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Received an email the other day from Koanga Institute, part of the content is about the potato trial. In the past, all you do is pay $40 to sponsor a variety, and that’s about it, at the end of the season they published the trial results. This year, they decided, and I quote “Everybody who sponsors a potato this year will receive a kilo of potatoes of the one(s)  they sponsor, that you could either eat or grow! We’ll send them out when we harvest them in February.”. That’s new. In the past, I sponsored Paraketia, this year however, I decided to go for Whataroa, as its the type of potato that is more suited to my culinary style, “Great for making oven-baked chips”. So which is your spud? Click here to sponsor one.

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15mm of rain has accumulated this week. 10mm of that, was accumulated within an hour. The high of the week is 23dC, while the low is 0dC.

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I’ve got a spare Albion Strawberry, and I decided that I will attempt hanging strawberry planters again. I started contemplating what sort of planter I should use this time, and saw the cute little 1L watering can that I have by the window sill. This cute little thing is just ok at doing the watering can job as the spout doesn’t work that great. Its new role, really makes me smile, childishly, like a kid, ear to ear, now I’m smiling at my laptop just looking at the photo, mum and dad used to think I’m up to no good when I’m smiling at the screen back home, lol.

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Guess what?! There’s 3 other types! Maybe I should start a family, it would be so kiddish cool. I use a coir and peat mix, and a teaspoon of water holding crystals. And 3 other variety of strawberries. Or even tumbling tomatoes. Or the ever so elusive Rhodochiton Purple Bells that I have tried for years and been unsuccessful.

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Daylight savings kicking in means that when I come back from work in the evening, I can still see the sun filtering through the Willow trees.

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And wander about the forest garden, marveling at the amazing beauty of nature.

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Tulips come in so many different shapes and shades. This is just lily like.

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I planted a whole line of them. And more around some of the nut trees. I’m definitely adding more Spring bulbs next season.

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What do you call this? Pink frills?

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Beautiful champagne color poppies.

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Nothing defines orange better than Calendula.

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And this Cornflower out blue Monday blues.

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I think Caesar has a better view of the forest garden than me. Bluebells, poppies, and tulips.

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Lapin Cherry flowering. This, I am training into a trellis beside the Dawson Cherry, both on Edabriz interstem rootstock. I was reading a commercial growing magazine the other day, and realized that some orchardists are moving towards a 2D trellis system. I think we saw the same potential adapting from the grapevine intensive monoculture.

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The apple trees are in bloom now. Beneath it, a White Borage, a bit rare but I’ve got a few self-seeded plants around the forest garden.

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The Pinot Gris from Okana Vineyard finally waking up. This year is production year. I’ll train the shoots over the 2 wires on each side, they can have grapes hanging down and I’ll throw a net over them.

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More sweetcorn is popping out of the compost bags. I’m into my 5th week of sowing now. The soil temperature is coming up nicely too, well above 10dC now, its time to sow the sunflower seeds as well.

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I poked some second year wood of currants into the ground, and viola! It rooted! Then I realized, I poked it into the same spot where I poke the stone of a Blackboy Peach. The Blackboy Peach seedling is just popping out now. Amazing how they punch through the pebbles.

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That’s all the tomatoes and capsicums seedlings. The big pot of tomato is Tomaccio, I bought 2 plants from the garden centre, and potted them into the same pot. All the tomatoes are grown two in a hole this season. I think I’ve made very good progress with the capsicums this year compare to the past. I guess the key is to keep potting up. The Sungold Tomato seedlings don’t look that great, I hope they will grow out of it. I realized that the stronger varieties are the ones that I have save seeds from. They seem to naturalized really quickly to local conditions. More reasons to save your own seeds whenever possible.

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This a a chard, going to seed. Its in the poultry patch. Not that there’s any chickens, or ducks in sight, there will be some in the future. Behind it, the kiwiberries are just waking up.

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A very sorry sight of the lemon and lime that were ravaged by those gusty wind last week. They are now placed in a sheltered area. They were once just cut back to a 12 inch whip and been indoors ever since, they done well indoors, and their foliage were not grown for the outdoors. Hence, I’ll leave them outdoors now, and I’ve got plans for them at the end of the season, they are coming indoors no more.

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Caesar is looking longingly at the playmates on the other side of the fence.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. I’m thinking of taking the weeping flowering cherry out of the pot, and planting it back in the forest garden. Plans for tomorrow, a lot of hedge trimming, and I got to give the wet room a good clean. I’ve sprayed the driveway and some other areas with pre-emergent today, its a 12 months thing, but I’m not sure if it will last for 12 months. I’ve also inserted tricodowels into the Goldbar and Goldstrike Apricots to treat for Silver Leaf disease, I hope it works. It’s not easy drilling holes into apricot trees, the wood is hard!

Come again next week and you might see more kiddy planter pots!

