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.

September in the Home Orchard

It has been a fairly dry winter in Perth and the surrounding regions of Western Australia with below average rainfall again this winter, with possibilities of harsher water restrictions during our summer. So Spring is with us again and with spring come blossoms, flowers, loquats and invasive weeds which we can talk about later.

What to do in the home orchard in September

With spring time, the soil starts to warm up and this is always the best time to plant out your citrus trees into the home orchard. Which citrus trees you want to plant really depends on what is your favourite fruit. Local oranges and mandarins this year have been superb so when eating fruit from a neighbour’s orchard or your own trees and you like a particular variety, then go to your local nursery and purchase this variety of citrus.

Weeds are a major problem if you do not get them early in winter. They are an environmental hazard, take up all the nutrients from your gardens and harbour pests and diseases. Weeds are also a fire hazard as well. So get out and pull out these plants by hand or spray them with a recommended chemical.

Spring is the time to feed your citrus fruit trees. They are hungry plants and will need another fertiliser application in late spring and early autumn.

Loquats are nearly ready for picking and unfortunately they’re about the only trees fruiting at this time, so Med Fly will decimate these if you don’t put out your fruit fly baits or cover the trees with fruit fly nets.

I like to feed my Soil not the Plants

As the days are starting to warm up it is advisable to mulch all your fruit trees with a suitable mulch and add wheat or barley straw to the drip line.

Check all your irrigation pipes and sprinklers and repair broken pipes and bury your poly pipe and PVC pipe in the ground.

Water is a very precious commodity and we need to be aware about our management and design in our garden. If our fruit trees don’t get the right amount of water they will stress and drop their fruit or even die. Why grow fruit trees if we do not get our irrigation right? So water wisely and always check your irrigation equipment.

Frost will still affect your fruit trees in September as in the past we have all lost precious trees to frost during this month. Frost is formed when dew freezes overnight as temperatures drop below zero and skies are clear.

When frost forms on plants, the cells inside the plants freeze. A rapid thaw in the morning when the sun begins to shine ruptures the plants tissues, causing damage to leaves and stems. Frost usually affects the growing tips and exposed leaves and looks similar to burning. Sometimes an entire plant can really be turned to mush. If there are damaged leaves and stems, do not remove them as it is better to wait until all chances of frost have disappeared.

Native Bush Foods

Plum Pine, Podocarpus elatus, Illawarra Plum. This is native to coastal Northern New South Wales and South east Queensland. It can grow to 30 metres tall, has a large trunk up to 1.5 metres in diameter. It produces seeds (not edible) mounted externally on fleshy swollen stems which are edible and used in condiments. The trees are male or female, so you will need both to get fruit.

I purchased a tree last year which was going to be planted but have not yet found a spot on my property. I have not seen this tree growing in Western Australia and was wondering if anybody has one growing on their property and what are the fruit like.

Quandong, Santalum acuminatum. Sometimes called the native peach, this tree grows along the coastal plain in WA and east to the edge of the wheat belt and station country or semi-desert areas, then as far north as Carnarvon. However in the wheat belt it has become quite rare because of the extensive tree clearing in the last 100 years.

The bark of the tree is dark grey and the tree can grow up to 4-6 metres high inland and only about 2 metres high near the coast in sand hills. It has ovate leaves. Quandong trees are a hemiparasitic plant of the Sandalwood family. They are able to photosynthesise but they use the root system of other plants to acquire nutrients. From this mechanism the plant can acquire 70% of its nitrogen and part of its water requirements from the roots of other shrubs, trees and grasses.

The fruits are red, ready for picking in September and October and very sour, but can be made into a delicious jam, which is normally available in the Bodycoat household. A large edible nut is inside the hard shell and is similar to other nuts.

This has been a fruit used by many people and indigenous Australians have been using it for thousands of years. The Noongar name for Quandong is wolgol.

To propagate this seed I have been successful in the past growing it on jute bags in an old wheel barrow, with soil from the area where the seed has been collected. My host plant has been Acacia acuminata, or Raspberry Jam tree. Put another jute bag on top and keep both jute bags wet. Keep this on for a couple of months before you look underneath.

Other Fruits

Prunus serotina or Black Cherry
This is native to eastern North America, Canada and Texas, Mexico and Guatemala. It grows well in Western Australia and I have seen fruit on these trees in the Perth area. I have just planted a tree that I have had growing in a pot for two years in Pinjarra and hopefully this too will fruit.

The fruit of the serotina cherry is bitter and is suitable for making jam and cherry pies. It can also be used in cakes including the Black Forest gateau. The wood can be use for cabinet making and for smoking foods. It can grow up to 20 metres tall.

Passion Fruit
Everyone should have a passion fruit in their garden which needs to grow up on a trellis, your old back yard dunny or on the back fence. Passion fruit grow well in full sun and need a good supply of water and fertiliser. Passion fruit are tough vines and grow vigorously in spring, summer and autumn.

My favourite variety to grow in Perth is Sunshine Special. The fruit is medium size and they will ripen all year round on the coastal plain. Other varieties are Nellie Kelly, Panama Red and Panama Gold.

They are big users of NPK fertilisers and love mobs of blood and bone in their diet.

Tamarillo, Solanum betaceum
The tree tomato grows to 3-4 metres high and comes in two colours and varieties, a rich red colour and a golden fruit. The red colour fruit have a stronger flavour than the golden colour and probably do better in the Perth region. They like our sandy soils and grow well in the Perth Hills region.

Fertilise your hole well before planting using dolomite, wood ash, sheep manure and a complete fertiliser.

Garden problems

I always receive a few questions from readers to this column and this month’s best question was about nutrient deficiencies in their citrus.

What is the difference between Magnesium Mg and Manganese Mn deficiency in their trees?

You mainly see Magnesium deficiency in older leaves and they will yellow from the midrib and then blotches will increase until the whole leaf itself is yellow except a small green area or V at the base of the leaf. This happens because magnesium deficiency causes breakdown of chlorophyll, releasing free magnesium. The plant can then move the magnesium from the old leaves to the new shoots.

To fix this problem I like to use Epsom salts at about 500 grams around the tree and then water this in well. Or dissolve about 20 grams of Epsom salts in 1 litre of water and spray onto your tree foliage.

You can also use a complete Citrus Fertiliser, using 2 cups of Citrus fertiliser under your grown tree out to the drip line.

Manganese deficiency can be seen in very acid soils, which we have on the Swan Coastal Plain from Dongara south to Augusta, mainly in Bassendean soils. In citrus the manganese deficiency will be in the younger leaves and they will have a yellow or light green colour which eventually goes completely yellowish green.

To remedy this problem and increase the manganese, put about 1 gram of manganese sulphate per litre of water and spray over your citrus tree now, in spring.

For problems of Fruit Splitting in your citrus, add calcium to your trees, which along with regular watering, will help prevent fruit splitting.

Remember calcium is needed for cell growth and development. Calcium helps the citrus roots access iron, magnesium, boron and potassium. Check your soil pH and use dolomite lime in acid soils and gypsum in alkaline soils.

Next Month:

Your contributions for the October issue: If you would like to be my guest contributor please send in your stuff for October for us all to share.

Happy gardening.

John Bodycoat


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