Dragon Fruit – Frame Build and update

White dragon fruitIf you’ve never heard of or seen a dragon fruit (pitaya) then you don’t know what you are missing. This unique fruit tastes great and is really easy to grow in the right climate, here in Florida it does quite well. I was introduced to the fruit about a year ago at a farmers market, we purchased a few to take home and I was hooked. The fruit can be cut open and the insides scooped out with a spoon to eat directly or used in a recipe. Once mine produce fruit I’m going to experiment making a drink from it.

Building a Support

Dragon fruit plants must be supported as they grow and can get quite heavy, up to hundreds of pounds. Typical frames are built around 5 or 6 feet tall to allow easy access for harvesting. For my build I chose to use 8 foot tall 6×6 lumber as the upright support and buried it in the ground around 30 inches resulting in a 5 1/2 foot height. The branches of the support are made from 2×6 lumber and are 6 feet wide total. To save a little money I purchase 12 foot long pieces and cut them in half.

I built these frames in late October 2017 and planted the dragon fruit in early November. First step in prepping the 6×6 uprights was to cut 5 1/2 deep notches in the top to accommodate the 2×6 branches. Here’s a picture of just getting started, notice the saw can only cut a couple of inches deep.

Dragon fruit wood frame

Here’s a picture of the tops cut as far as I can with the hand held circular saw.

Cutting top of dragon fruit frame

Once those cuts were complete, I used a reciprocating saw with a long blade to complete the cut all the way through the wood.

Notches cut in dragon fruit frame support

A hammer and chisel made it easy to bust out the unwanted parts and clean up the cut area.

Dragon fruit frame notches removed

When I took these pictures I had no idea they would end up in a blog post so there’s not as many as I would like. The next step is to notch the 2×6 pieces in the middle so they fit together then they will be placed in the cutout just made. I also cut the ends at an angle and gave them a curve (used a paint can for template) to give it some flair. Here they are assembled.

Dragon fruit support

A closer view of the end detail. Nothing too fancy.

Dragon fruit support detail

And a closer look at the top of the support.

Dragon fruit support frame

I now added some 2×4 supports diagonally across the support arms. This assembly was not secured to the upright posts, they are heavy enough to just be placed on top once the 6×6 post is buried in the ground. If all goes well these will support the plant as it grows up and through (top view).

Dragon fruit support top

I built a total of two of these and placed them in opposite corners of the property. This is a strategy I use with a lot of plantings, spread them around in case one area has better conditions and as a backup in case the other gets sick or dies. Here is a view of the installed support in the back area.

Dragon fruit support installed

Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures right after planting. When planting I dug out a hole for each cutting and filled it with a combination cow manure and compost along with the cutting. I then placed mulch around the whole thing to keep weeds down and help lock in moisture, but kept the mulch from directly contacting the cuttings or post. The cuttings were all bought off Craigslist from two different people so I would get some variety.

Here’s their growth after just a little over 4 months after planting. It took them about 30-45 days to get rooted and begin sprouting so most of what you see here actually happened in the last 2-3 months.

Dragon fruit growing on support

All cuttings were single stems so everything else is new. I’m pretty impressed with the rate of growth, especially considering they have only been in during late fall to late winter. We’ve had a few cold days and maybe two below freezing but otherwise it’s been pretty mild so that has probably helped. Here’s a picture to see how high they have grown.

Dragon fruit climbing support

As you can see they’ve more than doubled in height, at this rate they may be through the top in another 4-5 months? In any case I’ll post an update in about another 4 months. Here’s one more picture so you can see the height at a different angle.

Dragon fruit climbing support post

So far I am happy with the support system but it really isn’t doing much yet. It seems very strong and stable and I didn’t use any concrete to hold the base in place, the 6×6 post has a lot of weight so that may help. If it turns out to work really well I’ll probably build two more and at that time I’ll create detailed plans for anyone else that wants to use the same design.

Happy planting!

 

Banana Circles!

A typical banana circle is a hole dug into the ground with the excavated dirt mounded around the hole in which the banana plants are placed. The hole is then filled with organic material (mulch, tree trimmings) to help feed the plants and to maintain moisture. Sometimes they are incorporated into sloped land to also help capture water runoff for the banana plants. Other plants can also be incorporated to help control weeds, pests, or just make the circle more attractive or productive.

I’ve created two banana circles at Three Acre Paradise (link to types of bananas planted) with plans of at least one more. The design is a little different, there’s no need to try to capture water as that is not a problem here. Whenever we get heavy rains there can be standing water for up to a couple of weeks which has proven to be a problem for many plants. The design here is to create a mound right on top of the ground instead of digging a hole. I have a source of very rich topsoil which should make the banana plants quite happy.

Here’s the first step, just dropping the topsoil on the ground in an almost circular shape. The center hols is about 6 feet across and the diameter of the outer circle is about 15 feet. You can see how wet the ground is, it’s already seeping up into the dirt at the bottom.

Banana circle dirt mound

Next, clean up the circular shape.

Banana circle leveled

Drop the mulch in the middle. I’ve got several piles of this thanks to a local tree trimming company.

Banana circle mulched

Last, plant bananas. This circle has Hua Moa Bananas along with some Okra and Pigeon Peas direct seeded.

Banana circle planted

Here’s the other circle, it has Cavendish Bananas, Sunflowers, and a Cowpeas. One of the banana plants (the larger scraggly cold damaged one) was moved from a different part of the property.

Second banana circle

Once the companion plants begin to grow I’ll add some other plants, possibly squash and pole beans. It’s sort of a three sisters setup but with perennial plants. I’ll post updates in three months or sooner if things change quickly.

Happy planting!