In the or­chard

Ben has an or­chard full of 40+ fruit & nut trees, part of his long- term in­sur­ance pol­icy.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - BEN GAIA

Why you need or­chard in­sur­ance

In an or­ganic or­chard or tree crop­ping wood­land, the de­sign and choice of species thrives on di­ver­sity. Di­ver­sity is the key to good farm health and makes the land in­cred­i­bly pro­duc­tive. Even so, half of our prop­erty is kept in open, sunny pas­ture by mow­ing, and graz­ing by geese. Pas­ture grasses pre­dom­i­nate, with the ob­vi­ous black­ber­ries to be kept in check and ea­gerly har­vested.

Wekas run ram­pant through­out, eat­ing the slugs. Song­birds - tui, bell­bird, pi­geon - are at­tracted to the blos­soms of Eu­clayp­tus, Phormium and tree fuchsia. Black­birds and thrushes work hard at keep­ing the vi­cious lo­cal snails at bay in the gar­den and nurs­ery. There are many in­sects and spi­ders. Fan­tails eat flies and wasps. Wild bee swarms oc­ca­sion­ally nest in sum­mer.

To con­tinue with the theme of max­i­mum di­ver­sity from last month, I’m tak­ing you on a tour through my gar­den. There’s the fruit trees I wrote about which have proven to be pro­duc­tive. Many of us plant new and weird species to try and dis­cover a new culi­nary de­light par­tic­u­lar to our cli­mate, and we can all dream about it, but the huge vari­a­tion in cli­mates in NZ means some­thing un­ex­pected may work for you too out in Waimanga-nowhere.

Na­ture is un­pre­dictable, and one ad­van­tage of hav­ing di­ver­sity is it acts like an in­sur­ance pol­icy. If the cli­mate sud­denly veers to trop­i­cal we might lose out on the hazel­nuts, but that means we start get­ting good crops of ba­nanas. Con­versely if we go colder, the ap­ples, hazels and plums will come into their own when the cit­rus are black­ened stumps. Hav­ing lots of th­ese funny species can be a good back-up plan for the fu­ture.

Many species of tree and plant cross over sev­eral uses. For ex­am­ple, black wal­nut and cherry strug­gle along here as fu­ture carv­ing wood trees, and may one day also make fruit and nuts. Th­ese are multi-pur­pose species and they are good choices for di­ver­sity. Broad-leafed hard­woods bring deep soil nu­tri­ents to the sur­face and help cre­ate good soil over the years.

A few peren­ni­als pro­duce ed­i­ble food each year and have to be men­tioned. Th­ese are rasp­ber­ries, blue­ber­ries, rhubarb, and wasabe radish, all con­tribut­ing to the sum­mer ta­ble. You could add Jerusalem ar­ti­choke here but no­body likes eat­ing them. They cer­tainly grow though.

Hope­fully this op­ti­mistic list will in­spire you to go out on more of a limb and try ab­surd fruits with an eye to the rose-coloured fu­ture we all dream of.

Th­ese are trees which are sur­viv­ing in my chal­leng­ing con­di­tions. Re­ally good prospects which ac­tu­ally fruit some­times are in ital­ics.

A ki­wifruit, ap­ple, plum and fig all jum­bled to­gether.

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