short, I've always had the interest, but have a lot to learn.
What drew you to Dragon fruit?
Hard to say. They just sparked an interest. For me, they were something different and unusual. I guess it's a similar reason why I bought a Vauxhall Victor as my first car instead of commodore or corolla like everybody else was. It also doesn't hurt that they (dragon fruits, not vauxhall victors) are also suited to growing in my area.
Can you please walk me through your historywith dragon fruit?
I grew up in Australia with very close-minded European immigrant parents. I was never exposed to any kind of fruit beyond the standard options in woolies. First encounter with DF was in China. I was working in China and came across this old man with a roadside stall selling this weird looking fruit that looked like some kind of mutant pineapple. The taste wasn't spectacular, but it was nice enough. By the time I'd brought a kilo or so back to my apartment, I was pretty hooked. I worked in south Korea for several years prior to moving to China, but I don't recall ever encountering DF over there. I believe SK now has a pretty large DF industry, so I'm assuming that didn't really kick off until recently. Or perhaps I was just too focussed at that time on other food that I actually recognised. When I returned to Australia, it was with a Chinese wife and kid. If it wasn't for the wife, I probably would have just returned to woolies as my sole source of food and fruit products. It was her influence however that really pushed me into exploring the local "asian" farmers markets here in Australia, thereby maintaining and developing my interest in exotic fruits. I'm now well and truly hooked. No more boring old apples (transported from the other side of the country and held in cold storage for months) for me!
What was your 1st dragon fruit experience eating?
as above. First taste was not exactly an amazing mind-blowing experience. Just ok. Not bad, not amazingly great either. In some ways it was like the first time with beer. Great expectations that were not quite met by the experience in reality. I now passionately love beer and dragon fruit, so maybe it was an acquired taste kind of thing. It's also possible that my first taste was with a not particularly sweet DF variety.
What was your 1st dragon fruit experience growing?
When we lived in town, there was an unloved clump of NOID red DF growing over the fence from an unoccupied rental next door. The parrots would hammer this pretty hard, but we managed to get some decent fruit off it. When we bought the block I stuck a bunch of cuttings everywhere, thinking that they'd be just as hardy as the prickly pear which grow pretty well in the area. I was sticking them straight into hardpacked grey soil, with no follow up watering or attention. Some of these cuttings are still alive three years later, but have not grown much in this time. After reading a bit more about DF growing however, I tried doing things properly. I grabbed a few more cuttings from that rental property in town, and this time placed in soil that had been cultivated and mulched. Finally, success.
What is your Favorite variety and why?
Too early to say really. I have 20 varieties now, but I'm not yet as fruiting stage with most of them. I'm very happy with the growth and taste of Isis/Aussie gold so far, but haven't been that excited by the taste or growth rates of other white varieties so far. The NOID red I stole from the clump in town produces a very sweet fruit and shows extremely vigorous and resilient growth. However, for whatever reason I'm not getting much fruit from this variety despite (or because of ) the vigorous growth of foliage. Massive growth rate, but very little useful productivity. Kind of like my 8 year old son.
I expected big things from American Beauty, but so far they've shown only very slow growth rates and I haven't yet had fruit from them.
Least favourite: Colombian red. I'm sure they taste great, but at the slightest sniff of moisture they develop more rot than a politician's soul.
Best tip for growing dragon fruit. Biggest no, no for growing dragon fruit.
Best tip. They are not cactus. As my comments above, they will not grow like prickly pear. They are tough, but not they still need a bit of love. Well drained soil is crucial. Also, don't pile mulch in a mound in direct contact with the plant. Basic fruit-tree growing 101, but it was something I had to learn from experience.
Biggest no no. When making your own concrete dragon fruit posts, don't let your 8 year old kid try to shift the wheelbarrow full of slurry. It leads to a lot of waste and a hardened unhappy child (not to mention an angry wife).
Biggest challenge for growing dragon fruit you have had?
Rot from an unusually high amount of rain during winter. Some varieties (ie, Colombian red) worse affected than others.
Animals/birds. Scrub turkeys digging up the plants, parrots eating the fruit.
Kids who complain (rightly) that I love my dragon fruit plants more than them.
How do you fertilize?
Upon waking each morning, my 8 year son and I both like to have a wee on a different plant each day. Apart from this, a handful of dynamic lifter at the start of the growing season, and the occasional bag of cow or horse manure added around each plant. Liquid potash just before flowering season. At the moment I don't have a regular 'scientific' regime. I've been more focussed on just keeping them alive. Just like with my real human children (the keeping them alive part I mean, not the covering them in manure).
I've just finished installing a drip irrigation system, with the intention of becoming more methodical with my irrigation and fertilization regime in the future.
How many varieties do you currently have?
About 20. For most of them, this year will (hopefully) be their first fruiting.
What soil did you pot your cutting in?
Searles potting mix mixed with cactus mix, in pots. Once cuttings show signs of shooting, they are transferred directly to the ground. I generally prepare the ground with the addition of sand and mulch to improve drainage.