trees (8)

Back in the Garden- Oct 2016

Last month, I ventured back out into my garden after a lengthy absence, not at all sure what I would find. I was delighted to find that most of my fruit trees survived, though some fared better than others.

(Funny enough, the Nasturtiums had gone completely feral so the yard didn’t look nearly as bad as it was because it was all covered with a layer of cheery orange flowers!)


Over in my “orchard” of dwarf fruit trees, the Dwarf Red Shahtoot was covered by the strangling vines that grow over everything that sits still long enough around here.

I thought for sure it was dead (not just dormant) but saw green through some of the bark. One side of the tree has survived, at least, so I gave it a good feed and a coat of BD paste and hoped for the best. 

Soon after, I had buds, leaves and berries. I’ll still have to wait and see how much of the tree comes back to life.


My 3 tropical apple trees seem to have been completely unbothered by my lack of care. 


Two of the trees, my Golden Dorsett and Tropic Sweet, have now bloomed and

set a reasonable number of fruit.

 I’ve even had to thin the fruit a bit, with as many as four fruit in a group.

The Tropical Anna hasn’t bloomed yet but is putting on new growth.


The orange trees were absolutely covered with blooms and the fragrance was heavenly!

  The fruit is beginning to swell and it won’t be long before I’ll have to think about thinning those out, as well.


The poor little Tahitian Limewhich has never looked terribly healthy, is doing its best. It has bloomed and is actually trying to set fruit.


The Dwarf Peach, whose very healthy “belly” drags the ground anyway, bloomed and has set a few fruit. I still have to figure out a way to protect those peaches from rodents given their proximity to the ground! (I’m working on “peach cages”. Otherwise, I’ll have to enclose the whole little tree in wire mesh and stake it to the ground if I plan on getting a peach.

The Lots-o-Lemons is just beginning to bloom and sadly, there are still no blooms on my Jaboticaba tree.


Over in another area, my Dwarf Freemont Mandarin was doing poorly with an ant infestation and sooty mould, which it has battled since I got it. Nothing else I tried worked, so I banded it to stop the ants and removed every single leaf except for the new growth. Cross-my-fingers, it seems to be working.


The Dwarf Nectarine put out its brilliant red foliage and single bloom. I was surprised to find one tiny fruit growing a few days ago.


I untangled the sprawling, gangly-looking

Pepino plants and installed them vertically in a couple of tomato cages. They have begun putting out more foliage, blooms and fruit.

The white Choko, has begun climbing back up the fence, and I have 3 plants starting for anyone who needs one.


Back up near the top of the yard, the Red Tamarillo is happy and fruiting like mad. I’m able to bag some of it, but I’ll have to plant the next tree somewhere that allows me to more safely access it and not teeter on the edge of a slope with a ladder.


The Pigeon Peas have been providing food for the birds and the bees. I’ve managed to get a couple of meals-worth for myself, as well.


They are beginning to slow down, now, so I’m trying to get some more started to plant elsewhere and make sure I have plenty to share next season.


OH! And I can see the very start of a Pineapple on one of the 3 plants I originally got from Elaine.


Down at the very bottom of the yard is where I planted the Cherry tree. I was so happy to see that it has survived and is putting out leaves and blooms on all branches.



The nearby Dwarf Black Mulberry is also doing well and putting out plenty of fruit.

I’ve also started planting out some annuals, like Roma Tomatoes, Spaghetti Squash, Zucchinis, Yacon, and lots of flowers to bring in the pollinators and other good bugs.

Too much out there to mention it all, but I was so glad that most of the garden survived without me. It still needs a lot of work, but at least I don’t have to start completely over.

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Pruning Stone Fruit

February is apparently the time to prune stone fruit trees. All new to me as my tropical nectarine is only 6mths old but already 2m tall.

From Canberra Organic Growers Society Inc:

Pruning Stone Fruit

[click here to download a pdf version]

The most commonly grown backyard deciduous fruits come from two groups – the stone fruits (including apricots, plums, peaches and nectarines) and the pome fruits (including apples, pears, nashis and quinces). This article outlines some of the hows, whys and whens of stone fruit tree pruning.

Why prune?

