Although they require more time, fruit and nut trees are more rewarding and require far less maintenance once established. Nut trees are especially easy and produce a perfect 'whole food'. Plan your selection well and take the height and width of the adult tree into account. Consider their many uses, such as shade, recreation for children and food value. I plant small fast growing trees such as papaya and banana between the more slow growing trees as they mature and fruit before the other trees take over and dominate - and it is no great loss if they get shaded out and die. Also, if you are planting in a row consider alternating between trees that put their fruit outside the foliage and trees that put their fruit inside the foliage, so as to reduce the transmission of any diseases. I have planted a lot of trees that may not be suitable for this area, but they are fairly close together with papaya and passionfruit vines growing between them. This way if something doesn't grow well the space will not be wasted.

Once you've selected your trees, the most important thing to do is prepare the soil well so that the tree grows quickly. After a fishing trip I keep all my fish frames, as well as any kitchen meat and bone scraps, in the freezer. When planting a tree I dig a deep whole and bury these under the new seedling. Occasionally a possum that has been killed on the road in front of my house ends up as fertiliser. Be creative. I also mix in garden cuttings, lawn clippings, kitchen vegetable scraps or whatever is available. When I prune trees I normally cut the branches up into small pieces so that the leaves can be buried around a new tree without taking up too much room and leaving empty air spaces.

Food trees on public land

I once tried asking the council to plant more fruit and nut trees on public land. They tried a number of excuses for not doing it. One bureaucrat even told me that if I take the fruit from public trees it is stealing, which made me feel like this was the middle ages and the king owned all the public land. Eventually I got him to concede that it was a non-issue and that the council would never prosecute anyone, however I suspect he still thinks it is a valid reason for the council not to plant fruit and nut trees. The vermin problem is more of a real issue, however people should be encouraged to take the fruit. Fruit trees take a long time to grow, and nut trees even longer. This is far longer than people usually rent a house for, and probably longer than many people own a house for, so it makes sense for the council to plant fruit trees on public land and to do some basic maintenance on them. With bunya pines in particular there is a genuine concern about liability and the council actually removes cones from many trees late in the year so they don't fall on people's heads. However this is more a problem of lack of planning. Most bunya pines are planted prominently as ornamental trees in parks where people can sit under them (eg the botanical gardens in the Brisbane CBD). There is a lot of public land that is on steep slopes that would be far more suitable for a productive grove of bunyas.

It is a very good sign that councils are moving towards growing native trees rather than introduced species. However, if they took a holistic view they would see that it makes far more sense to grow food trees in the suburbs and let native trees grow in wild areas. It is not good for sustainability to try to recreate wild lands in the suburbs when we will never get a truly wild place, while at the same time chopping down forests to grow food to transport into the city. It is as if the council is 'in cahoots' with major supermarket chains to keep people dependent on supermarkets and commercial agriculture for food. In poorer countries where the people are far more practical, a significant portion of people's food is grown in the cities. Obviously, slightly different methods would be needed as we wouldn't want agricultural chemicals being sprayed around in the suburbs. This does not rule out growing food in the cities, it just demands a slightly different approach - growing low maintenance trees and using biological controls for pests. One of the main reasons for the heavy use of chemicals in commercial agriculture is the high concentration of genetically identical plants that are highly susceptible to diseases. This will not be a problem in the suburbs where tree selection will be driven by other factors.

See the bunya article for many locations where bunya pines grow.

Brazil cherries:
UQ, Jocks Road and top of Staff House Road.
Alexandra Av, Eumundi