Last week, I had my rootstock drama. This week, I’m happy to say that it has been resolved! Tomorrow, I’ll be digging 52 holes, 48 along the Belgian Fence, and 4 more in the forest garden. The other 48 rootstocks will be in PB5 planter bags. That’s 100.

Here’s the grafting list (required/graft):

  1. Crabapple Golden Hornet (6/9)
  2. Crabapple Gorgeous (6/9)
  3. Crabapple Jack Humm (6/9)
  4. Crabapple Jelly King (6/9)
  5. Crabapple Wrights Scarlet (5/8)
  6. Mayflower (1/3)
  7. Willie Sharp (1/3)
  8. Winesap (1/3)
  9. Captain Kidd (1/3)
  10. Tan Montgomery (1/3)
  11. Alfriston (1/3)
  12. Kaituna (2/3)
  13. Ataahua Alpha (1/3)
  14. Ataahua Beta (1/3)
  15. Golden Pippin (1/2)
  16. Golden Reinette (1/2)
  17. Api Rose (1/2)
  18. Glockenappel (1/2)
  19. Rhode Island Greening (1/2)
  20. Devonshire Quarrenden (1/2)
  21. Ribston Pippin (1/2)
  22. Ralls Janet (1/2)
  23. Blenheim Orange (1/2)
  24. Reinette Du Canada (1/2)
  25. Norfolk Beefing (1/3)
  26. Keswick Codlin (1/3)
  27. Foxwhelp (1/3)

The plan is to do cleft graft for all the insitu rootstocks, and the ones in planter bags will be done with the omega tool. The rootstocks will be planted tomorrow, and the grafting will be done next week. I’ll need to get a few bags of sawdust and black electrical wiring tape ready for the big day. And pray for good weather, current weather forecast for next Wednesday is clear!

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The weather this week, 13mm of accumulated rainfall. High of 22.7dC, and low of 1.2dC. The outlook is still quite mild with no sign of frost yet.

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I have refreshed 2 of the raised beds that I attempted to grow veges for over-Winter. Each of the raised beds have a 20L bag of crusher dust and 30L of coarse vermiculite added to it. I have finally decided to add vermiculite to the raised bed mixed as a means of water retention and most important of all, aeration.

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Asparagus woohoo!

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Spotted this lovely calendula in an unexpected place. I have decided that soft brown sugar makes a very good seed coating, as inspired from Nourishment Home Grown. What I have done when I decided to over sow the forest garden with lucerne and crimson clover, is to pour the seeds into a bucket, and then add just about the same amount of soft brown sugar in, shake it up, then mist it lightly, and shake it up again, before thinning it down with compost, and broadcast into the forest garden.

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Tried to take a selfie with a horse. I might take horse riding lessons next season.



The Orchard Cottage this week. Everything’s moving.

This morning I received an email from Grant of Thunder Mountain to inform me that shipment of Myrobalan rootstock was delayed because his supplier managed to freeze them to death in refrigeration. And he asked me if I wanted a refund… Hang on?! I didn’t order any Myrobalan rootstock! So I range him up, and realized there was a mix up and my 100x mm106 rootstock somehow showed up as 100x Myrobalan rootstock on his system, some gremlins somewhere. He’s going to check if he’s got enough to dispatch to me and I have let him know its ok to mix in nSpy and m26.

I realized at this point that if I wasn’t able to forgive him for the mistake, how can I expect others to forgive me if I make a mistake? Sure it puts a dent in my plan, or at this point, it might, but on the bright side of things, at least I won’t have in my own silly attempt grafted apple scionwood onto Myrobalan rootstock and wonder why I have 100% grafting failure in Summer. The other day I stumbled upon this quote, “There’s 7 billion people on Earth and you let 1 person piss you off?”. That’s a bloody good quote.

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The weather this week… Well, the internet connection has been playing up, so the data on WUnderground wasn’t that good. I had to refer to Acu-Link for the data, which has got no decimal point for temperatures. Rainfall this week, 1.5mm,  high of 21dC, and low of 1dC. That’s my new sensor in the Subtropical area. It only records temperature and humidity and transmit the data to the bridge. I managed to recycle an old Stevenson screen to mount the sensor.

