Summer in the nursery

Summer in the nursery is time to keep everything alive and thriving. We’ve finished the spring grafting, have mounded up our apple and cherry root stock  in the ‘stool bed’ and the next major action will happen in late summer.  

Couch grass is a big problem in the nursery if left unchecked. Since we rotary hoed the rows before planting into them, it’s made the soil nice and loose but also chopped and spread the couch around. The only thing for it is to stay on top of it and pull it out, roots and all, whenever we see it. Merv is master weeder and a lot more diligent than Katie and me (thanks Merv!).

Watering, composting, and stripping off growth from below the graft are all the things that keep our little trees happy over summer. 

The cherry grafts we did in September are looking amazing at the moment.  We grafted about half our cherry root stocks, the best of which will be up for sale this winter. We had a really good strike rate and the ones that haven’t taken we’ll be able to bud along with the rest of the root stocks in late summer. The budded root stock take a bit longer and will be ready in two winters’ time.

We’ve also been ‘heading’ some of the more vigorous of our apple, cherry and peach seedlings. This involves chopping them off at about knee height and leaving three or four buds below the cut. This is to encourage branching so that rather than one main trunk to bud onto, we end up with three or four branches and can bud multiple varieties onto one tree. The multigrafts we did on plum root stock last year are looking great and have inspired us to multibud more trees. Multibudded trees are a great use of space because you can have cross-pollinating varieties on the same tree and save the need for planting multiple trees, especially  if you’re short on space. 

Happy growing

Sas (and Katie and Merv) 

Let’s fight the fly

After a long fruit-growing history, Harcourt has come up against a new foe. Queensland Fruit Fly is on our doorstep and threatens to abruptly end our fruit production heritage by decimating home gardens and commercial crops alike.

On Thursday 5 April Megan Hill, the project officer for the Fruit Fly Action Plan, and Ali Brookes of Maldon Cherry Farm organised a series of information sessions in the local area to educate the community. A small crowd of farmers and gardeners gathered at the Harcourt Anglican hall for the final 1 hour session of the day.

We discussed the history of the Queensland Fruit Fly and its march south over the eastern states, the life cycle of the insect, the diverse range of fruit it will affect, what to do with infected produce and of course, a range of potential defense mechanisms.

Netting, baiting, trapping and hygiene were all discussed at length but the prominent message from the day was that it will take a unified effort from the entire community to safeguard our veggie gardens and our orchards. Every backyard fruit tree and garden must be managed properly or removed. That means installing traps to monitor the population, netting plants or bagging fruit, using baiting sprays if necessary (there are organic and nonorganic options available), and even having some chooks or ducks to reduce fly numbers. If any fruit is found to be infected it must be collected immediately and solarised (placed in a garbage bag and left in the sun for a few days) or frozen. Infected fruit can NOT be composted as this is the perfect environment for the larvae to pupate and hatch.

As a new fruit grower in the area, I was keen to attend the session so that I could improve my knowledge of the fly and better understand all the options available to defend my new orchard. It is daunting to be starting a farming enterprise in the face of this insidious pest but I have faith that we can collectively protect ourselves. Also, my current farming mentors, Hugh and Katie of Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens, hold a wealth of experience and knowledge that I can glean and add to my pest control tool belt.

I am passionate about farming, love growing food for my local community, and feel proud to be the next generation of custodian for Harcourt’s fruit production history. These are the things that motivate me to ‘fight the fly’. Spread the word, educate your friends, properly manage or remove your fruiting trees/plants and help us farmers stay fruit fly free.


Victoria is back!

Hey Folks,

I’m back at Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens for a quick visit after leaving here just over 2 years ago, at the end of my internship. While I was doing my internship, I spent months observing the orchards for flowering and fruit set times, pruned the trees, thinned the fruit, spread compost, planted trees, made compost tea, fixed the irrigation, carried out some pest management, and slashed the grass around the orchards. Just about everything except eat lots of fruit!

I had to leave just at the beginning of the fruit season, when only a couple of the apricot varieties and one of the peach varieties, Anzac, were ripe and ready to be devoured. All of which were delicious, of course, but it’s such a treat to be able to enjoy some more of the multitude of varieties grown here at MAFG. Today I’ve eaten some Bebeco apricots, Briggs Red May white peaches and Stark Earlingo yellow peaches, all of which were so, so tasty. I’m feeling very content, fruit filled, and summery. If you can get yourself here for some Pick Your Own fun I would highly recommend it!

It’s such a pleasure to return to the farm, reconnect with Katie and Hugh and all the beautiful people that they have in their community, while enjoying such a gorgeous landscape. It feels like I never left, although I can see some changes around the place to remind me that time has passed. The garden we planted at the farm shop, just before the end of my internship, is flourishing. However, the tamarillo tree I planted might have grown just a little too much! Dear old Oscar, one of the farm dogs, has passed away after the best life a dog could hope for. Feeling a little sad that I didn’t get to give him one last cuddle.

But there are all kinds of exiting new ventures under way here, bringing in new life and energy. As always, Katie and Hugh are at the forefront of creative ways to farm and engage the community in food production, while providing new growers opportunities to get started. I’m feeling very inspired being back and dreaming of my own little micro-enterprise here on the farm.

Who knows what the future may bring, but I do know that I will always come home to MAFG whenever I have the chance. It’s an incredibly special place that has shaped me as a person and as a grower. I feel very blessed to have had the time I did here and look forward to a life-long connection with this place and the amazing people. Hope you are all enjoying some of the bountiful fruit from MAFG over this festive season.

Until next time, Victoria.