Pruning of fruit trees influences both the growth of the tree and the amount of fruit produced. If left unpruned fruit trees will become too tall and tangled to comfortably and safely harvest and will produce much unproductive growth.

According to David Kilpatrick the objectives of pruning are:

(a) to improve the size, colour and quality of the fruit,

(b) to promote heavy and regular bearing,

(c) to maintain the tree in a healthy condition, and

(d) to enable cultural operations to be carried out conveniently and expeditiously.

These cultural operations include harvesting, spraying and pruning.

Tree structure

The above ground parts of a tree consist of the main framework of the trunk, the main limbs which arise directly from the trunk and divide into the secondary limbs which extend to the edge of the canopy forming the leaders. This framework forms the permanent structure of the tree and is developed over several years.pruningstones1w

Fruit is not carried directly on the limbs but on laterals or spurs arising from them. Laterals are lengthy annual growths arising from the limbs which have both leaf and flower buds. If left to grow for more than one season, laterals become branches. Some species will also produce fruiting spurs from older branches. Spurs are short stubby growths arising directly from the branches, with multiple flower buds and can remain productive for many years.

It is necessary to understand where the fruiting wood on a particular tree occurs in order to promote its growth and to avoid inadvertently pruning it off.

Formative pruning is used to develop a strong, healthy branch structure in the years before the trees start bearing. The aim is to establish a framework of well placed branches from which the fruiting wood will develop in later years. During this stage young trees should be allowed to retain as much leaf area as possible to hasten stem and branch thickening. Upright growing trees can be encouraged to spread by pruning the leaders to existing side branches rather than to a bud. Conversely spreading trees can be encouraged to more upright growth by pruning back to vertical shoots.

Once trees start to bear compromises may be necessary between maintaining a healthy branch structure and promoting maximum fruit production.

Pruning tools

Clean, sharp and appropriately sized pruning tools should be used. Secateurs, long-handled loppers and pruning saws may all be needed. It is important to clean tools when moving between trees and from diseased to healthy wood. Wiping the blades with methylated spirits is sufficient.

When to prune

Traditionally deciduous trees have been pruned in Winter but it is now thought that Summer pruning of stone fruits is more beneficial. The warmer and drier weather helps to promote faster healing of pruning cuts and reduces the chances of fungal or bacterial infections entering via these cuts. The main annual pruning can be carried out as soon as the fruit has been harvested. Any inward growing laterals, or crossing shoots can be removed whenever they are noticed.

Dead, diseased or damaged wood and any shoots from below the graft should be pruned out as soon as they are noticed.

Remember that the most important thing to know when pruning is where the flowers and hence the fruit will occur on the tree.


Apricots are long lived, large trees with a moderately spreading habit. They can be susceptible to diseases such as gummosis and bacterial canker and excellent pruningstones2whygiene is necessary when pruning.

Formative pruning is used to create a vase shaped tree with three or four main limbs dividing into two secondary limbs. Laterals will grow from these limbs and fruiting spurs develop on two year and older wood. Flowers are produced on both one year old wood and, as the tree matures, on spurs which arise from older wood. Apricot spurs are not long lived, but will bear for 2 or 3 years.

Prune immediately after harvest provided the weather is fine and warm. Reduce upright growths to a welldirected lateral and remove old, crowded or weak spurs. This will encourage the formation of new spurs. Severely cut back or remove laterals from the centre of the tree to promote good air circulation.

Peaches and Nectarines

Formative pruning is directed to creating an open vase shape which allows good air circulation to reduce future fungal problems. A framework of 4 – 6 branches is developed from which the fruiting laterals grow.

Peaches and nectarines require heavier annual pruning than other stone fruit as they bear solely on the previous season’s growth. Once a lateral has borne fruit it will never fruit again. Each year, old growth needs to be replaced with new growth to prevent branches becoming long, willowy, and productive only at their tips.

Pruning consists of removing all laterals that have fruited, either completely, or to a new lateral shoot or bud near their base. Current season’s lateral growth may need to be thinned to allow sun and air into the canopy. New growth should be pruned in early to mid summer and the remaining pruning completed immediately after harvest.


