Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Waitati Open Orchards

By Hilary Rowley

It seems late October and November are slow times for orchardists. I've searched every garden book, magazine and newspaper article I have, but no one had anything to suggest except spraying. It's probably good timing really, as it's far too busy a time in the vegetable garden to be looking for trouble with trees.
There are a heap of insects that can eat your fruit trees, but when it comes to spraying with anything for insects, it pays to think of the bees first. Bees all over the world are in crisis, and are extremely necessary to our global food production.
If there is any chance of risking the lives of bees, don't spray. The importance of our meagre backyard fruit trees pales in comparison to the need to look after the bees.
Companion planting, in combination with general plant and soil health should keep the insects at bay. Here are some suggestions I have found. I can't vouch for the scientific accuracy of this information though. Plant these around your trees:
Chives:  Against apple tree scab, gooseberry mildew, and aphids.
Nasturtium: Planted around trees, the aromatic essence passes through the roots into the surrounding soil, and is taken up by the tree to repel insects. Bees, however seem to love visiting nasturtium.
Mustard and legumes: Intercrop between fruit trees and grapevines.
Hyssop: Increases grape yield and also attracts cabbage butterfly (away from your cabbages hopefully).
Pyrethrum : I use this planted in pots in the glasshouse, and it does really work. If there is an aphid attack on the tomatoes I shift a pot under the worst affected plants and the aphids soon decamp. I would say it would work equally well under fruit trees. Seeds are available from Kings Seeds.
Also of benefit under fruit trees are: Stinging nettle, garlic, tansy, horse radish, and southern wood.
Grass has been found to suppress the root growth of apples and pears, so keep your trees weeded and mulched.
There is one job in the home fruit garden which will be good to do now, if there is time, and that is to mulch under the soft fruit  bushes with lots of rich compost. They will thank you for it by fruiting prolifically.
If you want to actually eat some of this bounty you are growing, rather than feeding the birds, then you will need to organise some nets. Net them before they ripen, and before the birds figure out what is  growing there. We use, (and reuse many times) net bought from the fruit growers' supply shop in Alexandra. We got a large roll and it has paid for itself many times over. If you don't mind some mending, Wastebusters in Alexandra (it's like the dump shop in Dunedin, but better) sells huge bundles of used grape netting really cheaply.
If you don't have a fruit garden, the roadside apple trees look like they have a massive amount of blossom on them, so it may be a good season for apples, and juice, and cider.

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