Some help­ful home grown fruit hints

Western Leader - - GARDENING -

CHECK YOUR STONES AND PITS

Those plum and apri­cot stones, peach and nec­tarine pits that you put into the soil in the au­tumn once you’d eaten the sweet flesh, will be emerg­ing now and grow­ing to­ward the light. If you were far-sighted enough to put down stones and pits in ex­pec­ta­tion of grow­ing your own fruit trees, well done you! Home­grown soft fruits are es­pe­cially good value, grow­ing as they do from what would or­di­nar­ily be thrown away. Those hard ‘‘cores’’ from your favourite juicy sum­mer and au­tumn fruits con­tain the germ of a new, free fruit tree and it only takes a small ef­fort to get them grow­ing. I crack the stones and pits with a ham­mer, just enough

to let in the wa­ter when I soak them overnight and get the sprout­ing process started. I find the stones from or­gan­i­cal­ly­grown, her­itage va­ri­eties do very well, grow­ing quickly, fruit­ing early and re­sist­ing dis­eases in a man­ner su­pe­rior to store­bought trees. A pot­ted fruit tree, grown by your own hand, makes a great Christ­mas gift and costs next to noth­ing; all that’s re­quired is a little fore­sight.

SHARPEN YOUR CUT­TING TOOLS

Sharpen up your cut­ting tools with file and stone, tak­ing se­ca­teurs and lop­pers apart if nec­es­sary and get­ting those blades ra­zor-sharp. Your trees – and your wrists – will thank you for go­ing to the trou­ble of hon­ing a keen edge. While you’re at it, tighten the nuts and bolts hold­ing ev­ery­thing to­gether. Slack nuts make for poor cuts, no­body ever said, but it sounds as though they should have, as it’s true. Wob­bly blades mean prun­ing is rough and ready. Torn edges where branches have been re­moved are an in­vi­ta­tion to pests and dis­eases and a clean cut means those go beg­ging. A small shift­ing span­ner is all that’s needed for the job.

KEEP WATCH ON YOUR PLUM TREES

Not only will you en­joy the sight of plum blos­som open­ing, but you’ll pos­si­bly see one of the great­est threats to a good plum harvest op­er­at­ing right be­fore your eyes. Kereru, or na­tive wood­pi­geon, de­light in fill­ing their crops with plum blos­som and the new­ly­opened leaves form­ing on the tips of the 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

plum branches. By be­ing ob­ser­vant, you can see the process in ac­tion and scare the birds off, if that’s your de­sire. I learned long ago that shoo­ing kereru away is a fairly point­less ac­tiv­ity,

as they are very de­ter­mined birds and never give up try­ing to fill their bel­lies with whatever takes their fancy. They sim­ply re­turn again and again un­til they’re full. I try in­stead, to cap­ture them on film, or even in my mem­ory to en­joy later in the year when other plum grow­ers are pick­ing their fruits – I jest – there are al­ways more blos­soms and plums on our trees than any­one could hope for, de­spite the at­ten­tions of the kereru.

GATHER PUSSIES FROM WIL­LOWS

The var­i­ous wil­lows that pro­duce ‘‘pussies’’ at this time of year are do­ing just that. While the downy catkins are still sound and haven’t ‘‘blown’’, clip off seg­ments of branch tips and bring them inside to dis­play in a vase. The trick to keep­ing them whole for months on end, is to leave the vase dry – that is, don’t add wa­ter, the way you would for cut flow­ers. Without wa­ter, the soft catkins will stay that way. They won’t de­velop any fur­ther and shed their bits all over the table­cloth.

Those you’ve left on the trees will open and dis­play their re­pro­duc­tive bits to the de­light of honey bees who are es­pe­cially hun­gry at win­ter’s end.

Wil­lows pro­vide a re­li­able and con­sid­er­able sup­ply of pollen and have at­tracted the at­ten­tion of bee­keep­ers around the coun­try. They are en­cour­ag­ing farm­ers to plant as many wil­low va­ri­eties as pos­si­ble on their farms, along­side their wa­ter­ways, where the bees can col­lect pollen al­most ev­ery month of the year. If you’d like to grow wil­lows, for bees, cut some wil­low wands from a tree that’s been given the okay from the bee peo­ple and your re­gional coun­cil, and poke those slips into the soil.

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