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The gutsy wind tends to annoy the hell out of me. It limits outdoor activities, not that it stopped me from going for my morning run this morning, some projects had to be held off. I kept waking up at night to the howling wind. I think I might consider switching bedroom in the future, but I’ll have to paint the other room first.

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This Tree Lucerne got blown over. The high winds on Monday did a good defoliation job on the Lemon Yen Ben and Lime Bearrs that I was growing in a pot and decided to let them hang out outside. Same to the coffee plant that had the younger leaves shredded. Top recorded wind speed on Monday was 51.5kmh. I need my shelters.

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The weather this week, 0.3mm of rain accumulated. High of 22.7dC and a low of -1.4dC.

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Look at that Belgian Fence! It took me a whole day to get all the grafting done. I figured that in the future, if I come across more ancient varieties, I can always modify the Belgian Fence planting to be doubles, meaning there will be two different varieties off a single stock, at the Y intersect.

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Half of them grafted onto rootstocks in planter bags. I can only hope for a 50% strike rate.

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Don’t believe it when peaches and nectarines varieties were advertised as leaf curl resistant. This season, I’m going to try something different. I’m not going to remove any curly leaf. Maybe leaving it on will trigger the plant to produce some internal chemical or biological reaction. Like us falling sick and the body produces its own antibody to combat sickness.

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The shellout pea that I sown in the strawberries bed. Its got very interesting smaller leaf offshoots. I’ve never seen anything like this before.

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The sweetcorn project is slowly starting up with this little seedling corn popping through the compost bag. 4 more weeks of sowing to go. The pumpkin, squash, and watermelon seeds will be sown on Labour Day. The beans sowing cycle will also start then.

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Apricots flowering. Beautiful white flowers. Somehow, apricots seem to be very prone to silver leaf disease. One of them on the West fence has got it, and I had to pruned some of the branches out. Maybe I’ll try hammering a copper nail into the tree. On the other hand, I hope its just false silver leaf disease. True silver leaf disease will have dark stain in the wood when cut.

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The bluebells have started flowering in the forest garden. They are so small, so tiny, so easily overlooked. I hope they will divide well into enchanting masses.

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Caesar loves eating grass. Or at least, lawn clippings.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. I’ve been doing my due diligence giving those thistles a good hoe. I’ll also need to get a billhook to rid myself of those wild mustard weed. I can’t find my Niwashi Shark, its gone missing. Hence, I’m upgrading myself to a Fiskars Brush Hook X3, a reminiscence of my younger years out hiking in the bush with a parang (machete) as a sidearm. We used it to make chopsticks in the jungle for our instant noodles.

Last week, I mentioned about my citrus troubles. And I asked around for opinions and got quite a few, that I sort of just lost myself in it, and decided to go about and improvise.

For the indoor potted citrus, the challenge is to keep the top layer of soil moist to keep the surface feeder roots healthy, as potting mix are quite free draining, all the water will eventually goes down to the bottom catchment. Usually, before this catchment dries out, the surface dried out, and you would have to water again, but as the water seeps down, and the catchment overfills, you get water everywhere. The solution I came up with is to incorporate water holding crystals into the top layer of the soil and just about anything that holds moisture well, and the mulch heavily. I hope it works. And I really have to watch my watering on the potted plants. To improvise even further, I decided to hydrate the water holding crystal with liquid seaweed solution, which essentially, we can hydrate the water holding crystal with any form of liquid fertilizer.

For the outdoor citrus, they were planted in raised beds with very free draining soil. I have already mulched the top heavily with used coffee grounds, so I am probably not going to break up the mulch and incorporate water holding crystals at the moment. Instead, I tried dealing with the spider mite problem by reducing dryness which spider mite thrives on. I’ve setup misters, 2 on each side, that jets mist into the canopy every morning for 3 minutes. The subsequent droplets will also fall on the drip line of the tree and help keep the soil surface sufficiently moist for the rest of the day. It seemed to be working and I am going to setup the same for the citrus on the hugelkultur beds.

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As for nutrition, I am going to try Wallys Matrix Reloaded, N:P:K 53.9: 11.0: 86.8 (g/L), also Ca 43: Mg 10: S 16.8: Plus Fe, Mn, Cu & B. Highly concentrated stuff used in high dilution which I will use to foliar feed. And Garden Works Garden Guano Bloom, NPK 10-10-2+TE for watering in. Then, of course, there’s also the diluted man juice, for outdoor plants only! I had a feeling I am going down the path of, if you can’t fix the soil, foliar feed instead, if it works…? Not a very organic approach to the purist.

Finally, I’ve got a proper soil PH test kit which I am going to start testing them soil. I’ve just tested the used coffee grounds, and they had a pH between 5-5.5, which is pretty acid. There in proving that the McGregor’s 3 in 1 Soil Tester is not getting the pH right as suspected, the tester read a 7 on just about all solid medium, it did get the pH right when I put it in a vinegar dilution. Good mulch for all the acid loving plants. I’m also going to feed them to the worm farm.

