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.

October in the Home Orchard

We are now experiencing some warm spring weather and our plants and trees are certainly looking for a drink as the soil is drying out fast.

In our orchards loquats are ready to pick so please do not leave these fruit on the tree for too long as the Med Fly will sting these. Loquats are really about the only fruit on our trees so make sure you have your fly traps working in your yard and property. A good kill now will be beneficial for later on in controlling these pests.

Out in the garden, the nectarine early varieties have flowered and have formed their fruit while the peach, plum, pear, apricot and almonds are in full flower. The mulberry fruit trees are full of ripe fruit and my trees are very heavy with branches touching the ground.

Some Berry vines are now flowering especially the thornless variety ‘Waldo’ blackberry and blue berries.

Check out your irrigation and sprinkler system as a few days of 30+ degs will set your trees back.

Citrus trees are flowering, especially oranges and mandarins and October is a good time to fertilise all citrus varieties using a complete citrus fertiliser. Add dolomite and a handful of urea out to the root zone. Make sure your citrus fertiliser contains many nutrients, macro and micro as NPK is not enough. Citrus requires Cu, Zn, B, Mg and magnesium and up to as many as 17 nutrients to enable your trees to flower and fruit properly. Add mulch or wheat straw to the same area to prevent drying out of the soil.

It is now time to cover your nectarines with bird netting.

Also there are some weeds still around, pull these out and place into your compost bin.

Check out your grape vines to make sure they are being watered with your drip irrigation. Grapes have now finished their dormancy and new growth is doing well. Keep an eye out for powdery mildew.

Quince Tree
The quince tree is self pollinating and is just about my favourite fruit tree, easy to grow, the fruit are delicious when cooked and have a beaut flower at this time of the year. In fact I have just planted 10 trees into my new orchard so down the track there will be plenty of quince jelly-making.

In Western Australia in the late 19th century early 20th century, all our old pioneers grew a quince tree on their property. Now they are hardly ever seen, unless you have grown up and been fortunate enough to have had quince jelly on scones baked in an old Metters stove by your mother.

Quinces came from northern Persia and Armenia and spread to the Mediterranean and then into Europe. Then of course the English came over and planted them here.

If you remember reading history, the quince is one of the candidates for the most famous or infamous fruit of all time, the “forbidden fruit”, the fruit of the tree of knowledge that was the downfall of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. They were the favoured fruit of antiquity, dedicated to Aphrodite and Venus and perhaps identified as the once golden apples of the Hesperides.

Soil Types and Fertilisers.
Quinces tolerate all soil types and if you feed your soils with an all-round fertiliser consisting of blood and bone, dolomite, blue metal dust and a complete fertiliser containing all the macro and some micro nutrients, especially a fertiliser with more Nitrogen than P and K, then you will have a great crop of quinces in April.

Quinces do not like dry feet and a good irrigation system is required to provide a plentiful supply of fruit.

Pests and Diseases. Sadly, quinces are far from immune from disease and will be stung by the Med fly if you do not put in your baits. The leaves of the Quince will be prone to black spot which can be controlled by using a Bordeaux mixture or a Copper based spray before bud burst.

Varieties. The two most popular varieties of quince in WA are old varieties that have been around since Adam and Eve and both grow well in all our soils.

Quince fruit cannot be eaten raw and must be cooked. The fruit will turn from yellow to pink when cooked. It can be made into preserves, pies and my favourite, quince jelly.

Australian native Bush Fruits.

Davidson’s Plum.There are 3 species of Davidson’s plum - Davidsonia jerseyana native to northern NSW, around Murwillumbah, D. pruriens native to north Queensland, and D. johnsonii from in between.

The tree is rather unusual, as it produces flowers directly from the trunk. It is a slender upright tree and grows better in some shade, needs shelter from the wind and needs mobs of water, hence the rain forest region. The tree has purple flowers and the fruits are sour, but not bitter, and make superb jams and preserves. It grows well in the Perth region and takes about three years before it bears fruit. I have grown a Davidson Plum south of Perth which fruited and sadly died of tender loving care.

A new tree was potted three years ago and is still in a pot, so hopefully I can plant it out soon. Just recently I have seen this tree for sale in Nurseries around Perth and they seem very popular with locals who want to start an indigenous garden.

This is one Australian native I would recommend. But please keep it in the shade and water regularly and use a mixed fruit tree fertiliser of baa poo, blood and bone and a small dose of N.P.K.

I did get some feedback from a grower about last month’s Native Bush Food tree, the Plum Pine or Podocarpus elatus. Recently I saw some trees for sale in the big Nursery starting with a B.

There is also a tree in the University grounds at UWA in Crawley. If you purchase this tree it can grow up to 30m tall, so not much good in a suburban back yard, but ok if you have acreage.

Another call was from a grower about the dwarf citrus, 'Lots of Lemons,' and from a local gardener about lemon varieties. Lots of Lemons do actually fruit well, some very well, while some trees not at all. Just a typical lemon tree really, but If your lemon tree has not produced fruit in 8 years don’t mess about with it and just chuck it in the garbage bin, and grow a new tree. Lemons should flower the first year and I always pull off the flowers and wait until the second year and then let it fruit.

Lemon varieties suitable for Perth and surrounding areas are:

All are suitable, and maybe put one of each in and you will have heaps of lemons.

Making Home Compost.

Every home produces waste, we have weeds, paper, lawn clippings and you can purchase straw from feed merchants. All organic material will eventually break down over time so you will need a large volume as quickly as possible.

I like to use a hot compost in my garden and this should be a minimum of a cubic metre to maintain temperatures. Make a compost bay to hold the heap in place and allow an access for turning your pile. I use an old Hardie fence, two at the back and two sheets per side.

To break down quickly, I use a variety of organic materials in about a 40-60% ratio in a lasagne method of greens and browns. Use dolomite on the bottom, then straw, green weeds or lawn clippings, handful of blood and bone and chicken manure or baa poo, dry leaves, straw, woodchips, shredded paper, then you start your greens again.

When you place your manure in the pile put two tablespoons of molasses to feed the bacteria into your 10 litre watering can and spray the manure in the compost.

Turn your pile every two weeks because the microbes that will break down the quickest need oxygen to survive.

Have fun making the compost; I can only hope yours turns out as good as mine, Fairest and Best.

It should be ready in about 12 weeks.

Don’t forget our next meeting is on Sunday 24th October up in Gingin.

Next Month:

John Bodycoat


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