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.

November in the Suburban Orchard

We must start to mulch our fruit trees now as the weather is warming up to the mid 30s in our region and conserving water is very important. Mulching is a process of covering soils so we can optimise the temperature and availability of water for plant growth. To get maximum benefit, always mulch soils before the start of the hot weather. Coarse particles in mulch insulate the soil, especially in our Bassendean sands, without using up too much water.

Mulch will pack down if our mulch particles are too fine and will prevent oxygen entering the soil so I like to use straw, wheat or barley, which are great. Or you can use lucerne hay or even dry leaves because of their open structure, rather than grass clippings. If you have access to sheep manure, I like to add this with my straw mulch with great results.

Sandy soils only hold about a quarter of the water that clay soils hold, so it is important that you apply loads of compost to the top 25cm of your soil plus a clay base product. I like to use C-Wise, a product made up of humus-rich organic carbons with bentonite clay and zeolite to create a high performance soil with the capacity to use water and nutrients more efficiently for plant growth.

Sprinklers for fruit trees
I have recently planted 100 various varieties of fruit trees and tried a couple of different types of sprinklers and have just found a new type, for me anyway, from a local supplier in Mandurah. This is a mini sprinkler micro spray which covers a small area around each tree without any wastage as it throws the water downwards.

As my property is 50 metres off the estuary, I need to be careful in drilling bores as most of the area is very salty. I have an old well (over 100 years old) that has filled up with sand and my supply is small, (1500litres day) but quality is great. It seems most people don’t like to clean out old wells, just sell you a new bore. It is working well even with some medium-to-low temperatures so far this spring. Water is going down to the root zones and we have no wastage. This beats carting loads of water from my home property on a weekend.

What to do around the orchard
Loquats have finished fruiting and make sure you pick up all the fallen fruit from underneath the trees as Med fly are active in most areas.

Mulberries are at their best this year, especially the Hicks Fancy variety which is loaded with fruit, with my chooks being the recipients of some splendid fruit-eating. My white mulberry is a few weeks away from harvest and that too has mobs of fruit on the tree.

Some berries that are flowering include the blue berry; they have small fruit on them at the moment but will be ready in a few weeks. The birds will destroy these berries if they are not netted.

Young berries, boysen berries, logan berries and black berries also have unripe fruit on them and these trailing berries need to be fertilised with a complete fertiliser. I like to make up my own, using animal manures especially baa poo or chicken manure. I like to add my own brand containing blood and bone, potash, dolomite, super and potash and potato manure E. Compost around the roots with straw or a homemade compost brew. Pepino’s are now ready, and while not my most favourite fruit, they are very nice eating. Pick these as soon as the purple stripes stand out on the yellow fruit.

I think fruit fly is our number one pest in the Perth and suburban areas and to protect our summer fruiting stone fruit it is very important to set up your fruit fly baits now. Med fly is always in this region so go and purchase traps now. To protect nectarines and peaches as they ripen use eco baits which contain spinosad if you are organic. This a naturally-derived insecticide that targets the female fruit fly before she lays her eggs. Pheromone traps that attract the male fruit fly should also be used, both work together for a better kill. Eco baits need to be painted on a board near the tree and must be kept dry, so prevent them getting wet. Re do these types of baits regularly for them to always be effective.

While on nectarines and peaches, it is now a good time to check to see how effective your spraying programme was in early winter pre-bud burst for leaf curl. Did you get it right? If you didn’t get it right, then write it down in your garden diary so it will be applied on time next year.

If you have been growing garlic around your fruit trees, it is now time to pull these plants if the leaves have dried; hang them in your garden shed. Next year plant your garlic on Anzac Day and pull up on Armistice day, 11th November.

Get down and get your hands dirty by pulling out your weeds in your orchard garden now, but do not throw these into your compost, as most weeds have seed heads and will spread if your compost is not made right.

Organic Remedies
To repel and destroy Insects, Neem Oil is one of the most effective natural insect repellents available to us.Thrips go for many plants in your garden, especially some vegetables and are attracted to white and yellow flowers and also green mulch. Tidy up weeds in your orchard and gardens as thrips like living in weedy grasses and environment. Use Neem oil in your watering can and spray your plants twice with a three day break in between for best results. Please do not put affected plants or weeds into your compost heap, just the rubbish bin.

Other Varieties of Fruit
This tree is sometimes called the melon pear or melon shrub. I have grown this for some years and it really is an ok fruit. Easy to grow, can get out of control, but dislikes a bit of glysophate sprayed on it when you want to control it. It is a native of Peru and Chile and been cultivated in the US and New Zealand for many years with the Kiwis selecting a host of new varieties for the fruit growers in Australia and worldwide. These fruits are really egg-shaped, and are tasty when fully ripened. However when growing a Pepino, the soil must be built up with animal manures and composts and macro and micro nutrients applied. It seems that the poorer the soil the worst the fruit tastes.

Varieties are always coming on the market but I like the old variety called Pepino Gold. The fruit takes about a year to reach maturity, flowering in winter and fruiting in October and November. The pepino can be grown in a pot if you do not have room in your back yard.

Irish Strawberry Tree. The Irish strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo has been grown in our parks and gardens for many years with most residents of Perth not knowing about the tree and fruit. It is thought the tree originated from the Mediterranean region and was bought back to Ireland. The flowers are small and white borne in large pannicles and are bell-like. The fruit are yellow to red and are better than average even though I think every second fruit is good. Worth growing if only for its ornamental value. They can be made into jam and a liqueur.

Other citrus trees: Cumquats and Calamondins
The calamondin, a hybrid, Citrofortunella microcarpa, originates from China and is appearing more frequently in the Perth region as home gardeners start to build up their citrus collection for their back yard. The Calamondin can grow up to 8 metres tall, it is cold tolerant and grows into a beautiful upright tree with pointed leaves that are smaller than most citrus tree. The fruit of this cumquat is usually round, juicy, sour and seedy, but it makes excellent marmalades, juices and flavourings.

Nagami cumquat, Citrus japonica, also comes from China and this tree grows to about 3-4 metres tall, is cold tolerant and has small oblong-shaped orange fruit that is bitter or acidic, but has sweet skin. They grow in the south west of W.A and need a similar feed system as other citrus. I like to eat the skin and fruit as a whole. If you like to make marmalade they are perfect for this type of jam. Also you can place these Nagami fruit into a jar of Contreau and if you leave this for a few weeks the product is not too shabby. The Marumi cumquat, also C. japonica, is a round, small oval, slightly flattened fruit with small and pointed leaves. This fruit is also used for marmalade and can be turned into a liquor.

Australian Native Bush Food Fruit Trees
Kangaroo Apple, Solanum aviculare. These Australian trees grow down near Wilson’s Promontory in Victoria which, is the southernmost tip of the Australian mainland. Most of the Aussie Solanums are not palatable fresh and you will need some knowledge in their preparation.

There used to be a tree growing outside City Farm in East Perth but has since been cut down. The leaves are similar to a kangaroo’s feet and the fruit are very acidic and slightly yuk.

Has anyone a kangaroo apple growing in their garden in the Perth region?

Next Month: Bunya Nuts, Other Citrus

Do any of our readers grow Jostaberry plants?
We have had an enquiry from a farmer in Calingiri, Aaron Edmonds, in the W.A. central wheat belt who is interested in josta berries, and I would like to know if any of our members have had success with these fruit plants.

I have 2 growing but have never fruited, they have been in pots for a few years, and have only recently been planted out.

Could readers please get back to me or through the RFCWA email address

John Bodycoat


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