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The latest addition to Orchard Cottage, a tea plant. So it says on the label, “easy to grow, easy to brew”. Seriously hope so. There’s this little spot by the house facing the North, I used to grow, and is still growing Biodynamic weeds in here, but guess its time for a bit of an upgrade. After all, an empty plot can’t grow weeds forever, natural progression sees to it that a higher form takes over.

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Finally, after a year, General Gallieni (1899), is flowering properly. Last year, it keeps putting out ugly deformed flower. I think one of the key to dealing with these old world roses is to prune them consistently. If any flower buds are facing the wrong way, cut if off. If the flower is done, cut it off. If the stem is weak or going the wrong way, cut if off. Prune prune prune, and be rewarded.

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Glamis Castle flowering well too. Somehow, I don’t enjoy David Austin roses that much, it is probably because they don’t comply very much to the modern romantic bouquet of tea rose. But if you are looking to amass lots of rose petals, these are the one to go for.

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And I spotted the latest bloom in the wildflowers meadow. A velvety red flower.

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Poppies of different colours.

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Phacelia has started to flower too. That will totally bring on the bees who are now still obsessed with the lavenders.

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This will be the final year for me to grow climbing peas. I will stick with dwarf peas next season onward. Though, there are just masses of them, my greenhouse looks as if it is weed infested from the outside. The peas are podding up beautifully, I will hold back from harvesting them for a week. The carrots in there, most of them are going to seed, they got pulled out and chucked into the compost bin. I also took heaps of wasted brown mushrooms home from work to add to the compost bin, with hope of introducing the spores to the Orchard Cottage.

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Look! A broccoli head is forming! Broccoli is in very short supply in South Island right now, prices are sky rocketing.

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All the citrus on the hugelkultur beds out back have received grass clippings mulch. Cosy and nicely tucked in. Further watered down with diluted man juice. I planted a spreading rosemary in between each plant. Sow lucerne, lupin, allysum, borage, and whatever herbs I have in the seed box.

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Walnut is finally waking up, mid-Spring. Sure take its own sweet time to wake up.

Last weeks wet weather has resulted in leaf curl on the supposedly healthy Orchard Peach. Interestingly, the Northern part of the tree is least affected, most of the curly leaf is concentrated on the Southern aspect. I am doing a tripple mix of Seasol, MBL, and Mycorrcin foliar spray this week.

John and Tina came over today to pick up some green coffee beans for growing. Gave them a tour of the forest garden and picked John’s brain on a lot of thing. After all, he is greener than me. So we decided on a way to do cherry on trellis. And to get the hazelnuts into open centers. And to strip the fruits off the top canopies so that it does not distort the shape of the tree. And the sad looking new growth on the Santa Rosa Plum is perfectly normal. And my broccoli is perfectly healthy and unaffected by the caterpillar! Well, I have not seen that white butterfly around, yet.

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The herb pot was renovated. I don’t use the herbs anyway. In they go, soil and all into the compost bin. I got 2 funky ficus and 3 sticks of bamboo to occupy the pot. They look very interesting. Definitely more of a sight compare to herbs.

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The Orchard Cottage this week.

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Caesar is enjoying the shade right now. The weather is getting warmer, soon the soil will be warm enough for Jerusalem Artichokes to go in.

It was a hell of a week. I got the tummy bug for the first time in my life and it is almost like the killing me softly type of food poisoning. However, I’m lucky not to get into the vomiting and diarrhea. I do remember shitting my guts out till I faint in the toilet thanks to food poisoning. This time, just a very uncomfortable tummy, a rather sore body, and immobilizing headache, the occasional fever too. I was on Powerade and digestives diet yesterday and day before, and today I was on Gatorade and coconut water, and started to try and get back into a normal diet, starting with soup. The worst is now behind, I just have to get my appetite back and regain energy.

I thought I would have gained immunity to all kind of sickness after growing up as a sickly child. I don’t even need the winter flu jab to fight off the flu. Guess what, I have never developed immunity to the tummy bug before, this will be the first, and the last!

Alas, Spring is here just around the corner! I am supposed to broadcast more wildflowers seed before a rain event, and two just passed and I missed both of them! Come again, a good dose of rain please. Winter is still making its mark, some fine frosty morning today and perhaps tomorrow.

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The peas have climbed and climbed and climbed and they have reached the top line that I have strung. I’ll have to make two more levels soon. Pea soup soon too!

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Seedlings are screaming to get out of their tiny cells. They’ll still have to wait a bit more. Maybe next Friday I’ll have the time to do it. Here’s the dilemma though, there’s tomatoes, peppers, basil, sprouting broccoli, and tomatillos in there. When I put those tomatoes in to PB 3/4, someone is going to have to make room and go onto the window sill tray, which is unheated, who? I am sure the first to go will be the sprouting broccoli. Who else? Maybe the basil.

