Preparations for trees and vines
While we had Wayne Barry’s tree services to clear the trees over at Dreamland , we got him over at Homeland to clear two big Eucalyptus Stringybark trees as part of the same job. It’s sad to remove such big trees, but these were becoming a real bother – their roots were growing under the shed next door, inhibiting the growth of the passion fruit on the other side of the shed and on the Homeland side they were inhibiting the growth of a Macadamia, some oaks and maples, two Cherry trees and a few other young trees. So with a roar of machinery, gone were the two trees.
In their places, we prepared place for 6 new trees and 8 new vines. While we had the excavator, we also dug the holes for two new big fig trees that will one day, seemingly a long time from now, throw some nice shade on the parking area and provide some other variations of figs.
About a month before the end of the last summer, our rainwater tanks ran empty. They gave us a good run, as we watered a lot of young trees, a large vegetable patch, the berry corner and the greenhouse right through the summer. But the fact of the matter is, they ran dry… and now, not even halfway through winter yet, they are full already. So as part of the rework at Homeland, I had to dream up the most wonderful justifications in order to get another water tank “accepted”, but in the end, some sensibility prevailed, and now we have another 24 000l tank installed and coupled, which brings our total rainwater storage capacity to 120 000l. Let it rain!
Too much frost…
This was by far, very far, the coldest and harshest winter we have experienced in Victoria. The previous winters it frosted maybe five times in total, and then lightly at that. This winter we had one week when it frosted three times! The frost was spread out over the entire two months of June and July, which we also never had before. One Sunday morning we even turned at -3.5C, with a thick white layer everywhere. A lot of Valerian was sprayed – I ordered three times as much as in previous years, and sprayed it regularly, but we still suffered a lot of frost damage.
Demulching and recomposting
One of the big winter jobs we have every year is to rake the mulch away from the fruit trees up to where we expect their drip line to grow the next season. This is done for two reasons – it removes the mulch bark from their stems in order to prevent rot, and we use the open ground to apply rich mushroom compost in that area so that it can rain into the soil around the trees over the winter.
This year I had the children helping with the re-composting, and each one had a plum, an apple and a pear that they personally composted. We’ll see in summer who did their job well!
We have also (carefully) de-mulched and re-composted all the backyard apple, pear, mulberry and nut trees.
Once it starts heating up, somewhere in November, we’ll rake the mulch back over the compost to protect the trees against the dry summer heat. It’s quite typical in our area to still be cold and wet one week, and then the next week the warm dry summer winds set in.
During our last visit to Telopea Nursery to get the fruit trees for Dreamland, Pete advised us to treat the frost damaged citrus trees in the same way, but using chicken manure instead and re-mulching them with straw. However, the organic chook farm where I normally get my chicken manure seems to be closed – presumably for a well-deserved winter break – so I had to buy bags and bags and bags of chicken manure from our favourite hardware warehouse. With the strong winds we get, we often have a problem that the straw blows away and clogs the pool filters (as the citrus orchard is right next to the pool). Fortunately Gaë left me a ton of old bricks at Dreamland, so I could cart those over to Homeland to try and keep most of the straw in place. So that has also been done and dusted…
Pete also advised us to rake the pine bark mulch away from the blueberries and mulch them with cow manure. Apparently it is more acidic and better for the blueberries than any other manure. So I have also been doing that. I have also added a bit of organic sulphur so that it can start dissolving with the winter rain in order to make the beds more acidic come summer.
We also had a short discussion about coffee grounds. I told Pete they didn’t bring our berries pH down much, but based on that discussion, I re-measured the coffee’s pH. Both the Bowside Café in Bellbrae and the Little Teapot in Lara measured a pH of around 6.5 so the coffee grounds are not going to help me much in getting the berries’ soil more acidic.
Still to do
We still have to paint a lot of the trees (new and old) with biodynamic tree paste.
And clear and mulch the apricots and the peaches.
And spread the mulch in the cleared front corner.
And prepare vegetable beds for early spring sowing.
And, and, and…
No, you don’t want to see the whole “to-do” list… me neither!