We’re often asked how much fruit you can expect to pick from a fully grown tree, particularly when people are planning their garden and trying to decide how many trees they need to supply their family’s fruit needs.
Summer is a good time of year to answer the question, because we have the chance to actually measure (as oppose to guess!) how much fruit a tree can produce. Ella is picking from a 10 year old ‘Anzac’ heritage white peach tree, grown as a vase, and re-grafted onto what was originally grown as a ‘Goldmine’ white nectarine tree. It’s quite mature and at its full size.
You can’t see the full tree from this photo, but a vase-shaped tree normally has 6-10 limbs; this one has eight. Anzacs are notorious for being small fruit, so they need really hard thinning. These trees were thinned hard, but had a touch of leaf curl early in the season which slowed the growth of the fruit early on, and because Anzacs are such early ripening fruit, the result is that the crop is quite small this year.
We pick them into trays like this,and a tray of small fruit weighs about 2.4 kg. From this tree we picked an average of two trays to the limb, which works out to about 35 kg for the tree. About 1/4 of those, or 9 kg, were second grade (the birds had got into them…). Plus, when we picked up all the damaged ones from the ground there were about another 4 kg there that were too damaged to use (but if we’d got to them a day or two earlier some would probably have been good enough for jam or drying). These go to pig food.
So, altogether this tree yielded 39 kg of fruit, which is pretty typical for a large mature peach tree. You can soon see why it doesn’t take very many healthy trees to provide a year’s supply of fruit for your family.
If you want to find out more about the correct time and technique to pick your fruit, check out Fruit to be Proud Of.
Have you started harvesting any fruit at your place? Depending on where you live, you might have apricots, cherries, peaches or even nectarines and plums ripe already. The season’s running about normal for us, so we’ve started picking apricots, white peaches and cherries already.
Switching into harvest mode means it’s time to start paying attention to a few different things, so this week we’re helping you to refocus your attention. It really is the key time of the season, because this is the bit where you convert all the hard work you’ve done the rest of the year into a yield.
The main yield (obviously) is fruit, but for commercial growers like us it’s also when we convert our work into the money that will sustain our family for the year. And even if you don’t sell your fruit, you may also convert some of it into other produce by swapping with friends and neighbours as part of a neighbourhood food swap, or goodwill by sharing it with family.
- Monitoring when the fruit is ripe and ready to pick: One of the guides we use on the farm is waiting until one or two pieces of fruit have fallen because of ripeness (but also, taste them!). Don’t pick your fruit too early, because it grows in size a lot in the last couple of weeks on the tree. Getting your picking time right is really an art, and one of the things that can take quite a lot of experience to learn. We recommend keeping a diary of picking dates and updating it each year, including notes about whether you got it right or not!
- Picking up any ripe fruit that has fallen onto the ground: this is one of the basic hygiene practices that can help to keep pests and diseases at bay, as many of them find their perfect habitat in fruit that is rotting on the ground.
- Picking and storing your fruit correctly: fruit should be picked when it’s mature, almost ripe (but not over-ripe), and carefully, to make sure there’s no picking injuries. It should never be left in the sun, and then it should be cooled as quickly as possible after picking.
Want more info? Find out more about how to pick fruit to be proud of here.
Buds are starting to swell and seeds are beginning to germinate…a call to action in the heritage fruit tree nursery. Merv has been busy preparing the soil in the new nursery patch. Katie has been busy selling the last of the beautiful fruit trees that we grew before they come out of their winter sleep and need to be planted in the ground properly again. But now that our saved apple, quince, pear and peach seeds are starting to shoot, its all hands on deck.
This week we planted our cherry rootstock and acquired some compact apple rootstock varieties to experiment with. Along with grafting the cherries in September and budding the apples we’re hoping to experiment with creating a ‘stool bed’. Katie and I haven’t ever done a stool bed so we’re excited to learn this technique from Merv. A stool bed (from my limited understanding) is a way of trench layering a ‘mother plant’ in order to grow multiple root stock trees from a small number of ‘mothers’. This is important for cherry rootstock, which don’t grow readily from seed, and special varieties of rootstock, which you want to multiply true to type.
The plum cuttings are starting to ‘heel up’ (grow a heel/scab over them from which the roots will sprout) which means we’ll plant them out soon . The apple, peach and quince seeds are sprouting so we’ve begun to plant them out in rows. These we will grow up over summer and ‘bud’ in February with a number of different varieties for sale the following year.
We have also been cutting back the trees we budded last February, to the bud union. These trees (see pic) with different colored pipe cleaners are the plum rootstock we budded multiple varieties of plum and apricot onto. Another experiment, which so far seems to be going well…as long as we can keep track of which branch has which variety budded onto it!!
Soon it will be time to sow our green manure crop in the resting nursery patches and sow some more citrus seed in the hot house (yet another experiment). Most of the rootstock we grow, except for our experiments with cherries, citrus and small apple rootstock, we have grown ourselves. We either collect seed or take cuttings to create them, and like Merv always marvels, “it doesn’t cost you anything”! There is a lot of time and care that then goes into turning that seedling into a good fruiting tree, but Merv’s right, it doesn’t cost you anything to give it a go!