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This is a view of the forest garden today. The ground is pretty green. Wildflowers abound! There’s still plenty of thistles coming up too, I’ll deal to them with the help of that salty product soon. Most of the plants are already moving! In a few weeks time, we’ll have some assorted beautiful spring flowers 😉

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This year’s paraketia potatoes are going to be growing in pots. I might be able to grow them all year round too because my hot sunny citrus corner is virtually frost free all year round! Anyway, this is the first time I have successfully “chit” seed potatoes! I wasn’t even doing them right like the experts tell me to put them out as single layers not to lay them on top of each other. I simply bang them into a box and commanding-ly says, “thou shall chit!”. Works.

Come again next week and I shall have fully recovered and doing more.

We have started the pick your own season at the orchards. It was absolute mayhem. People seems to be mentally challenged in reading signs. Or appreciate the fact that food is scarce and should not be thoughtlessly discarded. At the end of the first day, the orchard floor is littered with cherries! I was so disgusted and I am still very  disgusted now. What has humanity done upon itself?

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Well, at least those people figured out how to park their cars in the paddock. Despite them not using the planned path on occasion. There’s always a first time for everything, so we just put up more signage. If people can’t read arrows and symbols, they can read words. If they can’t do that either, they should really not be driving.

Anyway, we have ran out of ripe cherries. These hungry people cleaned us out. We have to shut the gate for a couple of days so that the next variety have time to ripen up for the picking. Ripe cherry makes happy customers. Ripe cherry weighs more too! However, it has always amused me to see people pick unripe dark cherries thinking they were picking white cherries. That’s for not picking in the designated area!

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My yoghurt finally made it, after the 3rd try! I use the Natren Yoghurt Starter which makes traditional Bulgarian-style yoghurt. I use it on raw organic milk. And add my Bio Dynamic strawberries into it along with honey. That’s wholesome goodness 😉

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At the Orchard Cottage, the Summer has brought in rapid growth. The tomatoes and potatoes growing alongside each other in the cloche bed are doing really well. I started the potatoes quite early, and used the cloche to protect them from frost. A lesson learned about planting out tomatoes and peppers is to wait until after show day, as long as I have them in a pretty large bag to grow in. And did someone say something about not growing tomatoes and potatoes together? I am taking a risk here, but I figure if my potatoes are coming out of the ground by Christmas, I don’t really have much to worry about.

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The corns and beans are doing really well too! In my ignorance, I did not sow the beans a week or two later than the corns. Now the beans are looking for something to cling on to… Air. The corns are growing really well though. Early Gem definitely going for it, so much vigour. I am very keen on developing open pollinated cross between Early Gem with Rainbow Inca and Silver Platinum which will give it more flavor, and yet have a shorter sowing to harvesting period which is very ideal for the local climate.

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The roses are infested by aphids. Every single one of them. They give me the chills up the spine. I have never seen such mad infestation before. Disease resistance, old world, David Austin, doesn’t make a difference, still covered with aphids. I’ve done a neem soap spray in the evening yesterday followed by a neem oil spray this morning. Tomorrow morning I am likely going to do a soil drench with Seasol, in hope the seaweed will help give the roses a booster.

There will be no picture of Caesar today as he is becoming very famous. The customers just love him and his picture is probably all over some Chinese version of Facebook by now.

 

 

Yesterday was frustrating. The gust started on Friday night with at least 16 knots and up to 27 knots, and it went on and on through to Saturday evening. All the while, I silently glanced at my greenhouse, being trashed by the wind. It hold fast in its place, thanks to 4 aluminium stakes hammered into the ground at the corners, and a wooden frame for the door which is supported against the wall of the cottage by a beam. The wind is smarter than that, knowing that it can’t blow the greenhouse away, it decides to start ripping the plastic covers apart. There’s now tear holes in the plastic covers, the wind knows that it works, and it will try and finish the job the next time it regains its strength. As for me, I’ll just have to start planning for a more grandeur design for next season when this season ends. And possibly plant a native shelter in the paddock opposite the cottage.

The lovely buds of Apple Calville Blanc D Hiver. It appears that this year I will have 9 apples and 4 pears in pots. The other pear I failed to mentioned in my last post is Pear Louise Bon Jersey (1780). And another lesson learned, fruit trees doesn’t like to travel by mail order when they are not dormant. I foliar-ed them with Seasol and Neem Oil to help remedy the consequences.

The Santa Rosa Plum in the tucker patch seems to be recovering gently from the aphid infestation. I gave it a light spray of Neem Oil with soap. It appears to be the only fruit plant having an aphid problem then. However, I just spotted a group of large juicy green aphids on the Climbing Rose Lydia. Them being full adult size suggests that they have been there for quite a while! I will have to deal with that soon but I wasn’t too worry about it because the rose is surrounded by flowering Mustard and Blue Lupin. There’s bound to be more hungry insect-eating-insect around!

2kgs of Comfrey roots were buried in the tucker patch, as well as a border around the wildflowers meadow yesterday. These deep rooted plants help to mine Potassium from the subsoil just like how Dandelions mine Calcium.