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As we settled into the first week of Spring, I realized that my vege patch has been quite of a flop in terms of Winter crop. No sprouts from the Flower Sprouts, the Brussels Sprouts remained a mere 10cm tall, the Baby Beetroots remained a seedling for the whole Winter, and all I get is a miserable 3 servings of baby mescluns. That, pretty much sums it all up. On the other hand, the garlic that I have left in the ground over last Summer all came back strong this season, a consolation prize. On the other hand, silverbeets and perpetual spinach were going crazy in the chooks and ducks patch, at least I know where to get leafy greens when the world ends today.

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Well, I hoped I will fare better this season with all the improvements I have done to the raised beds. Photo above is for the sweetcorn germination test. The one on the bottom left is Painted Mountain (Kaituna 2013), which is the seeds saved from last season. Top left is the original Painted Mountain sent to me by Mark Christensen in 2013. Bottom right is Early Gem. The other two is Rainbow Inca, which is the core variety of my breeding project. Here, I am trying to cross Early Gem, Silver Platinum, Golden Bantam, and Painted Mountain into Rainbow Inca. And then, see what happens. I have already started sowing the corns, I split the plot into 8 lots, which means 8 weeks of sowing, and if the frost wipes out the initial 4 weeks of work, I have another 4 more weeks to resow which still keeps me ahead of Canterbury Day.

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Done the grape trellis. I started the design process with rigid rules. Then, I proceed to question and challenge the rules that I have set. And I break the rules and set new ones. And I break them again, and again, and again, until I am satisfied.

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And this is the end result. 2 sets of 2 trellis. Originally, each trellis is on its own and space 90cm apart. The first change in the thought process is that they don’t have to be 90cm apart, then, they don’t have to be equally distanced. The second change, is they don’t have to all be apart, I could join them up. The end result is a layout that is in harmony with the rest of the forest garden. Each trellis runs 2.4m, designed for single cordon system, that allows for 2 vines, high density planting. Right now, I am just starting with 1 vine for each trellis.

  • Moores Diamond – A hardy variety resistant to fungal attacks, ripening in mid March. A table grape with good flavour, white flesh and skin. Makes a dry white wine and also champagne.
  • Schuyler – A regular cropping outdoor, table grape, bears from first season. Med/large berries, jet-black with heavy bloom. Flavour neutral pleasant. Early ripening.
  • Urbana – Good crops of large cherry red berries. Fruit is thick skinned with a Jelly texture and an exquisite sweet Lubrusca flavour. vigorous and disease resistant late season variety.
  • Niagara – A very early white dessert grape, which is very sweet with a good mild flavor. One of the few dessert grapes that can be grown organically making it a must for the home gardener. Ripens early/mid March.

The varieties are chosen for their disease resistance, ease of growing, and bonus for outdoor cropping selection. If I am to do high density planting, then I’m going to have to pick from the following:

  • Bishop Pompalier – A large black grape, sweet with a full flavour , excellent as a dessert grape. Originally from France, this variety came out from France with Bishop Pompallier , and came to Koanga via the Andrews homestead in Kohukohu. Disease resistant, ripe in March.
  • Torere – Tiny but very sweet thin skinned black grapes, outstanding table grape. These plants were grown from a 100 year old vine that covers over 1/2 an acre in Torere in the eastern Bay of Plenty. They are like currant grapes and may well be.
  • EA Robinson – A black outdoor table grape raised in Palmerston North presumably of a Hamburg type. Fruits very successfully and ripens well, fruiting twice.
  • New York Muscat – Good crops of medium red/black grapes held in loose bunches. They have a pleasant Muscat flavour with a “jelly” texture. It ripens early to mid season. A Muscat flavour is one with pronounced pungent, sweet floral aromas
  • Buffalo – A high quality Table Grape with reddish-black fruit with an attractive bloom. The flesh is green, tender and juicy with a hint of spice. Regular generous cropper that shows good disease resistance. Ripe around Feb-March. Plant in a sunny well drained position. Deciduous.
  • Steubens – This grape is recommended for the home gardener as it is easy to grow and shows good disease resistance. The grapes are reddish-black with a sweet and spicy flavour. Ripe around March-April. Plant in a sunny well drained spot and winter prune only. Deciduous.
  • Pappa Jack – Very large, very sweet dark red brown berries of excellent flavour. Hardy and disease resistant.

I can’t make up my mind, pick 3 out of 6. I definitely want the New York Muscat.

