A grower shares that the less care they give their soursop tree, the better it seems to grow on its own. Soursop, or guanabana trees, don't do too well in cold climates. They grow best in hardiness zones from 10-12.
People usually graft them as a starting point although starting from seeds is possible. You can grow soursop in pots like 3-gallon pots. These trees can get up to 26 ft (8 m) high.
How Do I Get My Soursop Tree to Bear Fruit?
To get soursop tree to bear fruit, you could try an unusual trick of hitting some nails crossing into the trunk of the tree. Counter-intuitive as it may sound, this puts the tree into sort of an emergency mode. It will fight for its survival.
For the first 3 years of being nailed like this, the tree just grows normally like nothing happened. But in the 4th year, it will catch on growth and produces a lot of fruits.
Growing Soursop in Containers
Soursop trees generally don't like wet feet. So if you're growing them in containers, make sure the pots have good drainage holes. You could use garden soil but potting mix could also work as it allows the trees to aerate.
Starting the Soursop from Seeds
You can start soursop from seeds. The seeds usually take 4-8 weeks to germinate. When sowing the seeds, you can place the pointed end of the seed down. It's usually where the root will sprout out first. You don't have to do this but doing this may just give a hand for the seeds sprout up a little faster. Put them about 1 inch (2.5 cm) into the soil and cover them up with a thin layer of soil.
You can then water the seeds and make sure the soil drains. Keep the seed container in a warm place with bright light but not intense direct sunlight. Also keep the soil moist. Some growers also soak the seeds, especially dry ones, in water before sowing just to compensate for the moisture loss. Some also remove that thin white coating on the seeds to help with germination.
When the seeds have germinated, you can introduce them to more sunlight. The little sprouts will look like a little brown hook. In no time, they'll get straight up and shoot out little green leaves.
Taking Care of Seedlings
When they start getting taller into bigger seedlings, you can let them enjoy more full sun. The seedlings love sunlight but just not scorching direct sun. So if you're growing the soursop in your backyard, you could plant some kind of trees like a papaya tree, a banana tree or an ash tree to act kind of like a buffer zone to filter out the harsh sunlight.
For fertilizing, you can lightly fertilize the seedlings every 3 months. Organic fertilizer is fine although it might attract some flies and other insects. The trees seem to love compost like those from fruit or vegetable scraps. To make such compost, you could put the scraps in a container. In about 2 months, they might have turned into usable dirt and soil. Some earthworms could also help the soil aerate.
In the winter, if the temperature drops below 40F (4C) or so, you may want to move the tree indoors. You can place them in a greenhouse or polytunnel. Some soursop trees now may lose all their leaves. Remember to water less during the winter months. Spraying seaweed fertilizer and lots of potassium in the summer could also help with frost protection in winter.
The good news is the lost leaves will grow back when the weather warms up. As long as the trunk is still there, the tree will survive. In places like Arizona, high winds may also thrash the leaves. But don't worry, those leaves will grow back out again. And the soursop tree will bounce back. Many soursop trees have survived through rough winters in such way.
Potting and Re-potting the Soursop
Starting soursop in a pot, you can use a 3-gallon pot. Then move up to a 7-gallon and then a 15- to 20-gallon pot. The tree can grow in pots for its first few years but not forever. Because it'll get up to its size, which usually outgrows most pots.
When you're doing the repotting, you could pull out the roots in the root ball a bit. This could help break the sort of 'root memory' of going circling all around to expand more outwards in the new bigger pot.
Remember to choose a container that is wide enough but not way too big. This is so extra moisture won't be sitting there attracting unwanted visitors like bugs and fungi, especially when the rainy season is coming near. Thus, causing root rot to the tree.
You may just put the soil about an inch below the container mouth. This is so there won't be any splashes of soil when you do the watering.
Growing Soursop in the Ground
If you get a soursop tree from a nursery, make sure that it is not staked too heavily. Staking is when they use bamboo poles to support the young plant.
While it is okay to stake the trees when they are still young, too much staking for bigger trees might mean a weaker root system. The poles might limit the tree ability to move out its roots and stand on its own. Therefore, you may end up with a weak tree. So just look out for those.
For seed-grown trees in pot, you may want to transfer them into the ground when they reach the size in a 20-gallon pot. To plant the tree into the ground, you can dig a hole into the soil. It can be at least a foot (30 cm) deep. Or more specifically, about 36 inches (90 cm) wide by 2 feet (60 cm) deep.
You can, however, plant the tree on the soil surface. However, it's a good idea to loosen the surface a bit by digging in about a foot (30 cm). Staking the tree in the early stage can help it withstand strong wind. And also, the ideal soil pH for soursop trees is around 6.5.
You can test the soil drainage before planting the soursop tree in. If it's quite sandy at the base of the hole, the soil can drain well. In other cases, if you're not very familiar with how your soil drains, you may want to fill a hole up with water and see how it drains.
If the soil doesn't seem to drain well, you may want to find a different spot in your yard. Or raise the plant up into a mound so the soursop tree won't be suffering from wet feet. These guys like it a little bit more dry.
The Usage of Mycorrhizal Fungi
Also, have you heard about that thing called mycorrhizal fungi? These are the kind of root fungi that live on the roots of most plants. Or more specifically, about 90% of vascular plants on Earth have these.
In their relationship, the plants feed the fungi the sugars they make from photosynthesis from the sun while the fungi give the plants back the chopped-up yummy nutrient bits like phosphorous. The fungi also defend the roots of plants from diseases. It's a mutually beneficial relationship. Or a win-win for the whole family.
The thing is, if your underground water source comes from city water and not from say a lake or a well, chances are it may very likely contain chlorine (the stuff that kills bacteria and cleans the water). This may not be good for the mycorrhizal fungi because the chlorine may kill them off. And thus, removing any good associated benefits the mycorrhizal fungi have to offer.
If you have chlorinated underground water, you may not want to use these. However, if you have lake, well or rainwater, it'll be fine.
Planting the Soursop
Before planting the tree in the hole, you could kind of rough up the roots a bit. This means, simply pulling the roots out of their circling root-bound shape. Unlike what some growers think, doing this won't kill your plants or roots. It may just help the roots expand out more.
When putting the tree into the hole, you'd want it to be a little bit above the grade (that is about 1-2 inches or 2-4 cm above). This is so that the water can run off easily and not get stagnated or pooled around. You can use a hose to water the soil while back filling the hole. This is to get rid of any air pockets.
On top of the base, you could make a mound of mulch or compost around the base of the plant to retain a bit of moisture. Then, for the first week or two, keep watering it everyday. Then adjust the watering based on your temperature, wind or drainage.
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