Broad Beans have set pods despite of the previous frosty events! The next challenge would be to figure out when they are ripe for harvest. How do you eat broad beans? Do you eat them whole with the pod or just the beans? Hmmm… Have I even ate broad beans before? That’s how clueless I am…

I sprayed Bio Dynamic P508 this morning, I was supposed to do it on Friday but the preparations did not arrived till yesterday. And later on, P500 and CPP in the evening. That is the full moon routine. Then, P501 on the morning  before Moon goes into opposition of Saturn.

We are also monitoring for Leaf Curl in the orchard among the Peach and Nectarine trees. At first glanced, either our prevention sprays are very well timed and effective or the disease pressure was low this season. Previous seasons, this time, we will be going around with a plastic bag collecting curly leaves and emptying them into drums for incineration. My first year in the orchard was quite a nightmare, but that helped me to develop an eye for early signs of leaf curl so that I can promptly remove the infected leaves.

Tomatillo, they sound so cute and cool. That got me into trying to grow them this season as well, and I just have to find a place to stick them in. I am growing 2 varieties from Kings Seeds, Tomatillo Grande Verde and Tomatillo Purple. I don’t even know what I am going to do with them, but I will figure out when the fruits are ripe. I heard that Salsify Black Scorzonera taste like oyster, I like oyster, so I am going to stick them in as well. And radish too, just out of curiosity, radish seems familiar, I also wonder if I have ate them before.

I planned for this season, yet I am not entirely following the plan as I kept adding varieties to it! The plan did not have Jerusalem Artichokes. Nor 3 varieties of corn. Nor tomatillos. Nor salsify. Nor swedes. Nor radish. And definitely did not planned for the 13 pip fruits in pots!

I can only attribute this to racing against time. To try to make up for all the gardening experience that I missed out in the past quarter century of my life. I am loving it!

Caesar killed the stuffed rabbit and ripped its guts out. I set him out on the sheep almost every evening so that he can round them up and chase them into another paddock. He is getting better at it. It is really fun for a non-shepherd to observe his lovely pet dog doing this kind of thing.

p/s, had my mind on a lot of blueberry plants~

My obsession with heritage fruit plants had me cataloging most of the apple cultivars that I can get my hand on and then researching their year of origin. Today, I finally manage to research most of them and discovered that 4 more pre-1700 cultivars! Golden Pippin (1629), Rhode Island Greening (1650), Gravenstein (1669), Ribston Pippin (1688).  I have placed an order for the Golden Pippin and Gravenstein. Unfortunately Rhode Island Greening is only available for Southland, and Ribston Pippin is not available in m106 rootstock. This fetish is costing me money, but money well spent on safe keeping of ancient genetic source of fruit plants.

Three oldest pears money can buy. Jargonelle (1600s), Seckel (1700s), and William bon Chretien (1770). At the same time,  Coe’s Golden Drop is the oldest plum I have researched so far, dating back to the 1700s.

I am also obsessed with healthy food. The 2 jug on the left is for my weekly supply of raw organic milk. And the rest is for brewing 3 liters of water kefir. Now, 3 times a week I will be on a kefir re-hydration day instead of water re-hydration day.

I found out that the intense orange of Calendula goes well with the intense purple of Lavender, they look absolutely stunning together! The White Alyssum has started flowering in the wildflowers meadow. I guess one of the mistake I made is to mow the meadow down into the ground, this season I will cut it to 30cm height with a line trimmer right at the start of Winter.

Young grape vines are growing! I am so excited! Yet I doubt I will be able to harvest any grapes from them this year. But I will definitely have a few nice bunches of Pinot Gris which I *ahem* adopted *ahem* from our Pinot Noir vineyard, sticking out like a purple cow. I am actually going to train it to run along the clothes line. Unconventional.

Lemon Meyer in full bloom. But we have a problem. Some leaves are turning brown and dropped by itself. And the flower buds just fall off. It is strange. I suspect that in my attempt to rid the plant of scales, I poisoned it with my neem oil and soap spray. Soap which if applied in more than 2% can be phytotoxic to plants. So I gave the plant a good flushing by pouring away its water reservoir and watering it with fresh water. It seems to have recovered, and now I even have fruit set! I also gave my Lemon Yen Ben and Lime Bearrs a PowerFeed today, Moon in Sagittarius.

I upgrade the tomatoes into 5.5cm x 13cm paper pots last week, and they went all out, busting the roof of the micro-climate cover. So, I moved them out into the greenhouse, with a bit of trouble. Lessons are learned along the way. If you are using paper pots like me, move them if you have to, before you water them, they disintegrate rather easily when wet. Sticking them together shoulder to shoulder is also a bad idea, some of the roots decided to have a taste of the other pot… Give half of them away and pot the ones I am keeping into PB12.

My transplanting plan for the tomatoes into the tucker patch would be utilize 3 of the planting lanes, 2 rows on each lanes and 4 plants a row. That way, I will have 3 plants of each varieties, 8 varieties in total. And plus 1 more lane of Henry’s Dwarf Bush Cherry Tomatoes. I guess that means I have plenty of tomatoes to give away and feed the birds as well!