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Perhaps, the answer will become clear next season. Meanwhile, the pears are flowering! The apples are starting to move. Cherries are having swollen buds. Female flowers on Hazelnuts are opening, with their little red tongues sticking out. Roses are growing with more vigour. The weather seems really optimistic. Just about too optimistic to be truly optimistic. Ya get what I mean. One always have to be prepared for the next hard frost, or the second Once-In-A-100-Year-Flood within a year. October 2011, August 2012, June 2013, April 2014, noticed the flood event is getting earlier and earlier?

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The tulips row are coming through now, ready to start the show. Just about all the planted daffodils have come up too, ready to start flowering soon. I have to be very careful when walking about the forest garden being careful not to trample on emerging bulbs.

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The blueberries are starting to flower. Unfortunately, iPhone sucks at taking macro shots, I would love to do a lot more close up. Fortunately, mum and dad is coming to visit in Summer, and I am going to ask them to bring my Canon 50D over, with whatever lens that my sister is not using. I’ll use the DSLR exclusively for macro as it is too heavy to lug around for anything else. I am so over over-sized heavy bulky camera with huge lens.


The Orchard Cottage this week. Amazing day, beautiful weather, I went for a long walk doing a loop up the hill and down another hill. No camera, no iPhone, just me and my dog Caesar. If the weather is awesome tomorrow, I’ll explore another track which I have not gone down/up before.

Spring is just starting. Yesterday, the wind was howling from the North, and that limited my outdoor time severely. Today, we had a mild breeze from the South, but overall a nice warm day that allowed me to take Caesar for a nice long walk through the rolling farm lands. We had no rainfall this week, a high of 17.2dC, and a low of -0.9dC.

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I am in the midst of re-reading Nourishment Home Grown by Dr AF Beddoe. It is a great book, I last read it about 2 years ago, and decided that now is a time to refresh my mind about it. This book presents soil science in a different way, and casts a different perspective on how we understand the different nutrients. One key take away is that the effectiveness of foliar spray is dependent on how healthy and mineralized the soil is, plants growing in healthy mineralized soil is better able to take in nutrients through its foliage. His book also made me realized the importance of Phosphate in the soil, and the use of RPR.

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I have already spread Gypsum and RokSolid around and I am now waiting for my 10kg bag of BioPhos to arrive in the mail. BioPhos is formulated from Reactive Rock Phosphate (RPR).  Using a world-first patented process BioPhos harnesses the resources of phosphate fixing fungi and bacteria. Naturally occurring fungi are selected and cultured by Landcare Research and added to RPR along with an organic nutrient.  As a result of the inoculant and multiplication of these organisms during a controlled composting process, the RPR is converted to a highly plant-available form: Polyphosphate. If all goes well, I will repeat this process in Autumn, which is usually the time to do this stuff.

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Apart from that, the book also mention the use of Sul-Po-Mag, applied between mid-Summer to mid-Autumn, which enhances the trees uptake of Copper, and reduced the splitting of the bark, or cankers, which we commonly see in stonefruit. Sul-Po-Mag stands for Suplhate of Potash Magnesia, I have asked my Elders and FruitFed guys before, but neither know where I can get my hand on them, as it will be a very useful horticultural product for stonefruit growing. I asked Google yesterday, and much to my surprise, PCG Wrightson Turf carries it, and they are using it on turf! Its called Patent Kali and it comes in 25kg bag. I’ll try to get my hand on a bag this Summer.

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There’s a lot more unsung knowledge in this book than I can talk about. The use of sugar or molasses to improve water retention. How about improvising that to seed balls making?

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The Spring bulbs are popping up readily now. Here, the first Earlicheer daffodil is flowering! Next season will be an even more amazing sight after the bulbs divides, there will be more flowers in a clump.

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Apricots are flowering!

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Look at these really thick asparagus shoots. I won’t be harvesting the thick ones as I prefer the more slender ones.

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Still eyeing the Cara Cara Orange. I am proud to announce that all my Citruses have survived the Winter! The ones grown in Hugelkultur beds on the South of the house have fared quite well too! My system is working.

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The tomatoes and capsicums. Bottom right, potatoes from aerial seeds. The only seeds that seems to be weak is the Tomaccio seeds that I have saved off the plant last season. I sow 3 sets, and only 1 weak seedling germinated, I might have to buy a plant from the garden center. I also have Sungold seeds, which I will sow tomorrow.


