Plating dragon fruit plants in pots
Dragon fruit plants can grow very well in containers–a fact little known to most growers. When choosing a container, the trick is to look for the width of the pots and not so much the depth of it.
Dragon fruit plants grow shallow but far-reaching roots that crawl far out to find food. In root-bound conditions or too small pots, they may grow very slowly & be in dormancy most of the time.
Choosing a pot
A 15- or 20- gallon pot would be good for 1-2 cuttings. A bigger 50- to 100- gallon pot would be fine for 2 or more plants. Make sure there's some good drainage holes for the water to flow out.
When planting, don't overcrowd the space. It may cause root competition & slower development. People often plant companion dragon fruit varieties together. Those that can cross pollinate with each other in a pot. Some varieties don't do well together in the same space.
While fabric pots may be cheaper, growers find that they don't work well for planting in the long run. It may be a heat/moisture issue. Others that work okay for this purpose is regular plastic pots, bigger terracotta pots & sometimes steel, plastic or porcelain-coated steel inner tub of old washing machines.
- Clean drums cut in half
These drums are about 50 to 55 gallons. Mr Lien, a grower in Riverside, shared with us his setup. The pots are about knees high. Beneath them, he puts some bricks as risers to so the water can flow out easily & not be stagnated.
- Terracotta pots
Terracotta or clay pots provide good air flow. They can withstand the heat & cold quite well. Although they are heavier than plastic drums, they are durable & won't be knocked out by the wind.
- Inner tub washing machines
- Regular plastic containers
Building the post
The key thing for the dragon fruit post is that it won't cause root rot, release toxic chemicals or lose too much moisture.
Height & width
The height of the post can be around 5-6ft (1.5-1.8m). It's just enough for a person to be able to pick the fruits. And it's not too high that the dragon fruit branches will keep climbing on forever. Reaching the top & branching out helps with fruit growth.
Take note of how deep you'll be planting the post in. If it's about 1-1.5ft (30-45 cm) then we'll have about 5ft (1.5m) of post from the top of container up.
Many people use a 4x4 inch square post. A round cylindrical post also works. Some like the square one better because it provides a flat surface for the branches to lean on. Now let's choose some post materials.
Chemically treated wood may not be the best idea for dragon fruit posts. They may release toxic chemicals into the soil. Pine, red wood, yellow lumbar work well for this. Pressure treated wood or bamboo is also good. Wood holds some moisture so the plants air roots can latch on & enjoy. In some climate however wood may rot & fail after some years.
PVC plumbing pipes also work as supporting poles. You may want to block the open ends so small stuff won't come inside or reproduce it in. Some wrap a PVC wrapper around a wooden post to prevent early rotting. A PVC cement mix can work. It makes this overall weight a bit heavier & the post more sturdy.
You can also try tomato cages. They are cheap & work okay for growing dragon fruits. If the plants branch out quite a bit, the cage may be a bit flimsy to support their overall weight. Pruning off some branches can help in this case.
To increase the moisture retention of the climbing poles, people wrap coco coir mat or burlap around it. These are good cheap materials. They also make coco coir poles that you can purchase & plant immediately.
The pros of choosing living posts is that you can just grab them alive or naturally around your environment. The up-front costs & work is much lighter. As dragon fruits can survive well by getting nutrients from the host trees, you can let the vines hanging on them.
Erythrina orientalis. L and Samanea Saman (monkey pod or tree rain) are good living host posts. If you live around a saline environment, try mangroves. They survive the saline water extremely well & can be a good host to the dragon fruits. In some orchards in Hawaii, they also use ice cream bean tree. It's a great nitrogen fixer that gets along well with dragon fruit plants.
The cons of living posts is, you guessed it, nutrient competition. You need to take care of the host & the babies. This may affect fruit production & growth.
The top support
The top platform should be strong enough so strong wind or storm won't break off the dragon fruit branches. Also, it should be able to balance the plants, especially when they get bigger & heavier, so the weight won't make the structure tip over to the side. Some materials might be a house for other little creatures like rats, ants or mosquitoes.