My way of managing the orchard is the corporate way of “Managing By Walking Around (MBWA)”. Instead of whizzing around on a quad bike, I took an hour walk through all the blocks, get up close and personal with the trees to make sure they are all at their very best. I find this not only put me in a tree-hugging-mood, but also allow me to quickly spot any problems, or review on what we have done right or wrong. One day, I will know the orchard like the back of my feet. In the photo above is Block 6, we cut down all the central leaders that is growing in between the multi-leaders, now this block no longer feel constipated. It raised the whole vibration of the area and improved airflow, lower disease risk, it is now my favorite block.

This is what a bumper crop looks like to me. Cherries usually fruit on older wood. However, on a one year old wood, they will usually fruit on the first 3 inch. This year, they are going beyond that 3 inch but decide to fruit all the way to the tip! Now, we just need the weather to warm up and have the bees do their job.

This is what happen when you sheep wander among your fruit trees. If a dog bite a sheep, we shoot the dog. Now, should we shoot the sheep?

600 pages of ancient China agriculture. Its so lengthy, I decide to practice speed reading.

Caesar, he found out how to get to Grant’s house from my house to play with Hugo the Samoyed, that’s more than a quarter mile away. It happened yesterday, I took him out for a walk, and he decide to herd the sheep. Instead of heading them to me like what Border Collie are designed to do, he became a Huntaway wannabe and drove the sheep further and further away, and they ended up right beside Grant’s house, then Caesar disappeared. The same thing happened today, I had him herding the sheep all around the paddock, then they decide to head for Grant’s house… Caesar once again ignored me when I called out to him.

I made good progress with Caesar and Hugo today by walking them together. It was pretty much the first time they behaved in a civilized manner in each other’s presence instead of jumping around and wrestling each other. Plans were made to do it more often to create a more balanced relationship.

 

The Lemon Meyer in the living room is just starting to blossom. The perfume is intoxicating. It’s like being in the room with someone who overdose on CK IN2U.

All is not well with the Lemon Meyer. It still has not rid itself of scales infestation yet. I treated it with Neem Oil a week ago and follow up with a Homeopathic Sulfur C200 a week later which helps to deter pest and strengthen the plant. Some new shoots are starting to shriveled off and some just drop, and same to some flower buds. If this continues it will seriously weakened the tree. I just got desperate enough to brush the scales with some Diatomaceous Earth with my old toothbrush, which will hopefully dehydrate them. I am quite an impatient person, so I will probably resort to picking them off the tree later in the afternoon.

This is how it looks like from the inside of our spray tractor. It looks exactly like Guido from Cars. The whole thing is hydraulics driven, pivot steer which means that the whole front part of the tractor turns when you turn the steering, takes some getting used to. It takes me 6 hours to spray the cherries and 2 hours for the peaches and nectarines. A scary thing about this tractor, because it is hydraulics driven, there’s heaps of pipes underneath which I heard leaks and break off all the time and you will see the cabin floor will be flooded with oil. Tractor driving is very boring, yet one will feel so powerful as he go along spraying a concoction on to dominate Mother Nature.

We had a bit of snow on Tuesday night. I think this will be the last of the wintry weather. It is of course followed by a frost the following night which had me spraying LB Urea onto the cherry trees already in flower in the orchard which is known to help fend of frost. The temperature got to about -2dCelcius when the sun starts to rise. I sprayed Homeopathic Aconitum C200 as a remedy for cold, windy, frost and hail.

I repotted most of the tomatoes yesterday. 55mm diameter and 130mm high paper pots. I mixed half and half Dalton’s Organic Seed Raising Mix with South-Hort Organic Compost, then 50g of Wally’s Rok Solid (rock minerals) and 20g of Neem Granules. I gave them Homeopathic Arnica C200 to alleviate transplant stress. This will give the seedlings enough ooomph until they go into the ground on Labour Day, or into a larger pot if they decide to make a run for it. The punnets at the front are the bell peppers, Thai chilis, and eggplants. These will probably have another 2 weeks of growing before they get an upgrade.

For the first time in decades, Kaituna Orchards will be accepting EFTPOS for Pick-Your-Own Cherries! In the past we had people holding back on their purchase in case of the lack of cash. We also had people who went all out and had no cash to pay. Either way, both are not good for the business. We also had in mind of drawing up a simple sketch on how to pick first grade cherries so that our customers will have beautiful cherries that store well. Note, cherries without a stalk or with a broken stalk will not store well. We also had people pulling off the fruiting spurs as souvenirs, this is really bad business as it will devastate the fruiting capacity of the trees, therefore, if you want to destroy your competition, go into their PYO orchard and pull off all the fruiting spurs! Only do it if you can live with the consequences for the rest of your life.

