The custard apple, botanically known as Annona reticulata, is a tropical fruit known for its custard texture and sweet taste.
This fruit is commonly grown in Central and South America and has recently gained popularity in other parts of the world.
If you want to grow custard apple trees, this guide will provide all the information you need to ensure a bountiful harvest.
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Custard Apple (Annona reticulata) Quick Care Guide
|Common names||Custard apple, Bullock’s heart, Cuban Chirimoya|
|Scientific name||Annona reticulata|
|Months of harvest||March through July|
|Sun requirements||Full sun for best fruit production|
|Water requirements||Once to twice a week when fruiting and flowering|
|Soil requirements||Can grow in various soils as long as well draining|
|Fertilizer requirements||Fertilize two to three times per year with slow-release|
|Pests||Annona seed borer, potato leaf hopper, whiteflies, scale|
What is a Custard Apple Tree?
A custard apple tree is a tropical fruit tree that belongs to the Annonaceae family. It is native to Central and South America.
The tree can grow up to 30 feet tall and has large, green leaves. The fruit is round or heart-shaped and covered in smooth glossy skin. The fruit contains white, creamy pulp and large, black seeds.
Custard Apple Varieties
Custard apple cultivars include
- Fernandez – a dark red custard apple
- San Pablo – A red / pink custard apple
- Cuban – A white / Yellow custard apple
- Bullocks Heart – A red custard apple
- Sarteneja – a red custard apple
Choosing the Right Location
Custard apple trees require a warm and humid climate to grow well. They are best grown in tropical or subtropical regions with temperatures between 77 – 95 °F.
The tree also requires a lot of sunlight, so choosing a location with at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day is essential. Additionally, the tree should be protected from strong winds, which can damage the leaves and fruit.
Custard apple trees prefer well-drained soils that are rich in organic matter. The soil should have a pH between 6.0-7.0.
The tree does not do well in waterlogged soils, so ensuring the soil is well-drained is essential.
Consider amending your soil with compost or other organic matter to improve drainage if your soil is heavy clay.
Planting Custard Apple Trees
Custard apple trees can be planted from seeds or grafted plants. Seeds are the most economical option, but producing fruit can take two to three years.
Grafted plants, on the other hand, will start producing fruit within 1-2 years. When planting custard apple trees, make sure to dig a hole that is slightly larger than the root ball.
The tree should be planted at the same depth as in the nursery pot or slightly above ground level. After planting, water the tree well and mulch around the base to help retain moisture.
Custard apple trees require regular watering, especially during the growing season. The tree should be watered deeply once or twice a week, depending on the soil moisture level.
It is important not to overwater the tree, which can lead to root rot. Watering the tree more frequently during the dry season may be necessary to ensure it stays healthy.
Fertilizing Custard Apple Trees
Custard apple trees require regular fertilization to promote healthy growth and fruit production.
The tree should be fertilized with a balanced fertilizer every 2-3 months during the growing season.
A slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote 15-9-12 or Florikan is recommended for growing custard apple trees.
It is essential not to over-fertilize the tree, which can lead to excessive vegetative growth and reduced fruit production.
To ensure the tree receives the proper nutrients, you can apply a foliar spray of micronutrients, such as zinc and iron, every 2-3 months.
Check out this article for an in-depth guide on the best tropical fruit tree fertilizers.
Pruning and Training Custard Apple Trees
Pruning and training custard apple trees is essential to promote healthy growth and maximize fruit production.
Removing dead or diseased branches and any branches crossing or rubbing against each other is best.
This will improve air circulation and sunlight penetration, leading to better fruit production. You can also shape the tree by removing any branches growing in the wrong direction or too low.
Pest and Disease Control
Custard apple trees are susceptible to various pests and diseases, such as potato leaf hoppers, annona seed borers, fruit flies, scale insects, and powdery mildew.
You can use insecticides or organic solutions such as pyganic to control pests. To prevent diseases, ensure proper sanitation practices by frequently checking for pests and taking action when you notice them early.
Custard apples are more susceptible to the Annona seed borer, an Annona pest that burrows within the custard apple seeds and infects fruits to make them inedible.
A safe way to control the annona seed borers is by bagging your custard apple fruits when they are the size of a marble to prevent this pest from ruining your custard apples.
Custard apple trees that receive more sun often face fewer pest issues than those that grow in the shade.
Harvesting Custard Apples
Custard apples are usually ready for harvest 4-5 months after flowering. The fruit should be picked when it is still firm but slightly soft to the touch.
To avoid damaging the fruit, use pruning shears or a sharp knife to cut it off the tree, leaving a small stem attached.
Storing Custard Apples
Custard apples can be stored at room temperature for a few days but should be consumed soon after harvesting for the best flavor and texture.
You can store the fruit in the refrigerator for up to a week, but its recommended to eat it as fast as possible once it starts to turn soft.
Using Custard Apples
Custard apples can be used in various ways, such as in smoothies, ice creams, and custards.
The fruit can also be eaten fresh by scooping out the flesh or cutting it into slices; it is essential to wait until the fruit is soft first.
Frequently Asked Questions About Custard Apples
Q: How long does a custard apple tree take to bear fruit?
A: Custard apple trees usually bear fruit 3-4 years after planting.
Q: Do custard apple trees require pollination?
A: Custard apple trees are usually self-pollinating, but cross-pollination can improve fruit set and quality.
Q: Can custard apples be grown in pots?
A: Custard apple trees can be grown in pots, but they require regular pruning and fertilization to stay healthy.
Q: How do I know if a custard apple is ripe?
A: A ripe custard apple should be slightly soft to the touch and have a sweet aroma.
Q: Are custard apples high in calories?
A: Custard apples are relatively low in calories, with only about 95 calories per 100 grams of fruit.
Growing custard apples can be a fun and rewarding experience as long as you follow the right care guidelines. You can grow healthy trees that produce delicious fruits by choosing the right site, providing proper soil and water requirements, and controlling pests and diseases. With a bit of patience and care, you can enjoy the sweet and creamy flavor of custard apples in your garden.
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