We ate our first fresh peaches of the season yesterday. Red Haven ripens early in January. The taste of sun-warmed fruit is better than any bought peach. The tree looks colourful with the large red-blushed fruit. Red Haven has been a good choice for growing in our area. Fungal disease has been minimal – the humidity is usually low. I choose not to use spray and rely on natural solutions such as selecting the right tree for our conditions.
The biggest problem I had before planting my fruit trees was the need to clear through a thick scoria base. Gypsum, or dolomite, applied to the hard-pan clay base helps to improve drainage. I made a raised planting area using a mix of vermicast and compost.
My fruit trees are underplanted with a ley that includes herbs such as borage, calendula, chives, comfrey, curry plant, daffodils and santolina as a living mulch once the foliage dies down. The peach tree is planted in an open and windy spot in the garden as I think the air flow helps to keep the tree healthy.
Unfortunately the birds and possums also think the peaches are worth eating.
Urenika or Maori potatoes are easy to grow and can be cultivated for most of the year in our moderate climate. I place the seed potatoes on wilted comfrey leaves over rotted hay on top of clay loam soil and then cover with hay or straw. I like to plant the potatoes in a windy and dry area as protection from mildew or fungal disease. In the six years I have grown these potatoes, I have not needed to spray the plants. These potatoes have flourished despite the weather fluctuations and seem resistant to disease.
Harvesting the potatoes needs minimal effort as I push the mulch aside. There is much to be said for the no-dig approach to gardening. Clods of soil do not adhere to the potatoes. The soil enriched by worms and humus matter is workable and is ready for planting a different vegetable crop. At this point I will scatter sheep manure over the soil and leave the garden bed to rest a while. Less physical effort for the gardener. Mint finely chopped, freshly ground pepper, butter and salt to taste complement this simple dish.
My gardening work is now easier. My garden diary for 2000-2001 shows what has been done since we settled on this block of land. The list of inorganic rubbish goes on: cars; car parts; cattle carcasses; fencing materials; glass; growing pots; horticultural chemicals and containers; house demolition rubble; irrigation pipes; plastic; rusted barbed wire in the grass; telegraph cable; water pipes.
The stream is cleared of fallen trees and flood debris. Swamp Cypress and Nyssa Sylvatica now grow in a swampy area that used to feed into a small sludgy pond. The ponding area was filled in. Pest plants like blackberry, hawthorn, honeysuckle, jasmine, pampas grass, privet, ragwort and scotch thistle involved hard physical effort of removing by digging, pulling, slashing and then burning. Rampant invasive growth of Kikuyu and Wandering Jew is another story.
The saw-tooth polyhouse was no longer in commercial use – apparently the previous owners grew Sandersonias for export for a few years before out time. We’re not commercial growers – just lifestylers with home gardening opportunities to be developed over time. A weedy site, weedmat helped smother the weeds. The overhead watering system was revamped. We reclad the roof with heavy storm-grade plastic. There is a scoria base hence the drainage is good. I don’t know how to work a polyhouse in terms of horticulture. We have tended to use this building in part as a very big ‘plastic’ shed where we store bales of hay made in our paddocks.
Himself constructed wooden pens to rear calves during winter-spring months. It’s warm and dry for them as we have sawdust layer on top of the weedmat in their pens. These young animals go from the shed out into the paddocks and onto the grass as they grow bigger.
In another area, I’ve managed to grow aubergines, beans and tomatoes reasonably well using a dripper system for irrigation. It gets too hot for growing anything over the summer months there’s little ventilation other than rolling up the wall sides and roof vent. Lots of learning from the experience happening here.