There are two distinct species of plums – Prunus domestica, the European plums and Prunus salicina, the Japanese or blood plums. In general the European plums tend to have a more upright habit and to form a larger tree. Fruit is borne mainly on semi-permanent spurs but also on the previous season’s growth.

Japanese plums have a more spreading habit and flower both on the previous seasons growth and, to a lesser extent, on semi-permanent spurs which arise from 3 year old wood.

Most plums are naturally vase shaped so formative pruning consists of removing any inward growing branches from the centre of the tree.

Annual pruning after harvest consists of reducing upright growths to outward growing laterals and removing or reducing lateral growth to promote spur formation.


Glowinski, L 1991, The complete book of Fruit Growing in Australia, Lothian Books

Kilpatrick, D 1968, Pruning for the Australian Gardener, Rigby

Baxter, P 1981 Growing Fruit in Australia

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Donna's Garden - October 2010

Well, I am too scared to check just how long it has been since my last blog - it certainly feels like forever! Working with two little kids never seems to leave enough time to do anything... as my garden can certainly tell you!

We are about 3/4 of the way through putting an irrigation system in which will mean that my poor plants won't be subjected to so much stress by non watering... surely I can find enough time to turn the tap and timer on ;) At the moment there is two systems with most of the veggie gardens having drip irrigation, trees having their own drippers and the side and front garden having microjets - I'll keep an eye on it (if it ever stops raining long enough to need it) and see if that is enough.

I have a fair few things flowering at the moment and will be busy collecting seeds to share including broccoli, radish, italian parsley, mustard for green manure, mizuna, dill, coriander and marigolds for nematodes/ green manure.






Italian Parsley





The main (original) asparagus bed has done well, we have picked heaps and am now leaving the rest to feed the roots up for next season. The ones that were planted last year haven't done very well as I haven't looked after them or watered them, plus the chickens scratched up one bed... hopefully a lot of love and affection this year will bring the ones that survived back to health.


There is kale and brocolli still going strong, these will have to be pulled out in the next few weeks although I am hoping that the curly dwarf kale will go to seed, it was a winner in my garden this year! There are also a few beetroot and carrots still to be harvested.


I am trialling lettuce in the orchard under the trees in styrafoam boxes to be used as a baby mescalin size for salads. At the moment there are two, but I think I'll get another one as they are usually cut and come again... hopefully this will mean that there is heaps of lettuce for salad this summer. I will also keep planting in the main beds to see if I can find one that is truly 'heat tolerant' to grow to full size, also the chooks love it even if it bolts to seed.


Speaking of chooks, they are doing well. Bubbles has already gone broody and finally given up on the eggs, now one of the white sussex (Betty or Flossie - can't tell them apart anymore now they are the same size) has gone broody. They all seem to lay really well and we are probably getting six eggs a week each when they aren't broody - heaps of quiche/ egg dishes, the favourite at the moment is omelet with a kale/ dill/ fetta filling yum! I find they are no trouble, we have a 5kg feeder which I check weekly when I change their bedding, there are two home made waterers with special cups which are checked and filled at the same time. Daily we get 3-4 eggs and they are only on the cheap pellets which is about $13 per month... I don't give them kitchen scraps but give them something green pretty much every day from the garden - I am thinking of growing them lettuce along with mine to put in once a week as a special treat. They get let out on weekends when the dog is shut up inside but I have put temporary fencing around nearly all the garden beds so they can't scratch/ eat my veggies. I wish we had got them years ago, they are great and I recommend them to anyone!


The trees (that haven't died) are all going really well with the exception of the sole remaining blueberry, the apple and nashi espalier attempts. Think I am going to bite the bullet and rip these out soon, the blueberry is in a pot so it can soldier on for another year. There were a couple of blossoms on the almond, there are flowers on Ashley's passionfruit (his wasn't trimmed but mine was - his is flowering and fruiting but mine isn't - they weren't fertilised at all except with potash), the tamarillo is flowering, heaps of paw paws coming on, heaps of pepinos coming on. The citrus most have new fruit, the avocado and guava are growing huge and most of the trees have new growth. The fig looks great at the moment with heaps of lush new leaves.