The Orchard Cottage this week. There’s no reseeding of wildflowers being done at the end of last season, the self-seeded ones are starting to pop up now. I am going to over sow Lucerne in two weeks time. Along with Calendula, Cornflowers, Crimson Clovers, and Allyssum.

5 more days, and we are into Spring 2014! Can you believe it? 3 more months to Christmas, then its the New Year! Time sure goes by really fast. The trees that I have ordered from Edible Garden arrived yesterday, and planted out today, that pretty much concludes the Winter planting, until a hundred apple rootstocks arrive in Spring…

I’ve started my spraying regime. A blend of seaweed and mycorrcin. This is done weekly until I get lazy. I might switch to Nature’s Way Bio-Gold and Mycorrcin at a later stage. Currently, thinking of applying BioPhos around the trees instead of Gypsum.

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Rainfall this week, 8.5mm. High of 17.2dC and a low of -0.3dC. For a few days, I was enjoying the clear skies in the city, only to head back to a cloudy Banks Peninsula. Just grateful that we have nice warm weather today.

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I had a long weekend which started on Tuesday. So, I started work on some projects that I have had at the back of my head. I ran bamboo sticks around the top of the raised beds, nailed them in with 13mm pipe saddle clamp. I’ll be training the grape vines along the bamboo sticks. White Dalmation Grape arrived from Edible Garden too, and that went straight into one of the raised beds for grapes. I have added more windbreak shelter to the raised beds, the ones at the back were some old Olirete bird netting that I have, folded into 4 layers, now the windbreak run around the raised beds completely. I’ve also crushed up plenty of eggshells and spread them out on the raised beds too, that should help raise the Calcium levels in the raised beds. And some mowing and laying down grass clippings to cover up muddy patch.

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The sun is out today, so I took the lemon, the lime, and the coffee out for some sun bathing. If the weather is good tomorrow, I’ll have to take the coffee out tomorrow for a good spray to get rid of the mealy bugs.

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Checking in on the cuttings. This is not good news yet. Apparently, if roots have formed, the shoots will elongate.

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My very own Nikau Palm waiting to go into the ground when the weather is more friendly.

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All the grafted fruit trees are in the Belgian Fence line up now. 49 rootstocks will go in next and grafted on.

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The 4 peaches. From top, going clockwise:

Keri Gold on Myrobalan – The Skin is a golden colour and when fully ripe has a red blush. A freestone peach, with firm flesh, sweet and juicy with a slight red blush around the centre. The tree is reasonably tolerant of leaf curl. Grown by Mr & Mrs Cannon of Keri Keri.

River (seedling) – River Peaches are the ones that set Kay Baxter off on her journey. They are disease resistant, easy to grow and grow true to seed. They are prolific croppers of sweet medium sized, green skin with a red blush, white fleshed, free stone fruit. Ripen late January.

Red Leafed Blackboy on Marianna – Small/medium sized, with dark red grey skin, bright port red and white streaky flesh. A freestone variety, which ripens in late Feb. The fruit is juicy with a strong flavour and is god for dessert or bottling.

Batley on Marianna – Firm, honey coloured skin and flesh when ripe, tender and sweet, wonderful texture and flavour , clingstone, dessert. From  the historic house at Batley on the Kaipara. Outstanding peach, reliable cropper and disease resistant. Ripens March April.

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Then I did some grafting, mainly just stonefruits. Two stray wild plum in the far corner of the forest garden, grafted Whakapirau Gold on the left and Transparent Gage on the right.

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Then, some guerrilla grafting took place by the road. I am using this omega grafting tool, and trying to get used to it. It is different from the classic cuts with the grafting knife. I might try a mix of classic wedge grafting and omega grafting tool, just to hedge my bets with the 100 apple rootstocks.

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Then, I got carried away and decided that the Orchard Peach tree could use a lot of grafting. So, I grafted Keri Gold, Red Leafed Black Boy, Whakapirau Gold, and Transparent Gage onto it. I’ll graft some other varieties onto it next season too, just see what I can get my hands on. It’ll be my Rojak Peach tree. I’ve got a Rojak Apple tree planned for the food forest too! Rojak is sort of a Malaysian salad, a mixed plate of really delicious stuff, we use that term for anything or anybody that looks like a plate of assorted fruit salad.

