June in the Orchard (…and pondering Food Forests)

Such wonderful synchronicity, as the vegie patch slows down we need to spend some time with our fruit trees.

Release and spray

Release the base of your trees (mine are still knee high in grass that wont stop growing!) and mulch them. You really don’t need to put your back out (and disturb the animal kingdom) by digging the grass out. Chop it back with whatever method makes your heart sing. Lay cardboard or newspaper and cover with the cut grass. If you live in Kapiti go visit the beautiful MOA Community Orchard in Jeep Rd for a model of how your fruit trees should be looking at this time of year.

The last of the copper sprays should be going on as the late stonefruit loose their leaves. Do this only if you need.

Plant and Prune

Deciduous fruit tree/ cane and vine fruit planting time is upon us. I hope in all the excitement of new trees you have made a plan. Matched up your pollinators, chosen your spot with care, and here’s a thought – make sure it’s a fruit you will use! When planning your spacings add an extra metre to each deciduous tree for working room. This way you can prune, pick, spray without getting scalped (you’ll thank me in 4 years time.) As for those crazy vines/ canes – how are you going to support them? Well is my hope.

Spend some time in your orchard doing a pre prune ponder. Picture the shape of all your trees after pruning. This will result in a far better prune than if you were to head out and thoughtlessly chop. Please banish that dreadful word hack from your vocabulary. Imagine a hairdresser saying let me have a hack at it… oh you break my heart.

My pruning workshop is coming up on June 21 for those of you that need a shot of confidence in order to make those cuts.

Food Forests: some thoughts

Have you caught up with the food forest trend?

Bouquet: it brings to the fore some very smart gardening principals. Simply put it means to make like a forest and create a perennial food garden that’s resilient to climate extremes and is low input.

Brickbat: Trends have a way of running off like a two-year-old – all action and no thought. Many food forest models are Australian, and their climate is of course, nothing like ours. Where they need shade we need light, where they need moisture we need airflow. Those of you copying this jungle model in the lower North Island will be doomed to failure and this makes me sad, because my goal is that all your food growing efforts are a raging success.

Food forest principals are smart, and in fact many of you already have a food forest, but you humbly call it your garden. Abundant, integrated, permaculture inspired gardens = food forest! Look local for your inspiration, there are foresty food advocates all over NZ.

As with anything, there are many styles out there, some more wild than others. Shop around, and please don’t get seduced by delusions of a self maintaining food garden… efficient I get, but self maintaining – really? Can fruit trees be highly productive without care over the long term? We all know where self maintained blackberry ends up!

Self maintaining must surely be the dream of non gardeners. If the gardens looked after themselves what would us gardeners do? (Where would Matt send me when I was grumpy?) Besides, whats wrong with a bit of care,  a bit of physical work? I think, perhaps (you lazy self maintainers) a flax is more your style.


  1. Hi Kath – just wanted to say I love your Forest Garden comments above – Im running a Forest Garden workshop in August and you hit it on the head some of the premis/myths I will be addressing also. In fact no longer calling it a food forest (that name is good for marketing and thats about it:) as so many of our gardens are already addressing the need for resiliant perennial gardening on many levels and arnt being recognized as ‘food/forest gardens’ because they don’t fit the ausi FF stereo type…

    Food for thought!

    Bena X