Two books that I read this week. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A Price, this is a book that everyone should read, especially for those who aspire to be parents. Price studied primitive people from all over the world, their health when they are living on native diet, and their health after they switched to modern diet. These primitive people on their native diet have very low incidence of tooth decay, yet they don’t brush their teeth, they don’t gargle Listerine, nor do they floss. They definitely do not have an annual visit to the dentist for high-tech clean up. And yet, modern people are plagued with tooth decay no matter how many times we brush our teeth a day! Dental health is one of the biggest indicator of general health. The answer is in the food that we consumed today. Read the book, it will be the best gift you can give to our future generations.

Another book was written by Thomas and Carol Janas Sinclair. Bread, Beer & the Seeds of Change. It is a really interesting read about the history of food until they start to advocate Nitrogen fertilizers, revel in the marvelous pesticides and herbicides, and slam the organic idea. “The requirements for obtaining the USDA certification label of Organic make widespread growing of cereal grains virtually impossible. Many of these restrictions are based on the idea of limiting the use of “artificial” approaches in growing the crops. The regulations are a curious set of dos-and-don’ts; for example, plant varieties generated from the transformation of a single gene are strictly prohibited, but plants resulting from breeding that alters hundreds of genes in unknown ways are acceptable. Certainly, all plants used in organic farming have already been genetically manipulated in their history.”. Here, they try to justify genetic engineering.

One of Caesar’s sleeping position. He is recovering well, I gave him some Homeopathic Arnica C200 to help alleviate the shock. He also got over the effects of antibiotic now, it meddled with his bladder and bowel control.

Cold Northerlie wind for the entire week almost got me screaming in madness. Gusting winds always have a way to get on my nerves. They made me feel very helpless. Worst when they give you the wind chill on a sunny day. The persistent wind delayed our black cherry aphids spray until today, on a Sunday morning, I got into the spray tractor and accumulated gazillions of bad karma killing imaginary aphids in the orchard.

I don’t mind driving the spray tractor at 6km/h but topping up the tank with chemicals is a revolting process. Take a townie and put him in-charged of fungicide, pesticide, insecticide, herbicide spraying and he will turn organic within a week. You can see, smell and sometimes feel the texture of the stuff. Spring oil smells like rotten eggs. Preglone is blue but turns yellow when it goes into contact with water, burns your throat like aerosol paint. I would be a lot happier spraying a slurry of cow manure or compost tea than a 2200L tank of watercolors.

We spent the entire week working up the ground in Block 1, marking out the rows, digging holes, and planting and transplanting all sorts of fruit trees into it. There is now a selection of apples, pears, cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, peacherines, peachcots, plumcots, and plum rootstocks. We are on a mission to discover low maintenance crop which are naturally healthy. At the same time, to trial natural method of remedying soil and tree health.

I just finished reading The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman. And I quote, “Insects and disease are not the problem. They are, rather, the symptoms. their presence is a visible exterior indication that all is not well with the plants. No one would be so simple as to think that scraping off the spots – the visible exterior symptoms – could cure a child’s chicken pox. Similarly, removing pests from a plant does not cure the problem or eliminate the cause. All that it accomplishes it to throw a cloak over the problem.”. He could not have said it better. Chemical agriculture is like sweeping rubbish under the carpet, one day we will run out of carpet to hide the rubbish.

Please don’t accused me of fear mongering. Our consultant and chemical salesman often tell us, “if you don’t spray enough copper on during leaf fall, your trees will die of bacterial blasts”, “if you don’t paint all your cuts, your trees will die of silver leaf”, “if you don’t spray protectant fungicide on every 7-14 days, you will lost all your crop to brown rot”, “if you don’t pile enough N-P-K on, your trees will have nutrient deficiency”, “if you don’t have a herbicide strip, your trees will not be able to compete well for water and nutrient”. Fear mongering? Could it be a coincidence?

I bought this book, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. At the back of the book it says, “The Diet Dictocrats don’t want you to know that… your body needs old-fashioned animal fats… new-fangled polyunsaturated oils can be bad for you… modern whole grain products can cause health problems… traditional sauces promote digestion and assimilation… modern food processing denatures our foods but… ancient preservation methods actually increase nutrients in fruits, nuts, vegetables, meats and milk products!”. I’ll put this book and Change of Heart by Kay Baxter to good use when my garden comes into full production again.

I only planted 2 crops last Autumn to over-Winter. Broad beans are now flowering profusely and the bumble bees just love them! Peas on the other hand got munted completely by the birds late Autumn and subsequent attempt to resow them remain unsuccessful with the last sowing completely washed away by the flood. I’ll sow again tomorrow and hopefully I will get some peas before they have to make way to put the Summer crops in.