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This is how I am going to be growing sweetcorn and cucurbits this season. Each 35L bag will hold 6 sweetcorn, 2 climbing beans, and 1 cucurbit. I’ve just sow 12 sweetcorn kernels that I saved from last season to see if my half baked seed saving is viable. There’s 20 bags in total, makes up 120 sweetcorn, 40 climbing beans, and 20 cucurbit.


So, here we go again. The Orchard Cottage this week. I have decided to add nuts to my weekend diet from now on. I think there’s some nutrient in there that I am missing out, and craving for. I had this crazy cravings yesterday, it felt like I was craving for sweet desserts, like a cookie or a slice, and I decided to ask Google about my cravings, and my eyes landed on nuts, the section of the brain that handles cravings lit up like a Christmas tree. So, I head into Lincoln today, and got myself some nuts, and slices, and find out I really enjoy the nuts, but not the slices.

Last Thursday, something happened. It had me delighted!


We have quite a lengthy period of hail, tiny hail, and the ground is just covered in tiny ice balls!

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Nothing stopped me from getting out into the garden to be in the midst of all the hailing action. To me, this is one of the amazing wonders of Mother Nature. The valley doesn’t go white very often…

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Caesar giving me the intelligent look, telepathically telling me the greens are going to be spotty after this from the hail.

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Rainfall this week, 5mm. Weekly high of 18.7dC and low of -2.5dC.

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I have trimmed all the corner stakes down to just 1m above the raised beds. Visually, it helps open up the field at eye level. I am going to run lengths of rope around the corner stakes to train the table grapes onto them. The weedmat covered area have also been reduced by 1.8m as I have altered the layout of the future vege garden.

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The great thing about planning ahead, way ahead, is that it gives a lot more room to deliberate, and to change things around, and budgeting. So, in a bid to cut cost, I’ve decided not to build a larger mikroclima greenhouse, instead, I’m going to modify the existing one which will also comfortably fit in a dwarf Bearrs Lime and dwarf Yen Ben Lemon side by side. The space infront, I have the option to build a 2.7m x 1.8m agphane cloche, fully covered, ideal for growing peppers. Also means that I don’t have to move some raised beds around.

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The Gold Bar and Gold Strike Apricots have started with full on bud movement. One flower has opened. Apricots are quite early flowering, and hence, the importance of choosing a less frost prone location.

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The Iona Grape is the first with bud burst. Perhaps, it is in a nice cosy spot, right in front of the dilapidated sleepout.

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The tulips are starting to come out of the ground! Yays!

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Pretty pansies parading underneath the apricot trees.

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Found this interesting little weedy plant in the ground. The purple flowers at the top, with the young  foliage at the top having a purplish hue too.

Just thinking out loud, the collector in me would like to have more grapevines. As if 7 is not enough. There’s a few places they can go in the garden… Not anytime soon… But just thinking out loud. Just how intensively can I plant them? Vertical trellis, with lavender underneath. Hmmm… I’ll spend some time dreaming about it.


The Orchard Cottage this week.

This week has been snowy. Most of the wet weather were isolated towards Banks Peninsula. However, I was at the Christchurch Botanical Garden today, and remnants of hail can still be seen among the shady parts of the garden. All around, the Prunus family have started flowering, and so the display of Spring flowers have begun.

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Rainfall this week, 7.5mm. Weekly high of 16.7dC and low of -1.5dC. Some morning frosts as well. I had a feeling that this Winter is going to drag out into Spring.

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The woodlands at the botanical garden is awesome. I had an enjoyable walk in the garden today despite it being cut short due to the change in weather. A good Samaritan even warned me to get going as the weather is going to rain and my jacket is not going to help. My favorite part of the botanical garden is the Curator’s garden, which is the vege patch. The native garden is amazing too, just inspires me about native plantings.

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The conservatory is finally opened! And look, bananas!

