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.
In Western Australia we have had a warmish start to winter with Perth experiencing above average winter temperatures.
With this has come some unusual garden happenings: my Nectarine tree along with those of many other people in Perth and country WA, now have early fruit on their trees, while other nectarine trees have not lost their leaves or even flowered.
As well, we are experiencing a reasonably dry start to our winter. We can only hope for mobs of rain in late June and July.
As stated in previous months, when starting off an orchard you must prepare your area with soil that will enable your fruit tree to produce quality fruit for many years. It is very important to maintain soil performance for sustainable productivity. Remember, all fruit trees require sun and a fertile soil to be able to do this, so make sure when selecting a site for your new back yard orchard you have all the above, plus a good quality water supply. So a successful garden really depends on good soil.
Last week I looked at a new product on the market which is able to improve our Bassendean Sands which we have in the Perth region and coastal Western Australia, from south of Geraldton down to Augusta. This product transforms sand into fertile productive soil. It is highly effective at low rates, is clean and easy to handle, it significantly improves water infiltration efficiency and builds soil biology for natural suppression of pests and diseases.
It is called Humiclay and is made locally near Mandurah, and I have just trialled it on my new property. I will be spreading this product out in my pasture paddocks at 10mm thick and incorporating this into the soil with my rotary hoe. In my orchard I will be mixing it with 1 part Humiclay and 10 parts original soil. My original soils are 3.8 pH. I am also using Dolomite in my fruit tree holes to help lift my pH. If using this product as a potting mix it is best to blend Humiclay at up to 25% of soil mix. This will improve the soil fertility and water holding capacity.
In our October edition of the Western Australian Rare Fruit Club we will be looking at water quality including the pH testing of water.
July jobs in the Orchard
Many people ask me about taking cuttings from plants and how much should they cut their fruit trees back by, especially their stone fruit and citrus. I do not cut any stone fruit trees back except take out the centre to let light in and trim the top for management purposes.
It is very important to reduce or get rid of all the weeds around and under your fruit trees in July. Most weeds are small but over the next couple of weeks they will bolt and will be hard to eradicate. So spray these with Glysophate or pull them out by hand. After they have been pulled out, place the weeds into a compost bin or area and make your own compost.
Mulch around your trees with wheat, barley or pea straw to prevent these weeds from growing again, making sure you do not put the straw up against the trunk of the tree to prevent collar rot.
Put out new materials for your fruit fly traps for Med Fly which will be around your yard all year round. Soon the first fruit for the season from loquats will be ready and Med Fly just love these loquats.
It's time to take dormant cuttings from your berries. I like to take cuttings from the canes of about 200mm-250mm long. Raspberry canes produce from natural suckers from their basal roots. This way every year there will be new canes formed.
Goji Berries can be easily propagated by cuttings or suckers from the base of the plant.
Mulberries are best propagated from cuttings, and now is the best time to do this, which includes the white mulberry.
I like to use raw honey to stimulate root growth: just dip the cut end of these cuttings straight into your raw honey before inserting them into the growing media.
Young Berries, Marion Berries and Black Berries should now be propagated. This must be done in late autumn and early winter. The Black Berry called Waldo is a thornless variety and grows well in W.A. It is non-invasive and has sweet fruit. It will need a support to carry the canes so you will need to build a wire and wood structure.
With your almond tree now dormant, it will be beneficial to cut it back to a manageable size and cut out the centre to allow sunlight into the centre of the tree.
Recently I have had a few questions from growers about Persimmon trees, what variety to grow and what fertiliser to use on the tree. Firstly, Persimmons come in two types, astringent and non-astringent trees. I would only recommend the non-astringent tree as you can eat the fruit from non-astringent straight from the tree. Also supermarkets are now stocking these fruit types as well.*(See footnote)
Varieties Fuyu, Ichikikei and Saruga are suited to the Perth metro area and southern Western Australia.
Fertisers to use are blood and bone at monthly intervals and a balanced fruit tree fertiliser from your favourite nursery. Plus use mulch and compost around the tree.
Grape varieties for the home garden.
Drought tolerant fruit trees.
Compost from your garden for your garden
Editors Note: Astringent persimmons have their own fan club. The secret is to pick them when they are full-sized, and then allow them to ripen inside on a table or shelf. When they feel very soft and flabby, the astringency is gone and the soft pulp is very sweet.
Other NewslettersFebruary 2015