I cornered Annette McFarlene at the BOGI fair and asked about my banana grove. I had four Ducasse that were neglected and struggled with lack of water/ competition from grass and took a year before they started to grow. I let a few suckers grow on thinking that would be the 'baby' for when the mother produces fruit, but these are now as big as the parent - nearly four metres! So each one of the originals has at least two plants, and one has four at differing sizes. In addition to this I was keeping them tidy and cutting leaves off as soon as they started to get a bit yellow not thinking about the job they do getting nutrients from the sun/ retaining water etc. And to top it all off the leaves are shredded by the wind/ clothes line/ tree so not getting as much leaf area! I have been dumping the chicken bedding in the middle and compost too as well as trying to keep the water up to them. She has assured me that they are *not* ornamental and advised they are likely to flower in November (fruit in January) so eagerly watching to see if her prophesy comes true!


My sandy soil just seems to be a nematode trap, I get it in at least one bed every season despite rotating them and in the weirdest things too like silverbeet?! Anyway there have been a couple of green manure crops at the end of winter and now the big bed has marigold seedlings coming up to do it for nematodes now.


There isn't much new growing at the moment but I will hopefully get out there next weekend and plant a few seeds for summer. Probably try the last of the winged beans (the other ones didn't come up I don't think), corn, okra, purple king beans, snake beans, cherry yellow pear tomato, and a few others that I can't think of right now.

The side permaculture/ orchard style will also be where I try eggplant, chilli and capsicum this planting - they just seem to take so long and I feel it is a 'waste' of my veggie bed space :) There is yakon, taro, cassava at the moment as well as a couple of sweet potato patches. I noticed there are a few self seeded things coming up including a stars and moon watermelon so they will be good ground cover too.


My herb bed is chock a block but a lot of it has gone to seed - I will get in there and thin out some stuff and get some new seeds in soon I hope. I planted some fat hen seeds that were given to me by Jacqui at the first Garden Visit at Jane Street and these look to be going to seed, I will have to look up what to do with them!


New things I am going to try and get crops off are wheat for wheat grass which is really healthy for you and tastes okay if mixed with apple juice. Also chia as it has really high levels of omega 3 which is lacking in most peoples diet nowadays.

Interestingly I have had both boys tested at a naturopath recently for intolerance/ sensitivity and deficiency. They are both lacking int he B vitamins as well as potassium, magnesium and silica - I laughed and said I could easily make up a watering can and sit them outside for a dose :) Apparently these are often deficient in a modern diet with non organic and processed food. Brewers yeast is supposed to be really good so am trying to add it to their diet. Poor baby Brendan has had a bad run with his digestive system over the past few months and as a result he has yogurt with chia seeds, digestive enzymes, probiotics, slippery elm and brewers yeast morning and night - he loves it weirdly enough! David is another matter, I have to hold him down and syringe his into his mouth - hopefully he gets the idea that it is easier for him to just drink it - his is a really yummy chocolate milkshake with whey isolate, pysillium husks and brewers yeast. Nearly everything I cook has ground up linseed or chia seed included in it for the omega 3 content.

It was interesting when labelling my photos that a large number of my plants are from other people thanks to the Brisbane Seed Saver group and the monthly garden visits. It is a great way to meet new people and talk about our gardens and I would like to thank everyone for participating and sharing so much knowledge, seeds, plants and information. It is a great network and hopefully it will continue to grow as new members join. Thanks again to everyone who has given me things for my garden!





Anyway, that's more than enough dribble about my garden - hopefully next time it won't be so long between blogs... and I look forward to reading about *your* garden!