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Back at the Orchard Cottage, the prune plantings are now completed. Prune plums are essentially European plums, smaller in size, packed with traditional flavors, freestone, much unlike modern Japanese plums. From left:-

  • Cheviot Prune – Sweet and juicy fruit with a dark blue skin. Very cold hardy. Pollinates with all other prunes and greengages. Great to eat fresh, bottle or preserve.
  • Italian Prune on myrobalan – The world’s most popular prune plum! Dark purple skin, egg shaped, freestone, fine textured rich flavour and very sweet. Self fertile.
  • Sugar Prune on myrobalan – An egg shaped, freestone with purple skin, yellow flesh and very sweet. It is an excellent dessert or dried prune, ripening in mid February. Pollinated by Greengage.
  • Stanley Prune on myrobalan – Stanley’ is late (Feb-Mar) European variety. It produces a purplish-blue freestone fruit with a green/yellow flesh. It is juicy and has a sweet, slightly insipid flavour. It is self-fertile and itself a suitable pollinator. The tree gets large and fruits young. A heavy cropper it prefers a cooler temperate climate. A prolific cropper and an excellent pollinator. Dark blue skinned fruit with sweet and juicy golden flesh.
  • Ahipara Prune on myrobalan – A very special plum found growing in a long abandoned orchard on the Ahipara Gumfields. It is a large egg shaped classic looking prune except it ripens earlier than all the others, in January. With a dark red skin, yellow very sweet sugary flesh and free stone it is an excellent plum. Self Fertile. Similar to the Victoria prune.

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The berry plantings are now completed too!  The spiny Worcesterberry being trained against the wall on the left, and the other trailing berries trained along the fence. From left:-

  • Worcesterberry – American gooseberry with large purple/green fruit between October and November. Mildew resistant.
  • Boysenberry Tasman – A mostly spineless berry with medium to large berry size cropping well and easily harvest. Deciduous.
  • Hybridberry Thornless Jewel (Hortberry2) – Large, firm conical rich dark red/black berries. Old fashioned boysenberry flavour, juicy and sweet. A boysenberry cross.
  • Boysenberry McNichols Choice – Berrys are medium to large in size, with a high yield, and a large number of berries per lateral. Excellent for your own picking and processing.
  • Loganberry Waimate – White flowers in spring followed by large dusky purple-red berries, excellent aromatic flavour. The receptacle is left behind when picked.
  • Boysenberry Mapua – A mostly spineless berry cropping well in late season. Large berries easily harvest. Deciduous.
  • Hybridberry Berry Delight (Marahau) –  Mouth watering large dark rich red fruit with a delicious boysenberry/loganberry flavour. This bramble is crossed between boysenberry and loganberry. Harvest when fruit turns dark red and are easy to remove in December and January.
  • Boysenberry Brulee – White flowers in early spring are followed by large firm conical dark purple black berries. Crops in December to January with heavy yeilds under the ideal conditions. Fruit are ready when they are easily removed.

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Like I said, some plants like to have an early start to the season, like this Almond All-in-One.

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How much do I not know about hazelnuts? Just found out these are the catkins, the male flowers. And there is supposed to be some red female flowers too, which is yet to show.


The Orchard Cottage this week. Frosty morning. I might do some grafting tomorrow. Some guerrilla grafting with Red Leafed Blackboy Peach, Transparent Gage Plum, Whakapirau Gold Plum.

I have always been fascinated by the Fibonacci sequence, 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34… The Golden Ratio, and how nature seems to follow its logic. Then, how do I, attempting to be the Da Vinci of gardening apply it to garden design? One way is to plant according to the outline of a Fibonacci spiral. I did saw some photos online of some raised beds designed in that form, but you will need a backdrop to fit it into, in other words, the application is very selective.

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Then, I started doodling, and figured out that it can be used for guild design. In this design, the Fibonacci sequence would probably be applied to the spread of a plant instead of its height. The one on the left follow a standard spiral form while the right just follows the sequence and more suitable if the smallest shrubs are not very shade tolerant. An example might go with, Comfrey (1), Comfrey/Gooseberry (1), Erect Thornless Blackberry/Currant (2), Apple on MM106/NSpy (3), Tree Lucerne/Alder/Acacia (5), Eucalyptus (8), Walnut/Pecan (13). Just an idea.

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Rainfall this week, 9mm. High of 21.6dC and low of -1.5dC. A couple of frosty morning but nothing too bad. A lot of plants are starting to move.

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The flowering plum is flowering full on. All the apple trees planted along the Belgian fence have been cut back to the first level, come Spring they will sprout new shoots and form a nice Y-shape.

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This asparagus is getting a head start. I will be harvesting this season despite expert advice. I believe there is a way around it, eat half, leave half, feed well.

