Monday, 7 October 2013

WAITATI OPEN ORCHARD: A Growing Branch of the Waitati Edible Gardeners¹ Group

by Hilary Rowley


I got a message from Jason Ross to say that the open orchard trees are looking so good that people are commenting on their health and vigour. In case you have not met these trees, they are on the verges of Brown and Pitt streets, and there are some on the river bank on Orokonui Road beside the new walking track. Thanks to Karen, Rosemary, Derek and anyone else for doing this season’s pruning to a lot of the trees, only a few to go.


Jenny Hayden donated some seeds from her apricot tree which fruits well; this is up above the school, so probably avoids the frost we get down lower.  It must have been a while ago, too, because Jason has grown them into sturdy young fruit trees, ready to be planted in the Orokonui Road orchard, to replace deceased peach trees. The peach trees had a nasty case of leaf curl … this is a cautionary tale. I hope we get some fruit from them, but it may just be when the timing of the blossoms and the frost don't coincide. Our apricot, a wee bit higher up the hill on Orokonui Road, was hit by the wicked frost we had in mid-September. Oh well, maybe next time.


We recently took delivery of a cool device called a Piteba oil press. It’s sort of a cousin to a mincer, and designed so people in third world countries can have a micro-business making cooking oil from seed they grow themselves. We think it will add to the food security of Blueskin Bay, and maybe we're getting a bit third world, too. It is hard work, but makes beautifully flavoured oil from black sunflower seeds and possibly linseed, though we haven't tried these yet. Ideally, if people want to grow their own seed they can use this machine to make their own oil, and develop powerful upper bodies cranking the handle. A kilogram of seed yields about 500 grams of oil.


A recent conversation about the importance of timing in the vegetable garden came up with the conclusion that the best book on the subject is the Star Garden Guide because it is so local. I love the old editions, as they are still in the words of the old guy who trained as a ‘big house’ gardener in England, before spending the rest of his life gardening in Dunedin. I'm sure the new editions have the same helpful information though, and it is so much easier just doing what he suggests, and getting a perfectly-timed, successful vegetable garden as a result. Delicious.

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