Old tires has good curve to support the umbrella hanging of the dragon fruits. Look out for mosquitoes because sometimes they house inside the tires. Drill holes through the tires so there's no standing water inside, which is a good breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Thinner tires are good if you don't like something too heavy that might collapse your post. You can connect the tire to the post using wires or some rebar. This platform goes well with wood, cement or PVC posts. A recycled tire costs about $5. The average diameter is 24 in (60cm).
Wood rectangles are easy to install, especially if you have a wooden post. Drill in some general-purpose 8x2.5 inch screws to secure it to the post. And you're good to go. The edges of this platform are not quite smooth & curvy. Strong wind just might break the branches. Yellow lumbar is good for this top support. But you may need to replace it after some years.
Planting dragon fruits in ground
When planting dragon fruits in ground, growers usually take note of the weather pattern in the local area. These can help you find the right material & design for protection against:
- Heavy rain
- Strong wind/storm
- Stuff in the soil
From these considerations, the #1 material for dragon fruit post in the ground is...
Cement or concrete is a good post material. It is heavy so it won't be knocked out by the wind easily. A 6ft post weighs around 200lbs (with rebar inside). This stuff lasts a long time. It doesn't cause root rots. Dragon fruit air roots grab on concrete posts well & don't cause no cracking.
Inside the cement post, they usually put steel rods or rebar to reinforce it. The piece of rebar that sticks out is also used as the top support when the branches spread out. You may or may not want this piece of steel sticking out because moisture or rain may cause rusting.
Here are the dimensions of the post:
The rebar inside is 5.5ft (1.7m) with diameter from 0.23-0.31 in. (6-8mm). You can use three & wrap them into a triangle shape as the core support inside the post.
A closer look:
They have these 4-post molds made from steel. After placing the rebar in, they pour the concrete in & let it cure. When the top surface seems dry after 15-20 minutes, they lift up the mold so the concrete won't solidify with the mold. There's no oil or release agent sprayed in the mold. It releases quite easily.
Here are the finished cement posts:
If you're making just a few posts, you can make the form or mold to pour concrete in using wood or steel. As you can see, this takes a ton of work. Many mass-production farms do this because these posts are very durable. They last 60-70 years or more. Which is more than enough for a life of a dragon fruit (50-60 years).
The material costs (concrete, sand, rebar, gravel aggregate) + hiring labor costs are around $5 to $9 per post, not counting the shipping fees & other stuff. This shipping fees are the bulky part. This varies depending on where you live. But it's an okay investment for long term.
Check also this video if you want to make square individual posts. Here he makes the 6ft cement post with 6x6 in. (15x15 cm) diameter:
The reason some people don't like square posts is because it's never actually square or straight at the corners. The concrete almost never fills up the 4 corners, creating a more rounded shape around the edges.
This is a great video showing you how to make cylindrical cement posts:
There's another style you can try:
This fencing style has one cement post spaced out 3 meters from the next one. There's a PVC pipe on top. They anchor the fence with PVC pipes on both sides, creating a X or A shape.
Along the fence are wood posts closely placed against the wires to secure it from wind. The cost for raising up 1 meter (3.2ft) of fence this way is about $10 more or less.
This one is kind of similar. We're not sure but maybe it's called the A-shape trellis. They have a weed mat underneath.
T-posts + 17-gauge galvanized steel wire is another inexpensive but sturdy trellis system.
Don't over-complicate it
Finally, whatever trellis design you choose, don't over-complicate it. The main points to keep in mind are usually:
- Protection against rotting
- Weather protection (rain/heat/snow/wind)
- Insects/pests issues
- Up-front costs/maintenance
Hopefully this ideas guide has given you some ideas to get started building your own trellis. We now know some of the materials, their pros & cons, and the dimensions good for application. If there's any parts that are unclear, please let us know. Happy to help & have fun growing and harvesting dragon fruits! Cheers.
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