Tick off tasks for tip top fruit
1: KICK OUT CODDLING
My pipfruit are in full blossom, which means I need to arm up against the codling moth. I am pretty relaxed in my orchard, with a ‘live and let live’ attitude to most and allowing nature to balance itself out, but codling is the exception. Though we have released several predators in New Zealand, none are prolific enough (yet) in my area to control it, and the codling multiplied and multiplied until there was barely a single apple without the telltale brown hole and rotten core. It was then I declared war.
I tried every folk tale and remedy short of chemicals, and now count the damage in one bucket. My successful strategy? I spray with a biological insecticide at 80% of petal fall. I use one called Madex 3 which contains a natural pathogen of the codling moth. Less specific but more economical for a tree or two, is a caterpillar biocontrol from Kiwicare containing Bacillus thuringiensis, a soil-dwelling bacteria that kills a range of caterpillars, including (although it is not listed on the packet) the codling moth.
2: TREAT YOUR CITRUS RIGHT
Packed with vitamin C, citrus is my winter mainstay. Juicy navel is the tastiest of my fruits, even though Waikato is borderline cool for citrus. I munch on mandarins in autumn, juice the masses of tangelos and blood oranges, have grapefruit breakfast cocktails and cook with masses of limes and lemons. And now is the time to show my appreciation. All dropped fruit is collected up. Bugs and disease can flourish in forgotten fruit so it is removed and destroyed.
I have very obliging cows who cherish this task and I amsure nothing will survive their four stomachs.
Weeds are cleared to promote airflow and remove root competition and a good dose of compost given to each tree. I note what needs pruning, but I won’t prune yet as I don’t want to open any wood up until after the lemon tree borer moth stops flying in late summer.
3: BERRY HOLEY STRAWBERRIES
I discovered I should have done this weeks ago when last week I threw a net over my strawberries and found peck holes all through them. My old strawberry patch was in a corrugated iron ‘tree’ and didn’t need netting as the berries hung down away from any perch – but it was hard to feed and replant them, and they only produced enough for a tasty treat. My new strawberries were some plants my aunty had left over that I popped in under the banana trees. They went wild and multiplied a thousand-fold last year, but produced disappointingly few fruit. As it is a new bed with lots of nitrogenous compost, I’ve spent the winter feeding them ash from the fire to boost potassium levels and have been rewarded with a profusion of blossom. I have poked half hoops of alkathene pipe in the ground around them and thrown bird netting over the lot. Hopefully we will have strawberry jam this year.
4: GIVE YOUR COMPOST A SPRING CLEAN
I amnot a big one for compost piles. Weeds are used in situ as mulch and compost made in place wherever possible but I do have two bins to take the excess, and now is the time to empty out the first. A: Because everything is growing and needs a nutrient fix and B: Because everything is growing and needs weeding out and throwing somewhere.
5: BINGE PLANT VEGETABLES NOW!
Now the nights are getting warmer it is finally time to get the summer veges in. A local school sold seedlings as a fundraiser this year – what a great idea! Much better than the usual offering of chocolates or pies. I have some very healthy looking zucchinis, capsicums and eggplants (the veges I don’t bother growing from seed). I’ve planted these under 2-litre plastic-bottle cloches for an extra snug start.
6. SALAD TO LAST THE ENTIRE SUMMER
I sow mesclun and rocket about every eight weeks from now until the end of summer. They are the cut-and- come-again base for daily salads.
I prepare a bed in my raised garden by sifting the top soil through an old car grille, then I sprinkle the seeds over with an old kitchen sieve, pat them down
This column is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get growing, from New Zealand Gardener magazine. For gardening advice delivered to your inbox every Friday, sign up for Get Growing at: getgrowing.co.nz firmly (don’t cover) and water regularly.
The joy of these is that they are almost instant, popping up and ready to harvest within a month at this time of year. Cut the leaves straight into your salad bowl once they are about 5cm high, them continue cutting them to keep them young and fresh.
Let a patch go to flower and set seed (which usually happens while you away on holiday anyway) so you have an ample supply of free seeds. Just make sure you label the plants so you know which seed is what as they all look rather similar when ready to harvest.