Thursday, 19 August 2010

Waitati Open Orchards

By Jason Ross

August and September may just be my favourite gardening months. Signs
of spring in the plants really boost me along as I finish up my
favourite winter gardening tasks. I enjoy the biological puzzle of
pruning fruit trees and the relationship that develops with these
wonderful food plants. It is best to finish up winter pruning to
encourage strong growth by mid September.
I love planting fruit and nut trees too, I was out at Seacliff helping
with their open orchard planting, but escaped before the rain. I hear
it all got planted and it looks great, so check it out. Planting of
bare rooted trees should be finished up in early September, but
planting bagged trees can continue, although it is best  to get them
in as soon as possible so they can make the most of early spring
growth in the ground.
The season of dividing and transplanting perennials is sadly coming to
an end too. I much prefer working with perennial food plants than
annuals that need replanting each year or several times each season.
The annuals I do like are those that self-seed readily, especially
those that provide salad through the winter such as miner's lettuce,
rocket, mizuna, Stellaria (chick weed) and flat leaved parsley. To
maximise use of space, and minimise work, I tend to cluster my
perennial vegetables in combination with fruit trees and berry shrubs,
as many of them are semi-shade tolerant. I am constantly digging out
those we don't use much and dividing and planting more of what we do
use. Sorrel, dandelion, perennial leeks and spring onions, rhubarb and
perennial rocket are favourites.
It's time to sow seeds now too, I am keen to get more sea beet
growing, this is the wild ancestor of silver beet, an acceptable
alternative and a perennial that does well here.
Multi-layered gardens of fruit and nut trees, with berry fruits
beneath and perennial and self-seeding vegetables, salad plants and
herbs have the lovely feeling of deciduous woodlands about them. A
strength of diversity and wildness, a productive beauty that is
wonderful to inhabit and to gather from.
Perhaps some of our Open Orchards could incorporate edible woodland
design? The library has a very good practical book on the subject:
'How to make a forest garden' by Patrick Whitefield.
We may have one more 'patch' to plant for this season. Would you like
some fruit trees out the front of your house? Contact us, or you could
adopt a tree in a nearby patch to care for. All trees planted by WOO
are for anyone in Waitati to harvest from.
Jason Ross, 482 2625, waitatiopenorchard@gmail.com

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