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.

June in the Suburban Orchard

Winter is here and it's time for your garden to have a slight rest. But before you pack all your tools and stuff away, there are a few things to do before you bring them out again in July. Think back over the last 12 months - which of your fruit trees grew best and worst? Why did your lemon tree or whatever not perform? Sometimes your newly purchased tree could be a "shocker", or maybe the graft you did wasn't up to speed, or your irrigation isn't as good as you think, or there was no manure or compost and a lack of nutrients, or perhaps it was a disease that stopped your tree performing to its full potential?

Our next RFC meeting will be on Saturday 27th June at Yong's property in Willeton. Michael will be demonstrating marcotting on a jackfruit tree, Yen will go through inarching and Yong will talk about his chipper and approach to composting. So keep this one free as it will be a very informative morning. Also at the Perth Zoo on Sunday 28th June from 9-30am to 1.30pm, Sabrina Hahn will be talking, demonstrating and answering questions on citrus. Cost is $79 including a light lunch. $69.00 for Diggers Club members.

I have always advised people to keep a diary of what they are doing or have done in their garden and this will help you remember when to do all the above next year. Or depending on the results obtained last time round, to make some appropriate changes to hopefully improve the next crop.

Things to do in the Orchard

Stone Fruit:
If you still haven't sprayed your nectarines and peaches to prevent leaf curl next season it may soon be too late as there are some nectarine varieties already flowering, which of course makes it too late to spray. As the leaves fall off the tree, it will be dormant for a short time before bud burst; this is when you must spray your nectarines and peaches. There is not much time between leaf fall and dormancy and bud burst.

Bordeaux mixture or any copper spray is good, but do a follow-up spray 7 days later. Copper sprays are more effective the smaller the particles. Water quality is also critical to the efficacy of copper sprays. If water pH is too high (7.0 or above) the copper product will be less effective. On the other hand, a pH below 6 may cause burning, so test your water before mixing your sprays. The ideal water for sprays is pH 6.0.

Most fruit fly are hibernating as pupae in June, however it is still important to have baits in your orchard just in case there are a few around and you can catch them. Traps are more effective if they are hung in trees all year round to diminish adult populations.

Passion Fruit
If you have a vine that's not flowering and fruiting but growing strong and healthy, then you can cut a ring around the stem to the depth of the bark which is about 2mm deep (called cincturing or girdling). But please don't remove any bark layers. The cutting allows the plant to gain maximum benefit from the food produced by the leaves and I can promise you instant success. There is a local WA passion fruit variety called "Sunshine Special" that I know outperforms most others. I recommend this one over all others.

Grape Vines:
It is still too early to prune your vines as most will still have leaves; they are not yet fully dormant and the carbohydrates or sugars have not stopped running. If you cut back your vine now there is a chance they will bleed and that next year you'll have a smaller supply of fruit. The best time to prune is in early to mid-August. In August I would like to collect your grape vine cuttings and grow them on for you using an old German method. More on this in the July Newsletter.

Open up the centre of all your fruit trees to allow air and light into your tree and minimise disease load.

Most of the citrus trees in your backyard could be full of fruit now. Oranges are looking great and some varieties are ready for picking. If you're planting new citrus trees at the moment, especially oranges, make sure the variety and the root stock is suitable for your area. All orange trees need full sun and well-drained soil, which is what we have on the Swan coastal sand plain around Perth. In the Hills and country areas it's different, with clays and gravel/semi-clay soils.

Oranges have a shallow root system and in sand my advice is to use an age-old method of newspapers in the bottom of the hole, then kitty litter or fine clay, some ash from your fire, a couple of shovels full of fine blue metal dust, two shovels of well-rotted chicken manure, some compost to stop the new roots from being burnt by the manure, a handful of blood and bone, more compost and then plant out your new tree, filling in the hole with compost and top soil only. I like to sprinkle a handful of dolomite and two handfuls of blood and bone around the drip line. Finally, put out some straw or lupin mulch around the drip line. It will love you for all this preparative care.

Varieties of Oranges
You really can't go past the age-old favourite called Washington Navel. It's an early fruiting variety, almost seedless and very sweet and juicy. Cara Cara is a newer variety from Venezuela and grows well on all soil types. It has pink flesh and is ready in early spring. I first saw this variety growing in Harvey at the WA College for Agriculture and was impressed with the flavour. I have two in pots ready to be planted out later this year. I also have a newer variety called Spanish Newhall, a navel which has been in a pot for 5 years but I've never let it fruit. In other orchards this year the fruit is a wow, but I have only seen the variety once in nurseries. Pity because it's the best tasting orange I've eaten. Other navels are Lanes Late. Navelina and Leng Navel.

Then there are the Valencia oranges, including Seedless Valencia and Joppa (Jaffa).

Bitter Orange. Seville is great for marmalade.

Blood oranges. These require more warmth than other oranges to form the blood-red colouration. I worked in Wiluna with the local Indigenous group and the blood oranges on 3,000 trees in the orchard were terrific.

Have you ever grown a tangelo? These are a cross between a tangerine and a grape fruit and have very similar taste to an orange. I like their sweet slightly acidic taste. The best variety by far is Mineola which has deep reddish to orange colour. It's suitable for Perth and the outer suburbs.

I recently spoke to a lady who wanted to know why her oranges were splitting. Looking at her orchard I could see she never irrigated her trees. One of the main causes of fruit splitting is irregular watering, giving the tree a ‘Jack and Jill' effect. Sudden heavy autumn rainfall can also give you fruit splitting. But there really are many causes for your citrus fruit to split, and it is normally a combination of temperature fluctuations, moisture stress, irregular fertilising, lack of calcium and copper and of course sudden heavy rainfall. If your oranges, especially your Navel oranges, are not splitting then great – your citrus management is going well.

Diseases of Oranges.
I don't like to recommend any sprays to control disease as I really should not be recommending any particular Brand. However White Oil is a good one to have on hand. As you pick your citrus you can give your trees a little bit of TLC with tree management. Cut off lower hanging branches touching the ground; this helps to prevent pathogens being carried from the soil into the tree during rainfall and irrigation. Keep your tree canopy open, which allows for better sunlight penetration into the tree. And cut back any dead wood. To prevent collar rot, a horrible soil-borne disease, don't mulch right up to the trunk.

Recently I was asked a question about olive varieties. Well, it really depends on what you want to do with them, either for oil or for pickling, where you live and how many trees you want to grow. Perhaps my favourite would be New Norcia Mission, a dual-purpose olive good for pickling and oil. It can grow to be quite a large tree so don't plant this in a yard with limited space. Mission olives can contain up to 24% oil.

Verdale is also a dual-purpose olive, having good pickling and oil quality.

Kalamata is a grafted olive with large fruit used for pickling.

Barouni is highly sought after for pickling with good-sized fruit of 7-8 grams, and is a late maturing variety.

Manzanillo is a consistently high-yielding variety with a low spreading tree that is easy to harvest with medium-sized fruit; it's also another dual-purpose variety.

Remember, olives for oil production must be fully ripe and black and can be partially shrivelled when you harvest them. When you harvest fruit for table olives, whether green or black, you must handle them very carefully to avoid bruising. If you have sandy soil in your garden, please use the planting method described above for citrus when putting in your olive, ie newspaper, kitty litter, ash, blue metal dust, compost with a couple of handfuls of blood and bone and dolomite around the top of the tree. I like dolomite over lime as it contains both calcium and magnesium, which is important in our sandy Bassendean soils.

Happy Gardening.

Just a reminder again, our next meeting will be at Yong's property on Saturday 27th June, 9-30 am.


John Bodycoat

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