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This is the preparation for the corn breeding project. The sweetcorn will be planted into 35L bags of compost placed on top of the weedmat with slits poke right through so that the wandering roots of the sweetcorn can go all the way into the soil. I will also be doing it the three sisters way.

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I unwrapped the tape around the apple grafts. So, this is how it looks like. It is amazing how nature works!

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I gave the Hybrid Tea roses a good prune. And then decided that I might as well label them up pretty and this is what I ended up with. Here we have Peace and Joyfulness, what a perfect pair!

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I figured out how to different the second year bluebells from the first year.

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This is the first year bluebells, just started to come out of the ground.

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The daffodils on the other hand are all popping up. These are the naturalizing mix.

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And this bumble bee is doing what bumble bee do. Chewing its way into the bee food.

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I didn’t realized how much I missed these lovely bugs until I see them again!

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I decided to prune that Almond Monovale anyway. I can’t resist.

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It looks better now. I will need to actively shape it this growing season, mainly managing the length of new shoots, and encourage it to branch out more.

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Lemon Meyer!!! Finally, I’ve have lemons! Maybe I will make myself that cup of honey lemon ginger tea tomorrow.

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This is the Cara Cara Orange. So, I must have done something right for the Lemon Meyer and Cara Cara Orange to set beautiful fruit. Now, just got to wait for the orange to ripened up. All the citrus have survived the Winter so far. We shall see what happens next Winter when I foray into sub-tropicals with the likes of banana, cherimoya, mountain paw paw, passionfruit, and tamarillo.

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The seeds of the Solanaceae family has been sown. This season, I’ll be grown Bell Peppers Rainbow Mix, Bell Peppers Jingle Bells, Tomato Black Cherry, Tomato Black Zebra, Tomato Indigo Rose, Tomato Small Sweet Orange, Tomato Super Snow White, Tomato Tomaccio B2, Tomato Tomaccio E2, Tomato Yellow Pear, and a aerial seed potato. Seed tray covered with mikroclima, if I use the plastic dome and the afternoon sun shines on it, it will be 40dC underneath. Sits it on the pet heat mat set on 25dC with a temperature probe monitoring soil temperature. I need it around 20dC. The peppers will take 8-20 days to germinate while the tomatoes will take 10-14 dys.


The Orchard Cottage this week. Didn’t get much done. Just observing. I particularly enjoy the part where I was just sitting on a portable beach chair in the larger part of the food forest charging up on Vitamin D.

The latest issue of NZ Lifestyle Block have an article on the use of Silicon for the prevention of disease. Indeed, it seems that someone has been doing some scientific research on Si. Meanwhile, Rudolf Steiner has already incorporate Silica into Biodynamic practices decades ago. The article gave me an idea to add what’s left of P508, which is equisetum horsetail into one of my fertigation system that mists the citruses. It will ferment nicely in the drum as part of a cocktail blend of liquid seaweed, comfrey and mycorrcin.

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Rainfall this week, 0.75mm. This week, we have a high of 15.3dC and a low of 0dC. Quite a mild week here due to the constant overcast condition here in the valley. In the city however, -4dC on 25th July, which has been the coldest in July 2014. We shall see what August will bring, otherwise, the coldest day is already behind us.

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And so, the flowering has begun. Lots of bud movement everywhere. Even the Cootamundra Wattle has started flowering with its tiny flowers of pure yellow.

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More plants have arrived from Te Kahuri Nurseries and Mara Whenua Nurseries, and they went straight into the ground. The Belgian Fence had a few more additions, Hetlina, Cox Orange, Freyburg, Monty’s Surprise, and Calville Blanc d’Hiver. The Black Mulberry went into the Southern Hedgerow along with a transplanted Gooseberry Pax. Currants went into the food forest to form the bush level of the pipfruit guilds. It’s been a day with a lot of digging and planting, I am truly grateful that it has been a reasonably mild day, and the gusty wind did not pick up until late evening.

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Then, its on to rooting the cuttings. I’ve got 6 varieties of Figs from Koanga Institute. These will eventually go into the ground as 3-in-a-hole to control their vigor.

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Checking in on the cuttings that I have down a while ago. They still look pretty promising. My experience with buying Currants so far has let me to recommend Te Kahuri Nurseries. Brian shipped them to me, full size, what it means is that there’s plenty of wood to take cuttings from, for just $4 a plant.

