John's Garden Newsletters

John Bodycoat works for Conservation & Land management as a lecturer in the advanced diploma in agriculture and horticulture courses. He writes a Newsletter most months which is printed in Mandurah area newspapers. He has agreed to share the articles on our website.

January 2016 in the Suburban Orchard

With Christmas and New Year behind us, we can now spend more hours in our gardens and look at our fruit trees, as we may have not had time to marvel at what is behind the house because of the festivities.

I always like to plan what I would like to make or grow in my garden and use a ‘’garden diary’’ to let me know how my yearly plans are developing.

This is quite important when there are seasonal jobs to do in our gardens and orchard. These include spraying times, designing a new area in your patch for a new variety of fruit tree that will grow well in Perth and outer regions. When do I take cuttings and propagate? When do I net my trees to prevent birds taking my fruit and what fertiliser regimes can I use for my garden? How do I know when my compost is ready to use?

Summer is probably the exciting period in your fruit orchard, berries are plentiful, grapes are sweet and yummy, the figs need eating and avocado and mangoes this year are superb. So during the hot days of January, in between the cricket and the tennis, sit down under the air conditioner and make a Plan of your Garden Orchard.

Have fun in designing and planning your garden to fit in with your lifestyle.

What to do in the January garden
Water is vital to your trees and plants and unless you check your irrigation equipment to make sure the garden plants are getting the required amount of water during this hot spell, plants will suffer.

If you have a bore it is also important to check the pH of your water source, and you will be surprised at your very own water supply quality pH-wise.

Deciduous fruit trees especially nectarines, early peaches and apricots have now finished fruiting and the old question always asked is when to prune these fruit trees: in winter or when they finish fruiting?

I like to prune now as new growth is starting on some of these deciduous fruit trees. Maybe at our next site visit we can ponder over this issue.

Pull out the weeds around your fruit trees as they take up moisture competing with your plants and also use up fertilisers you have applied to your trees. When you pull these weeds out, make sure you cover the area with mulch or compost to prevent the sun burning the tree roots and draining more moisture out of the garden bed.

I like to use barley or wheat straw and sheep manure around the root zone, making sure you leave some breathing space around the tree trunk.

January is also a great time to fertilise most of your trees. But what fertilisers do you use? This of course is just one of many basic questions that many people ask me around my travels through the wheat belt and outer metro regions.

Basically, if you use chicken or sheep manure, plus Citrus fertiliser which is suitable for most fruit trees, add some compost and a few added extra nutrients and blood and bone, it will give your trees and plants the chance to grow you fruit during the year. Remember, if using a pelletised fertiliser make sure your garden soil is wet. Do not apply to dry soil.

Check your garden for signs of powdery mildew and rusts on your trees. Sooty mould and black spot will also attack your citrus during the year and you again must be vigilant in preventing these diseases or be able to control them.

Fruit drop can also occur in your fruit and nut trees. Causes are not enough water, can also be a lack of fertiliser, and also not thinning fruit can also cause fruit drop.

If you have an outbreak of aphids on your fruit trees and shrubs or in your garden, they can be reduced in number by hitting them with a large volume of water. This will remove them in volume. If you want to use a garlic and chilli spray (1 clove of garlic and 2 hot chillies) blended together with a smidge of washing up liquid and diluted to about 8 parts water and 1 part mixture can also be a great eradicator of aphids without using chemicals on your fruit trees, roses and other plants in your garden.

If you are growing fruit trees in pots make sure you use a wetting agent as this ensures the water is being delivered equally throughout the pot root system.

Fruit trees in pots also need fertilisers, but do not use too high a rate of chemical fertilsers; use more compost and animal manures with your trace elements included.

If you are making your own home made compost, it is very important that you keep it moist, turn it every few days and make sure the temperature does not go above 70°C.

Spraying in your garden
If you have an organic garden or are growing your fruit trees in a permaculture system, that is great, as you do not use chemicals. However, most gardeners do use chemicals for control of pests and diseases. Chemicals or no chemicals, it is your choice in your garden.

Working in the Horticultural and Environmental industry, mostly as a lecturer and trainer, it worries me that 95% of gardeners have not been fully educated in handling chemicals in the back yard. These are chemicals that can be purchased over the counter. There is a wide range of chemicals available to the home gardener and orchardist, but most people do not realise the danger to themselves and to others when not used correctly. This includes the danger to plants and trees, damage to flowers if sprayed at the wrong time and also there is a chance you can have pesticide residues in your fruit. And believe me, if you don’t read and follow instruction properly, you will.

This month I will talk about some subjects in chemicals in the home orchard:

  1. PPE or Personal Protective Equipment. You must adhere to this each time you spray in the garden. 1. Gloves. 2. Face mask. 3. Rubber gloves. 4. Long sleeve shirt and long pants. 5. Eye protection. 6. Wear rubber boots at all times when spraying.
  2. Read the label carefully before you open the chemical container. The label will have an MSD Sheet and read this as well.
  3. Do not harvest fruit or vegetables immediately after spraying as there is a Withholding period associated with most chemicals. You must know this before you bite into that apple or pear.
  4. Avoid eating or smoking when using chemicals.
  5. Avoid breathing in the chemical fumes when spraying.
  6. Avoid all contact with skin and eyes when spraying. Chemicals enter through the eyes, arm pits and groin more readily than other parts of your body.
  7. Do not spray on windy days as some chemicals are non-selective, especially Glyphosate (Round Up) or Zero which will kill all plants on absorption. Glyphosate does actually break down readily in soil and water.
  8. Rinse all your equipment thoroughly, industry standards say triple rinse.
  9. Store your chemicals in a well ventilated shed out of the reach of young children and pets.
  10. Do not spray when there are other people in the garden, especially children and cats and dogs, as animals will take in chemicals through their pores.

If this advice is not adhered to you will be like many farmers, horticulturalists and environmental workers, who are suffering from chemical exposure. Remember, all chemicals are dangerous.

Large trees that are suitable for growing in your backyard or acreage:
The Carob (Ceratonia siliqua).

The carob is a great shade tree in the Fabaceae (previously Leguminoseae) family and will grow in most parts of our large state. The tree originally came from the Mediterranean, so our climate is suitable to grow this tree. The fruit from this tree is a large pod that is a dull brown, leathery colour looking similar to a woody pea pod. The fruit can be given to livestock or eaten fresh by us humans. It can also be ground to form a powder that can be used as a chocolate substitute (see instructions on processing carob pods in the Recipe section).

I recently looked at a neglected Carob orchard in Northampton W.A. and this was still producing many pods after years without water and TLC. It is a tough, amazing tree. Carobs do require another tree for pollination. There are occasional hermaphrodite carob trees which can self-pollinate, but the crops they bear are usually of very low quality and quantity.

In days of antiquity, carob seeds were used as a measure of weight. Hence the carat was in fact a carob seed. These hard seeds are durable and very uniform in weight and are mostly weighing in at 200mg or a carat. This is still the standard measure for precious stones and gold.

Next Month, February 2016:
Members and readers input. For questions about fruits and plants, send to Barry Madsen, John Burt or to my email.
If you want information on pets, diseases or need some guff on weeds or fruit trees, write to me.

Other chemical notes.
How is your Planning Diary going?
Our February site visit?
Olives. Do you have a pickling recipe you would like to share with other readers? If so, please contact me as I would like to start a recipe section in our page.
Do you belong to a Community Garden?

John Bodycoat

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