Friday, 18 May 2012

WAITATI OPEN ORCHARD

by Hilary Rowley
There is some WOO action coming up. Anyone wanting to be part of the interesting bunch of people pottering round with fruit trees in the streets of Waitati, should get down to the area known as the Riverside Patch on Orokonui Road at 10am on Saturday 16 June. This is a lovely place beside the river, and will be gorgeous in future years when the fruit trees have grown, and it has a lovely cleared picnic spot. Take your garden tidying tools and the makings of morning tea.  If the weather is bad on the Saturday, the Sunday is the replacement day.
 
Wise words from Jason (the WOO orchard guru) are: don't prune yet, wait a bit until Jason runs one of his pruning workshops later on and learn all about the fine art (or is it a craft?) of getting your fruit-bearing plants in the best possible shape for the next season. The thing to do in the fruit orchard now is to divide, spread and plant perennial orchard companion plants. These attract beneficial insects, aid in pollination, and keep infections at bay. Try sweet cicely, creeping and Russian comfrey, feverfew, nasturtium, alyssium, chives.  This will attract humans to your orchard too, by making it a luxuriant, relaxing place.
 
Two pruning jobs which can be done now are grapes and raspberries. It's much easier to prune raspberries when the old fruit stalks can still be seen on the canes. The aim is to prune out anything that has fruited this summer. You start by looking at the tops, then cutting off the old cane at ground level, but after a while it becomes easy to spot the old canes just by their colour at the base. Any canes that are still fruiting can be left, as they will probably fruit again in early summer. Chop up your prunings and use them as kindling. Don't leave them lying about to spread disease.
 
Grapes need to be pruned back quite harshly. You basically have the long leaders that you are training along your wall, deck or wire and prune each branch back to within two buds of the leader. These buds will bear your fruit next year. I recently read that if you have more than one main leader they must be at about the same height as each other, otherwise the lower one will not fruit. If you want to train layered branches of grapes across a wall, you will have to do it with more than one plant.
 
Sitting on our bench at the moment is a big pile of grape bunches grown outside in North East Valley with no frost protection. They are a variety called Siebel, a Canadian wine grape which seems a very hardy variety. We have some growing in Orokonui that have fruited already, though it will be a long time before we can make wine. I will try and distribute some cuttings to WOO members if anyone is interested.

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