When we moved to Mudgee I simply couldn’t understand why they didn’t grow stone fruit and berries out here, the terrain and climate is just perfect for such species, I know because its so much like Christchurch NZ where I grew up and we had stone fruit and berries in every backyard, so I asked around. Apparently it was the case years ago that the area was known for fruit trees, birds were the major problem and of course then the grapes took over, followed by olives. However as you may be aware there is a glut of grapes across Australia and in the last few years they have been pulling out paddocks and paddocks of grapes out here and funnily enough replacing these with stone fruit trees.
We at SnogrocK inheritated a few fruit trees, they had been seriously let go and desparately needed some love and trimmimg.
In the first season we attempted to help them out to no avail, the stone fruit had the worst case of curly leaf ever and in the second season we pulled those few trees out to make way for new trees. We had one large Granny Smith and the first year it was laden with apples that simply dropped to the ground one day before they were ready and the few that were left got raped by birds, the pears seemed to want to grow but were so small that in the end we made ” The hairy bikers pickled pears” out if them, they were good but not practical.
Fruit trees are expensive and need lots of water, we do not have lots of water at Bocoble in fact our average rainfall is just over 800 millimeters for the year, but we really wanted an orchard and for me especially berries, this is my favourite all time fruit and possibly food, next to Pizza. So we got smart and well organised before we spent the money.
We worked hard on the lone Granny Smith and the pears trees, got rid of the curly leaf with natural products, cut them right back and planted a nashi pear next to them, Oh and by the way Hazelnut and Pistachio grow like demons out here. They say that olives do as well but that has not proved to be the case at our place, my brother bought me three for my 50th birthday, i’m happy to report two are still alive…just, but thay have not actually grown a jot.
We worked the soil and prepared well and set up a dripper system from a tank we moved to the front paddock for this purpose so that they were being self watered. For the orchard we started with two apples, two hazelnuts, a walnut, two different types of plum and a peacharine, a cross between a peach and nectarine. They were small but they survived well and gave us some fruit. We also planted berries, we already had Strawberries in the “House Garden” but in the front paddock we planted raspberries, of course, loganberries, blueberries and kiwifruit. The kiwifruit grew well over summer and died in the frost the first year but all the rest of the berries exploded and the harvest in the second year was most impressive, this year we are expecting a bumper crop, the berries are being self watered from drippers also.
Inspired, the second season we really splurged out and put two apricots in the orchard, I put one current in the house garden, chinese gooseberry ( not Kiwifruit) the little berries with the prickly stalks and a Fig, i got three figs from the tree…. but it grew and out here that’s the win.
Given everything was going well we paid a kings ransom last summer for two cherry trees and they gave us fruit, two more currents arrived so i now have red, black and white so they look like a fruit medley in the bowl, and of course couple more raspberries. The fantastic thing about berries is that you simply cut the canes at the end of the season and plant them out and next year you have twice as many to start with, and I learnt that you have late and early harvesting fruit so this means you can have berries for about 9 months of the year.
Last year the weather was against us all, the rain came way to late and the fruit shrivelled on the trees and then drowned when the rain finally arrived, not good even with a dripper system, we also found out the folly of birds, flocks of them landing and raping and pillaging, a little like our sunflowers until I made individual netting hats for them, I have seen a small flock clean a tree in minutes, what they dont eat they damage and once the spy a ripe berry theres not saving it.
This year its time to make the big decision, how to net the orchard permanently, do it once, do it properly is our motto. The trees are still really young so we could wait another year but that would mean we would likely loose most of the fruit to the birds.
The buds are just starting, I checked them out throughly over the weekend. Here at Bocoble we are more than a month behind the trees in the surrounding areas, which are already in blossom (And they say global warming is not making a difference, well just spend a season on the land and you will have a different opinion I can tell you) so it’s time to mow, feed and set up the drippers for another year, decide if we need to add any others varieties and sit back and hopefully enjoy the fruits of our harvest.