The Orchard Year

The Orchard YearA Chronicle of the Harvest & the Work

To be filled in, like a blog, as the orchard year progresses. Watch this space!

January

Fruit in Season

Champagne Fruit (also known as Babaco). Nectarines, peaches. Heirloom/heritage apples are ripening from now until April, depending on which variety they are.  Blueberries are producing masses of sweet, delicious fruit during January. The blueberry harvest continues, trailing off, until late March.

Orchard Tasks

All through the year, in every month, weeding and mowing are constant and ongoing tasks in the orchard. Throughout the year we fertilise the citrus trees with iron chelates if their young leaves start to look yellow. If the older leaves start to look yellow we apply Epsom salts.
In January, treatment for pear and cherry slug begins. From now until the end of March we need to regularly spray quinces, pears, hawthorns and plums. We use a product called Pyganic, which is made with natural pyrethrum from the pyrethrum daisy.
Another January job is tidying up the early-fruiting raspberry racks – pruning and training them. Harvesting the produce. Watering/irrigating.

February

Fruit in Season

Pears and nashis. They are ripening from now until March. Red-fleshed nectarines ripen from February through to March. Red-fleshed peaches also start to ripen in mid-February and continue until mid-March. Dragonfruit are flowering from late February through to April. As the flowers fade, swelling fruits take their place. Grapes are ripe in late February.

Orchard Tasks

Summer pruning. Harvesting the produce. Control of pear and cherry slug. Watering/irrigating.

March (Officially the beginning of autumn)

Fruit in Season

Some varieties of our heritage apples have already ripened and been picked. Other are still ripening, and will continue to do so for several weeks. Quinces are ripening, and feijoas are swelling on their branches. Tamarillos are almost ripe, too, and the faithful citrus orchard is beginning to glow with colour; the bright orange orbs of chinotto, the dusky red ‘quails’ eggs’ of finger limes and the brilliant yellow lamps of Yuzu.

The real bounty of March is the figs. Their main crop (the higos crop) is ripening fast, now, and what a joy it is to pluck a fig from the trees, soft and oozing with glistening juice; to bite into the sweet lusciousness… it’s like eating spoonsful of jam straight from the jar. Only far more nutritious!

We have many heritage varieties of figs. White Genoa ripens first, and close on its heels are Black Mission and Black Sicilian. Following those are Black Genoa, White Adriatic, Blue Provence, Archipal, Preston Prolific and Smyrna. More will follow…

Limes: Australian Sweet Lime and Finger Limes. These will continue to ripen one by one through to the winter months. Purple tomatillos are hanging like purple lanterns on their bushes, and the gourds are ripe; so is the corn. Lemon Drop Chillis are looking spectacularly golden. They have been ripening since late February and will continue to ripen  and supply fruit through until the beginning of winter. We also have purple and red chillies. The ha-ogen melons and heirloom watermelons are at their peak.

Quinces ripen in late March/early April. Almonds are ripe now. Our ornamental pears, our peaches and our sugar maples are changing colour. They are putting on a fine show of autumnal reds, yellows and bronzes.

Mountain Pawpaws are ripening and will continue to do so through April, May and June.

Orchard Tasks

Here at the Fruit Forest we are experimenting with pruning just after fruiting, instead of the old method, ‘winter pruning’. The idea is to prune our deciduous fruit trees while they are still actively growing, so that the pruning wounds will heal quickly, thus preventing the entry of fungus spores and other diseases. Pruning after fruiting also means that the tree is not putting energy into growing branches that will simply be cut off later. Instead, it can put energy into growing more fruit!

Another task is cleaning up windfalls. Leaving fallen fruit to rot beneath your trees is a bad idea. Rotten fruit can harbour pests and diseases. The ideal situation is to allow chickens to roam freely beneath your fruit trees, pecking up the rotting fruit (and any insects) and fertilising the trees at the same time. However, if you don’t have chickens, you must rake up the fruit yourself and compost it at a good distance away from your orchard.

