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A Fruitful Time for Planting

Hello all and welcome to my first contribution to the Bannockburn and District Community Newsletter (hopefully the first of many!).

Home grown is becoming more and more common. Many of us move to the Golden Plains Shire wanting a little extra space for various past times. With this space why not consider an orchard?

It is not as hard as you may first think.  You will see many elaborate set ups as you drive throughout the shire.  Large orchards with trees hooped and netted against possums, birds, bats and any number of other local fauna who may develop a taste for your crop.  There are correct pruning methods to enhance fruit size and quality, and spray programs to deter potential pests and disease. Yes, all these things will yield greater returns however don't be too concerned by all these if getting started. They are things you will pick up along the way as your orchard grows and grows.

June and July is the best time to plant fruit trees which shed all their leaves over winter and most available varieties will grow well in the Golden Plains region, given the opportunity.

Allow approximately 4m * 4m square per tree unless it is being espaliered (grown flat along a fence or wall), or if a dwarf tree is selected. I would only select a dwarf growing tree if space is a concern, e.g. a smaller residential backyard or possibly a potted specimen.

The easiest trees to start off with are apples and plums.  Both are quite hardy to our dry climate and will survive well with very little if any additional water once established if the ground is mulched under them prior to summer each year.

Both apples and Plums need cross pollinators.  This just means another variety of apple or plum near them to aid fruiting. Simply request your favourite variety e.g. Pink Lady, and ask your local nursery/hardware to advise you on what other variety they have which you can plant to assist fruiting.  

Apples and plums are also easy to prune.  Yes there are special techniques to increase yield, but if each winter you prune out any branches which are rubbing or crossing over each other and cut the rest back by about half to two thirds of last year's growth, you will get reasonably good crops year in year out.

I have great success also with pears (Nashi), Peaches, Apricots, Nectarines, and Cherries , not to mention Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus, all of which are also best planted over the winter months.  It is very easy to have at least one home grown fruit to sample from your own backyard from December right through to June. 

I have selected apples so that between 6 different varieties we are stocked with fresh apples from February until late May.

If planting Peaches or nectarines be prepared to spray them each year at least twice over winter to prevent leaf curl, a disease which ruins the appearance of your tree and can drastically reduce yield. If you are not prepared to do these simply plant something else! They also require a little more knowledge at pruning time although don't let this deter you.

Cherries are a little thirstier than most other trees so place them where they are a little more sheltered to reduce moisture loss and also nearest to available water source to.  They are well worth the extra effort.  Pruning is better done after fruiting in summer/autumn if necessary however I have not pruned mine for the last 7 years!

I hear good things about Apricots and almonds although I also find almonds thirsty and my apricots fruit very intermittently although I know of others locally who have far more success than I.

Remember each year can vary in the quantity and quality of your crop and if one year's crop is disappointing, next year's crop may well be a ripper!

If you have any questions you would like me to answer send them in and I will do my best to help you with any of your garden enquiries.  You may even inspire a topic for my next entry!!

Kind regards,  

Chris Hose.