Citrus trees don’t like open spot. They hate the wind. Even Lemon Meyer, a hardy lemon hybrid hates the wind! I did not do it justice exposing it to the double whammy of both Northerlies and Southerlies. So I pot it up in a sweet “little” pot and give it the primo spot in the house. Then, I got an Apple tree named Mother on a m9 dwarfing rootstock and planted it in the Lemon’s old spot. (c.1844) Mother a widely acclaimed late red apple which is highly recommended for every fruit connoisseur`s garden! The flavor is excellent: sweet, perfumed and distinctive. The tree is very upright. Bears fruit when young and is a heavy but not always regular cropper. I have more Apple trees coming, but let’s keep that in suspense.

Everything is moving! Blueberries are stretching themselves up!

Nashi pear showing white tips!

The Simon Peach started to flower. I named it the Simon Peach because Simon, the previous tenant who rescued this tree from the orchard do not know what variety it is and insisted that it is a Nectarine and not a Peach, but fruits don’t lie,  its furry.

The Gold Bar Apricot that I rescued from Block 35 is starting to move, I am actively removing as much flower buds as I can and retaining a handful to reduce transplant stress on this tree. Talk about Apricots, some thief conveniently took a dozen of bare-rooted Apricot trees heeled in the sawdust in the orchard last week, but karma has already been dealt as those trees are all self-sterile, hohoho! Beautiful Spring flowers though…

No plums this year, just leaves.

At one end of the Tucker Patch, I left the mustards untouched, they are now flowering and will start to attract and feed the beneficial insects population.

The wildflowers meadow is full of seedlings! I did my second batch sowing today. Can’t wait to be surprised this season!

Spotted this solitary White Borage in the wildflowers meadow making an early dash.

Strawberries are starting to crank up production, yays!

1st generation Orchard Cottage Calendula! Self-seeded last season. Edible flowers, yum!

Lavenders have started their flowering. I’ll be taking cuttings of Lavenders and Elderflowers next week for propagation.

The loot from Le Bons Bay. Thanks Colleen!

Remember my strawbale live compost making attempt? The Crimson Clovers are growing neatly in it and I have just sown Blue Lupins among them.

Comfrey twins coming up among the Crimson Clovers at the Citrus Corner.

Getting a head start with my Summer crops, 8 varieties of tomatoes as promised! The Zucchinis are going into larger newspaper compost filled pots tomorrow. I would highly recommend the use of vermiculite for starting seeds. I filled the punnets up with Dalton’s Organic Seed Raising Mix, an itsy-bitsy-tiny-pinch of Koanga Seedling Inoculant, sow the seeds and top it off with a thin layer of vermiculite which helps maintain just the right amount of surface moisture so crucial for germinating seeds.

The largest bunch of Endive I harvested from the cloche! Wait, this is Endive right?

And to finish this entry off with Caesar. If you can’t see the eyes…

FLASH!

First came peach leaf curl. Then came silverleaf.

We spent the week going through all our peaches and nectarines to take out all the infected leafs shoots, put them in plastic bags courtesy of shopping at New World, before dumping them into a drum which is later on incinerated.

While going through with the cultural control, we spotted some trees are down with silverleaf as well. That’s not fun. But on the brighter side, peaches and nectarines were never meant to be the main crops this season, or the next. That said, its easier to control when the number is minimal.

Peach leaf curl… usually controlled by one or two cover spray during bud burst. We had one cover spray on, but we still get it. Why? The optimal infection period is during cool, wet weather during bud burst, and rain helps a lot. Plus our trees are rather high, we wanted to bring them back down but we can’t do away with all the height in one year, that means the sprayer may have some trouble getting to the top tiers. We have also had peach leaf curl last season, which means that the spores are still around. We should have do away with two cover sprays instead of one. In the meantime, we are taking out all the infected leafs shoots now and we will do it again during fruit thinning. We’ll be getting copper lime on post harvest and two cover spray during bud burst after this to properly control the disease.

Silverleaf… the only way to prevent it is to always paint the cuts with Bacseal, we tried Garrison and we absolutely hate the runny blue stuff. We did that, but somehow we still got it. This disease is spread through wind blown spores landing on fresh wounds in winter or spring. I looked into Novachem and I found two products that would be useful for a curative measure. Vinevax Bio-inoculant Implant (Trichoderma harzianum) and Treet (2-hydroxybenzoic acid).  The first one is a beneficial fungus which can be used from early spring to autumn while the other is a fungicide which can be used post harvest through to late dormant.

This is such a pain, that’s why we love our apricots, cherries and wine grapes so much! Yet, we are still going to look after all the trees in our orchards with much tender loving care for they feed us and put food on our plates.

Our orchards on beautiful lands. I used to hike up the hills, but nowadays I just ride up with the quadbike. And yes, those beautiful gorse on the lower frame, smells like shea butter that ladies smear all over themselves. Flower thrips love them, but the wind will blow them into the orchards to land on the peaches and nectarines. Thrips only does damage to nectarines fruit during fruitset and you have to spray for them during flowering. However, the insecticides that you have to put on is harmful to bees when wet. We are not putting on the spray, but instead choose to monitor for them before we spray, so far, the thrips have stayed on the gorse flowers, they like yellow more than pink.

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