Produce provided by Mother Nature
Pesticide-free fruit is typically the last bastion for most organic gardeners. It’s a hard ask to ally with natural deterrents and win the race against pests to get to your fruit before they do. And little wonder it’s a race - organic fruit is tasty. In the looks department it not model material but as far as quality goes there’s nothing better.
Winter is the time to plant fruit trees, when Mother Nature is dormant. Even if you only have a small patch try putting in a couple of specimen trees that will be well utilized by the family – an apple, plum, pear and orange or mandarin can all be planted now. The younger members of the family especially will thank you for it (they are more prone to side effects from pesticides). A non organic apple eaten out of season, for example, has been sprayed 15-20 times before harvesting, picked whilst green and hard, dipped in post harvest fungicides, stored in carbon dioxide for months, artificially ripened with ethylene gas and finally waxed with insect secretion, to improve it’s appearance and extend it’s shelf life. Then it’s sold to you – as an apple.
The codling moth is the nemesis of apple trees and is easy to identify on the base. Take to them with a steel brush. For aphids and mildew try Rhubarb spray -1.5kg rhubarb, boiled for ½ hour in 1.5 litres then strained. When cold, dissolve 25g of soapflakes in half a litre of water and mix in. Liquid seaweed concentrate is especially beneficial as a tonic for stone fruit plants or soil-borne diseases such those associated with fungi or nematodes. Place 10-14kg of comfrey leaves and 12kg of seaweed into a 200 litre drum and stir weekly for one month. Use a 1:10 mix for watering, less for spraying. Place the seaweed around the roots of the tree and cover with mulch. Seaweed has a cumulative effect and will be more effective in 2-3 years.
Peppermint geranium under apple trees will also keep coddling moths at bay and as a general rule of thumb most fruit trees like sage and nasturtium.
Pruning is another winter chore in the garden. The good news however is that, after being initially shaped, apple, plum and pear trees require little pruning, making them easy care in the long term. This is because they continue producing fruit each year on the same spurs (short stubby growths attached to the main branches). All that is required is that you remove excess twiggy growth and reduce spurs if there are many so that fruit size is not compromised. Take inwards branches out as well to let in more light and encourage birds. When pruning citrus never take off more than a quarter of the tree at one time but do prune hard over time as citrus respond well to this treatment.
In plentiful supply now are apples, pears, oranges, kiwifruit, lemons, mandarins and bananas. Harvest broccoli, beetroot, cabbage, carrot, collards, endive, kale, kohl rabi, lettuce, mustard, pak choy, parsley, peas, radish, silverbeet, swiss chard, Swedes, turnips, zucchini. Happy gardening!