Too many peaches…

Over Christmas (when everyone took a couple of days off and the picking got slightly behind) a few white peaches got overripe and sadly ended up on the ground. One of the basic principles of keeping your organic fruit trees healthy is picking up all of the fruit that falls on the ground, so they all had to come up!

On our farm we’ve always had a commitment to using every piece of fruit for its highest purpose, so any fruit picked up off the ground is used first for people food. If it’s not good enough for human consumption it goes to the pigs and ducks, or into the compost or worm farm.

Oops … some white peaches hit the deck!

So, having just had to deal with quite a glut of white peaches, this week we want to share with you one of our favourite peach chutney recipes, passed on to us by one of our lovely customers, via the Australian Women’s Weekly “The Book of Preserves” (thanks Robbie).

We modified the recipe slightly when we made it, so we bring you the Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens version here (based on what we had in the pantry and the fridge, which is how so many good recipes evolve!). It’s a terrific way of using white peaches, which are in abundance at this time of year.

Mt Alexander Peach and Lemon Chutney
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp chilli powder (or 4 small dried red chillies)
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 kg organic white peaches (you could use yellow peaches)
3 medium organic brown onions, chopped finely
2 cups organic brown sugar
2 cups organic apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup sultanas or currants
1/4 cup dried peel
3 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/4 cup lemon juice

If using clingstone white peaches, first simmer the peaches in just enough water to prevent them sticking for 10-15 minutes or until the flesh will easily come off the stones. Cool, and remove flesh from stones by hand, discard peach stones. There’s no need to peel the peaches, just wash them and remove any bad bits before you boil them.

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir over heat without boiling until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 1.5 hours or until the mixture is thick. Pour into hot sterilised jars, and seal immediately with sterilised lids.

Goes perfectly with leftover Christmas ham, or give away as a meaningful Christmas present next year.

How much water is enough?

In our part of the world (central Victoria, Australia) we experience hot, dry summers, and they seem to be getting worse.  When we first came home on the farm in the late 1990s we’d have the odd day here or there over 40°C, but in recent years it’s not uncommon to have stretches of a week or more at a time with extremely high temps.

Hot conditions always beg the question…how much water is enough for fruit trees?

The rough rule of thumb we use is that a mature fruit tree, with a full crop, in the height of summer, will need about 200 litres of water per week, and if you’re installing an irrigation system we recommend that it has enough capacity to provide that much water to each tree in your garden.

However, the true answer actually depends on lots of different factors, like how old the tree is, how much fruit it has on it (if any), the soil type, what ground cover you have, and the weather, particularly the temperature and the amount of wind.

You’ll also be able to give your trees less water if you install an irrigation system, because it’s much more efficient to slowly deliver a small amount of water through drippers (for example), than you can manage with a hose or bucket.

It's important to test all the drippers at the start of the season
It’s important to test all the drippers at the start of the season

Watering your trees with either hose or bucket will inevitably lead to some water wastage through run-off, and it can also be hard to make sure the water gets down to the root zone where it’s really needed. It’s also time consuming, and can be physically hard for some people—can you tell we’re big fans of irrigation systems?

Here’s the steps to making irrigation simple and effective:

  1. Figure out how much water each of your trees will need at peak production, in hot conditions.
  2. Work out what and where your best water source is.
  3. Design and install a hose or pipe system to get the water the trees as efficiently as possible.
  4. Decide on which type of drippers and/or sprinklers you’ll use, and install them.
  5. And lastly (but importantly), add a timer or programmer to your irrigation system so it will turn itself off (and even on) automatically!

Happy watering!

(Details for how to set up a drip irrigation system are included in the Be a Wise Water Warrior short course.)

Keep your worms happy in a heatwave

Do you have a worm farm?

Worms are wonderful workers and are the best (and cheapest) way to produce quantities of fabulous organic fertiliser for your trees, but like all workers, they’ll give you their best if they have excellent working conditions.

Throughout summer, but particularly in a heat wave, it’s really important to give them some extra care and attention. Climate change means that summer conditions are likely to become more extreme (and in fact we’ve already noticed this happening here on the farm), so here’s our top 4 tips for keeping your worms happy in a heat wave:

  1. Keep your worm farm as cool as possible. Worms don’t like extremes of temperature – either heat or cold. It’s also best if you can put your worm farm somewhere where the temperature stays relatively constant and doesn’t fluctuate too much – a cellar is ideal, but a garage or even laundry (depending on size of farm) is also good.
  2. Make sure the worm farm is not in direct sun, as worms also don’t like direct light.
  3. Cover the top layer of your worm farm with something to help keep the moisture in and the hot dry air out. Newspaper, cardboard, old carpet or underfelt (woollen) can all be given a good soak and then placed directly on the surface of your worm farm – it’ll make a huge difference. (Just be careful with old underfelt as sometimes it had been treated with insecticide.)
  4. Keep your worm farm moist. This is probably the main reason worm farms fail. There should always be a bit of moisture dripping out of the bottom, or if you grab a handful you should be able to wring a couple of drips out.

If you follow these tips there’s no reason why your worms won’t happily keep devouring your kitchen scraps and other organic waste right through the hottest weather.

Have a look at Give Worms a Warm Welcome to find out more about how to reap incredible benefits from these powerhouse workers in your garden.