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Donna's Garden - 16/08/09

Well finally got me off my bottom this weekend, I have planted seeds in an old concrete tub at the back door with hessian over it to keep it moist...hopefully. While a lot of them were supposed to be planted direct I decided to try it this way so I don't forget to water them if they are randomly scattered in different gardens.I planted celeraic, carrot, cucumber, eggplant, globe artichokes, kohl rabi, lettuce, luffa (my last two seeds of angled luffa - hopefully get something to save this year), okra - red & green, pumpkin, radish, rockmelon, sunflower, tomato & watermelon. The plan is that in another month I do the same again and hopefully will end up with successive planting this year!In the bed that had nematodes (finally used the molasses thanks Florence) I have tried planting direct corn, rockmelon and snake beans so if they come up will have a guild going for summer.Along the front fence the new asparagus are coming up (thin spears), and one of the potato boxes has come to life - the other one isn't doing anything yet and there is still one more box to go when the potatoes sprout a bit more. This bed has been fertilised so hopefully the acerola cherries and remaining jaboticabas do a bit better this year. The peas/ beans are already producing even though they are barely 10cm high and not tall enough to climb yet.The brussel sprouts and squash are coming along well, although *sigh* have powdery mildew again - will have to give the squash & zuchinni up the back some bugs and try to get rid of it.Asian lettuce (mizuna, mibuna & red mustard) are doing well, and my capsicum from last year is still going with one normal size capsicum just turning red. No asparagus yet from last years crowns - can't wait for spears, this year I am allowed to eat them!Still have cabbage, kohl rabi, spring onions, and garlic doing really well in one bed. Tomatoes, asian lettuce, nasturtium (huge) and sick zuchinni in another. Seedling sized (grown from seed) beetroot, silverbeet, asian lettuce, zuchinni, chilli plant in another. The little bed around the clothes line still has chilli and some self seeded tomatoes as well as a couple of stray basil plants. The herb garden has curly and flat parsley, coriander, garlic chives and a few stray lettuces - couldn't get coriander seeds or basil seeds to take so will try them in the seed box next time it is empty.Have just created a blueberry bed and have five different varieties that are supposed to fruit at different times so if I can keep them alive should have blueberries for about five months (next year or the year after when the grow a bit anyway). Any ideas what I can underplant in this bed that likes a low ph - must also remember to ask hubby to go to Bunnings and get me some stuff to bring the ph down, the opposite of dolomite, placenta brain will have to look it up before I ask lol.Went to Beenleigh markets today and have planted a yellow fig, pepino and pear guava in the side garden that was just concreted/ green mulched - scraped away the compost and dug into the dirt, it is looking pretty good actually considering it was only about a month ago - saw a couple of worms in one spot!The fruit trees are surviving (or most of them anyway - lost one jaboticaba for sure. The grumichama, one citrus and mango died but look like they might survive with new growth coming on. The bananas are all growing really well and three out of four have new baby suckers, so hoping for fruit this year. The almond is still looking great and grew heaps last year (doubled in size) and the giant avocado is also doing well as are two of the citrus trees.My bright idea of espalier isn't quite going to plan but the apple is doing heaps better than the nashi - which to be fair was nearly killed by David last year when he snapped it off with only a couple of inches above the graft. The apple is missing one set of branches but if it doesn't grow them this year I will try my hand at grafting and maybe even a different variety. The nashi only had one lateral after its mishap which I let grow tall last year and then cut it right back to about a foot above the previous cut so hopefully will get a couple of branches this time.The tamarillos both have a couple of fruit which should be ripe soon and the big (for my yard) paw paw has heaps of fruit and new flowers although the lower leaves are looking a bit manky and might even have rust on them - sprayed bugs today on it.One of my citrus has been attacked by aphids which I have hopefully finally gotten rid of these by watering with soap, but the new leaves are very small and I am thinking whether to prune them back and give it another chance. The lime and the dwarf peach both have little baby fruits so will see how they go - probably have to thin out the peach as it is totally covered.I am still trying to find a source for dwarf banana trees, it isn't as easy as I thought it would be as they have to be certified. Also on the lookout for some more self pollinating paw paw trees, they seem to be the most prolific and easiest to grow in our climate with almost a guaranteed supply (at least in Scarlett's garden).Happy gardening!
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Just the juicy bits

Searching for sweetness and light

After a warm wet night, I tiptoe through our waking garden while it’s still damp with dew, peeking here and poking there, looking for raiders of the lost dark - slugs and snails still slow and grsasshoppers just waking fromtheir winter slumber and still easily caught.

After my dawn raid, there’s brekky, still in the PJs and rubber thongs in the garden. The tree grape happily gives up handfuls of black pearly mouthfuls.

