Summer is traditionally a pretty quiet time when it comes to growing fruit trees. It’s kind of the opposite to growing fruit, which is flat-to-the-floor busy in summer and has a quiet time in winter.
That’s not to say there’s nothing to do!
Keeping up with watering, topping up the mulch, weeding around the trees, and doing fertigations every few weeks are regular jobs we do all summer, but none of them take us long.
Even though we’re still in the middle of the warm weather (and in a way it feels like it just started), we’re already seeing the end of our quiet time in sight.
For a start, we’re starting to think about summer-budding. It’s the grafting technique we use in summer, and it’s the main way we graft all our trees.
At this stage, all we have to do is get the trees ready and start to think about what varieties we want to bud. The actual budding takes place in February and March.
The decisions we make now determine which trees we’ll have ready for sale in the winter of 2023. We try to anticipate the demand for particular varieties based on how well they’ve sold in the past.
We’re steadily building our collection of heritage varieties, so we also try to keep the rare, heritage varieties that no-one’s heard of in rotation as well.
So, each year we grow a few rare varieties. Then we tell their story and sing their praises, and a few brave souls always take the plunge and decide to include something relatively unknown in their garden orchards.
We love the idea that wonderful heritage varieties like James Grieve apples, Coe’s Golden Drop plums, and Burgsdorf cherries are gradually finding their place in suburban and rural gardens across Victoria.
We’ve also begun the process of labelling all of this year’s trees. It’s a job we have to finish before we can do our final counts and then list trees on the website for sale (which usually happens in April).
It’s too early to tell you exactly what we’ll have for sale this year. However, we can tell you that we’ll have all the regular things like apricots, almonds, plums, cherries, pleaches, nectarines, plums, apples, pears.
Plus this year we’ve got some new treats for you like loquats, kiwi fruit, and figs. We’ve started experimenting with quite a few new fruit types, and we’re hoping that some will be ready for sale this winter.
As usual, we’ll also have some multi-grafts and fruit salad trees. We’ve been specialising in these for a few years now, and they’re incredibly popular.
Before we get started with the budding there’s another biggish job on the horizon.
We’ve been trialling growing citrus trees here in Harcourt for a few years now. You may not know this, but most citrus trees available in our local nurseries are grown in much warmer climates than ours. When planted here in our fairly dry environment with very cold winters, it can take them a few years to adapt to the new climate and start growing well.
We’re aiming to grow citrus trees from scratch right here in central Victoria. Hopefully, we’ll be able to create trees that are more suited to growing here because they’re used to this climate from the beginning.
So far, we’ve had very mixed results! Rootstocks have taken ages to grow, and when they finally get big enough to graft, the grafts have not been as successful as we normally expect in all our other fruit trees.
But the results have been good enough that we’ve decided to give it another go.
We’ve sourced some seed of a different type of rootstock to see if it’s better suited to our environment. This time we’ll be planting a dedicated citrus nursery to grow the rootstocks and do the grafting in the same place. This will mean the trees won’t need to be moved, we’ll be able to put more energy into building up the soil, and they can be on a different watering regime to the rest of the nursery.
Hopefully, they’ll be more successful than our previous efforts – keep your fingers crossed for us!
There’s plenty coming up, and we’re feeling pretty excited and happy with how this year’s trees are going. They’ve been loved and lavished with compost, woodchip mulch, and regular top-ups of fish and kelp to feed the soil.
We can’t wait to do the final counts, list them on the website, and introduce you to this year’s heritage odd-bods!
Katie, Liz, and Merv