And of course mowing… that’s an endless chore. We intend to experiment, in the future, with ‘orchard cover crops’ to see if that cuts down on the need for constant mowing. Cover crops of clover are a good idea – clover fixes nitrogen into the soil, and also out-competes weeds.

Leaf-miner and sooty mould are attacking the citrus leaves. Organic white-oil sprays combat these problems. Check feijoas and bay tree for any signs of scale. Aphids are around at this time of year on the young shoots of citrus, tamarillos and apples. Spray them with white oil or strong jets of water, or pick them off by hand. Encourage ladybirds, their natural predators. Harvesting the produce. Control of pear and cherry slug. Check apple trees for signs of leaf damage caused by caterpillars of light brown apple moth. If damage is seen, spray trees with a mixture of garlic, chilli and pyrethrins to control the larvae, and on a separate occasion, (it can even be when trees are dormant in winter), horticultural oil sprays to smother winged adult insects and egg masses.
Watering/irrigating.

April

Fruit in Season

Feijoas – In Melbourne city they are usually ripe by Easter, but on the Mornington Peninsula they ripen a little later.  Tamarillos are ripe for harvesting from Easter right through to the middle of winter – say, July. Jujubes are ripening in April. The Strawberry Guavas ripen early in May and continue to bear fruit for the next six weeks. Yellow Cherry Guavas begin to turn golden later in the month.

Orchard Tasks

Planting new trees while the ground is warm and the days are mild. The Saskatoon and Juneberry bushes are putting on their autumn colours. The fig leaves are starting to turn yellow.

May

Fruit in Season

Yuzu lemons, medlars, the last of the figs, tamarillos, strawberry guavas, goldenberries, purple tomatillos, lemon drop chillis, feijoas, mountain pawpaws, babacos, dragonfruit.

Orchard Tasks

Ordering rootstocks for grafting new fruit trees. Harvesting fruit. Removing any ‘mummified’ fruit from the trees and destroying it. Stocking up on ‘Kocide’ and other curly-leaf sprays ready to spray stone fruit trees.  The fig trees have lost nearly all their leaves, although those which are planted near masonry walls have hardly begun to turn yellow yet.

June (Officially the beginning of winter)

Fruit in Season

Oranges and lemons, lemonade, limes including Tahitian Lime. Dragonfruit can be harvested from June to July (they are grown in a hothouse.)

Orchard Tasks

First application of copper spray for curly leaf on peaches and nectarines.

July

Fruit in Season

Tamarillos. Dragonfruit.

Orchard Tasks

The beautiful, white lacy almond blossom is the first to appear after winter. It springs forth in late July/early August.

We use organic copper-spray to combat curly-leaf, about 4 times during winter, with the last spray in July just before bud-burst.

August

Fruit in Season

Alpine Strawberries are being picked from August through to March. Kumquats are ripening all year round, but their peak production is generally in August.

Orchard Tasks

The Saskatoon and Juneberry bushes put on their white blossom in August. Very soon afterwards their berries will form – they will be ready to harvest in October. The almond trees burst into bloom and look spectacular.

September (Officially the beginning of spring)

Fruit in Season

Loquats – the first fruit to ripen after winter. Their bright orange orbs hang on the tree like glowing lights. They are sweet and tangy and juicy and altogether delicious. We grow grafted ‘Nagasakiwase’ loquats.

Orchard Tasks

Feeding all the fruiting plants with blood and bone, potash and fish emulsion. We also use biochar.

October

Fruit in Season

Orchard Tasks

November

Fruit in Season

Champagne fruit: from November through to March we check beneath the trees to see whether any ripe fruit has dropped. Mats of blue daisies carpet the ground beneath the trees to cushion their fall. Champagne fruit do ripen after they have been picked, however their delicious flavour is even better if they are allowed to tree-ripen.

Orchard Tasks

In November, we spray our apple trees with builder’s lime to control apple scab.

December (Officially the beginning of summer)

Fruit in Season

Goldenberries. Picking these beautiful fruits continues from December through to April. Rhubarb can be harvested from now right through to the end of summer.

Orchard Tasks

Spreading organic mulch, ready for summer.