The King shahtoot White mulberries, no bigger than my little finger don’t make it inside, nor do the panama berries. There’s nothing better than standing under the tree gorging on the first meal of the day, juice flowing along the chin and dripping onto toes. I see the lizard is just waking up too. We have one left from a family of four. The kookaburras moved in last year and ate all but one. This one is my little helper. He or she sits and looks expectantly at me waiting for a feed too.

I'm happily enjoying the spectacle of a healthy citrus tree too. PLanning or the preserved lemons and the lemon cheesecake in a few months.

The world loves citrus. Citrus are the worlds most traded fruits with global production almost 100million tonnes annually. In our gardens, citrus can flourish or founder. On radio garden shows, citrus feature as perennial problems for the erstwhile grower. Proper feeding, trimming and protection are essential.

I was given a heritage mandarin tree, one of the offspring from the fuirst to arrive in Sydney 2 centuries ago. It arrived in the new colony of NSW. I’ll keep a close eye on it this summer, treating it to seaweed, manures and oil sprays.

If you'd like to be a part of a fruit trees workshop, learning more about how you can grow your own, enrol for the next ones starting Sat 16 Oct. Enrol on 3349 2962.

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Donna's Garden - 19/07/09 August Garden Visit

Finally hosted a Garden Visit, should have done it months ago - it was such a good motivator to get things ready in the garden!My husband (the 'Infrastructure Manager') concreted up the side of the house enclosing the already existing gardens and screwed second hand tin to to the fence before filling it with free green mulch sourced from a nice local tree lopper. This meant that we didn't have to dig up the grass and are hoping that the nitrogen draw down kills it, then it will be ready for planting in about three months.

Anthony Foo gave a talk on Bio Dynamics which everyone found very interesting.

My banana grove is thriving, three of the four trees have suckers so hope to get some fruit next season. Have taken Scarlette's idea and piling up green waste in the middle so hopefully this will help feed them and maybe produce some excess compost for the rest of the garden.

I have one bed that is almost ready to harvest with Kohl Rabi, Cabbage, Kale, Garlic, Bunching Onions all growing really well. I have some little seedlings that replaced the peanuts - look like more kohl rabi but can't remember what else I planted...

The garden beds out the back:* On the right has a zuchinni (ever hopeful), more garlic, baby asian salad mix, beetroot & silverbeet seedlings* On the left has four black russian tomatoes, asian salad mix ready to harvest (cut & come again includes mizuna, mibuna, tatsoi and red mustard), self seeded nasturtium going crazy and another baby zuchinni.The garden beds down the side:* Brocolli seedlings, mature capsicum & chilli (finally got a real size capsicum ripening!), baby asian salad mix* Empty bed treating with molasses for nematodes, will plant out next month ready for spring* Brussel sprouts, broccoli, squash seedlingsHave planted a four pack punnet of very small rhubarb right next to the house to see if they do better than last year but am not holding out much hope. Also in this side garden is a number of self runner strawberry plants that I am hoping will provide a harvest.Most of the fruit trees I planted have survived, although there have been a few casualties and a couple are still not out of the woods yet... One of my paw paw trees is going really well and has a number of fruit ripening at the moment and heaps of flowers while the other (think it has nematodes) is definately in ICU - have treated with bugs, molasses and given a really good feed so hopefully will make it through lol.The self pollinating almond is growing really well and more than doubled in size. The two citrus on the left hand side are doing really well and look very healthy as is the black sapote, tamarillo (have a couple of baby fruits yay) and the avocado. The two citrus on the right aren't doing so well - one was being attacked by aphids/ ants/ black stuff and I have pruned it back and given it bugs and fertiliser to help it. The other citrus had died but a small shoot from above the graft has given it another chance at life...I will do another blog soon to document my spring attempts and efforts - I find these blogs are a really good source of information for me to go back to and see what I did when...
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Container growing tips


This week I posted a new article to my blog on container growing, which I thought would be of interest to the city dwellers in this group with limited food gardening space. The article talks about the challenges and how to overcome them, resulting in reasonable levels of productivity, whilst still using organic methods. You can read the article here. Please fell free to comment either on this site or on my own site.

Happy gardening
Peter Kearney
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