Monday, 20 May 2013

WAITATI OPEN ORCHARDS: A Growing Branch of the Waitati Edible Gardeners' Group

by Hilary Rowley

Winter is here at last and our garden, for one, is packed up and put to bed for a couple of months. The only fruits still in action are the tomatoes in the glasshouse, and the myrtus ugnii -- actually, the birds may have got those as I haven't slid down to that part of the garden for a couple of weeks. I expect the ones at the skateboard area will be fruiting so get down there for a nibble, and pull some weeds while you are there.

It's planting season for fruit trees. Try and select varieties that suit this area but there is no harm, except a loss of money, in trying to push the boundaries to see if anything more challenged by your environment will grow. Gullies, basins and the flat are frostier, so plant hardy fruits there. Apples, pears, quinces and plums can handle frost better. Wind is bad for fruit trees, so shelter from the prevailing wind is a good idea. We suffer from the north and north-easterly winds in summer, and there isn't much we can do about it on a north-facing slope. The southerly would be the meanest wind locally, so do try to get a wall, a shelter belt, a hedge or a hill between your fruit and it.
Ask the advice of plant nursery people; ask the advice of your local gardeners' club; ask the advice of people who have lived in the area for a long time. Local botanical knowledge is so easily lost as it is stored in people's heads but really useful knowledge, like the varieties which do particularly well here and the location of amazingly prolific trees for cuttings, can be gleaned over a cup of tea and a biscuit. I have a few garden diaries my father kept of his planting times and successful vegetable varieties to be grown at Chatto Creek; not much use here, but there will be such knowledge stored in the diaries or heads of Blueskin Bay locals. I can see a university research project coming on for someone.
Happy knowledge hunting and tree planting.

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