Friday, 23 November 2012

WAITATI OPEN ORCHARDS

by Hilary Rowley and Jason Ross

The Waitati Open Orchards (WOO) group did a weeding/mulching party around some of the fruit trees a couple of weekends ago. The trees look great -- lots of healthy growth and baby fruits. It's cool that the new walkway will be passing the Orokonui riverside patch of fruit trees. That will be a great place for a browsing picnic in the not-too-distant future.
Once again the WOO news deadline looms. I was going to write a bit about strawberries, as I have just eaten the first of the season from our garden. I got sick of trying to find the strawberries amongst the cursed convolvulous, so I dug them all up, and planted them in buckets and boxes in some pure horse poo and sawdust. They are looking better than I have ever seen them, and taste delicious!  I may just leave them there for a couple of years until I can transplant them into a nice new strawberry patch with no invaders.  Jason has saved me from having to write more about orchards and fruit-growing by sending the following perfectly timed little bulletin.  Thanks Jason, I will leave the rest of this month's newsletter to you.
 
Early Summer in the Orchard
 
It is a beautiful time of year out in the orchard. We enjoyed some good conversation and garden tip sharing recently when we were out working in the Waitati Open Orchards. Here are a few tips for timely activities for early summer in the orchard:
  • It is worth doing a quick pull-up of the weeds that have taken hold in the spring flush in the mulch under your trees and bushes -- before they become monsters!
  • Thin the fruit that has set, apples to about two fruits per cluster, take the centre 'king' out first. My big 'Wilson's Early' plum set so much fruit last year I just shook it to thin the fruit.
  • Thin new shoots on raspberries of both summer and autumn varieties.
  • Summer pruning can start now; this is good for vigorous, established plants, encouraging them to fruit. Take out young crowding growth that is not needed for new branches. Great for gooseberries, and over-vigorous fruit trees, such as those out-of-control plums!
  • Prep your strawberry beds with pine needles over compost.  When they start running, ruthlessly take out any runners you don't want for new plants; you'll get a lot more fruit.
  • Cover your fruit with bird netting.  Consider covering the lot from a permanent perimeter fence that can then contain chickens in the winter to weed and fertilise the area for you.
  • Chop and drop the dynamic accumulator, nitrogen-fixing, ground cover and companion herbs, such as sweet cicely and comfrey, under your fruits. This feeds the soil, keeps weeds at bay.
  • Make a mix of vegetable and herb seeds and scatter them into gaps in the fruit, vegetable and even the ornamental garden. It is a pleasure to harvest the succession of abundance that follows. Try: daikon, rocket, mizuna, lettuce, carrot, silver beet, coriander, dandelion, miners' lettuce, red Russian kale, flat leaf parsley….
A fantastic book new to Dunedin public libraries is The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips. This book includes many well-tested methods for fruit growing. I like his emphasis on soil fertility through use of woody material and companion plants, including dandelion (which is delicious at this time of year) to feed soil fungi and in turn your fruit plants. His principles are sound but he comes from a different bioregion so his variety recommendations are not all suited to us.  This is a very in-depth book. For a more accessible book I regularly reference How to Make a Forest Garden by Patrick Whitefield. This is more climatically suitable and delves into all aspects of a permaculture food forest.

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