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The greenhouse beds are being prepared for Summer tomatoes and peppers. Mustard seeds sown densely to cleanse the soil and as a cover until planting time.


The Orchard Cottage this week. The dry’ish weather means that I have been doing some Winter pruning to reinvigorate some of the fruit trees. I still need to deal with that big lanky Almond tree, but that will have to wait as doing it while its dormant will just make it even more vigorous.

The weather experts said there will be snow about Banks Peninsula, unluckily for me, there’s only lots of rain, sleet, and hail. I missed seeing snow covering the valley.

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This happened in 2011. It is sooooo beautiful! And it only lasted a day.

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Well, it did snow this week, just not down low. Still, no sign of the coldest day to come.

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Accumulated rainfall this week, 59mm. This week’s high 9.2dC, low 0.1dC. River flow peaked at 19.29 cubic meters per second, and 3.055m water level. The river flow chart showed a pretty steep climb indicating that the ground has reached saturation point. Waterfalls have also formed again on the hill across the road.

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The poo weather cleared up in the afternoon much to my pleasure. I ventured into the forest garden and discovered this white borage. Borage usually comes in blue, whites don’t germinate that willingly and thus pretty rare. I sow a pack of seeds last season and only one plant came up. I thought I won’t be seeing them again. What a pleasant surprise!

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The raised vege beds will now have more wind protection. Took me long enough to come up with this idea but I am grateful that I did came up with it eventually. It is a very cheap and simple system that is neither over-complicated nor over-engineered.

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I hope it works. And I will finally be able to get the plants growing well. The windbreak is stretched at the top with bamboo stakes and held up with elastic rope to ensure it is taut and does not flat around and hit the plants. I use knitted windbreak instead of mikroclima for durability.

Vege Garden v2

This is a revised conceptualization of Season 2015/16 vege garden. The mikroclima structure is cut down to 5.4m by 1.8m. The 2 light blue units will look something like the strawberries bed, except, higher structure, 1.5m perhaps, and covered with agphane. More heat, for plants that demands more heat. I will probably dedicate it to growing paprikas.

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The trellis support for the Belgian Fence is up. Newton Pippin on mm102 is the third addition to the fence so far, it arrived from Treedimensions yesterday. Newton Pippin, this variety originated as a chance seedling (a “pippin”) on the Gershom Moore estate in the village of Newtown (now called Elmhurst; the Moore property stood in the vicinity of what is now Broadway and 45th Avenue) in Queens County on Long Island, New York in the late 17th or early 18th century. It was widely grown and praised in colonial America. Thomas Jefferson, for example, wrote from Paris that “they have no apples here to compare with our Newtown Pippin.”.  The more I think about the Belgian Fence idea, the more I like it, for it can happen very quickly. Reason being, it only required each plant to grow into a Y-shape., instead of multiple stacks of T, which will take years. If a plant is able to grow well, it can pretty much established the Y-shape in a single season, or two.

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Emperor Alexander on mm102 and Glockenapfel on m793 from Treedimensions have also been planted into the greater food forest. Emperor Alexander, a variety of good-looking, large, red-flushed blushed, dual-purpose apple with white flesh from the Ukraine, known in the 1700s. Cooks to a lemon-coloured purée. Glockenapfel, a very old European apple variety with a distinctive bell-like shape. Named for its bell-shaped fruit, stores and travels very well, good pollinator, popular in Switzerland for making apple strudel.

Dieter was kind enough to send me Glockenapfel on m793 when he don’t have them on mm106 as requested. However, that means that I can’t plant it among other ancient varieties which were to be managed in a more compact manner. Apples on m793 rootstock grow larger, hence I moved it to the greater food forest where trees are allowed to grow bigger.

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This will be the ultimate foot reflexology treatment. Barefoot across a patch of nettles.


The Orchard Cottage this week. Bare-rooted fruit trees are starting to arrive in the mail. Woohoo!!!


We are slowly coming towards the coldest part of Winter. Or should I say, we should be. Last year’s coldest happened on July 31st going down to -3dC. So far, its nowhere there yet.

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Rainfall this week, 19mm. This week’s high 18.3dC, low -0.9dC. It was crazy, it was such a beautiful, and warm Sunday! And last night, I was awaken twice by what sounded like a huge dump of hail, twice!

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And so, due to the really warm Winter weather recently, the flowering plums decided to make a run for it…

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Not one to be complaining when the mesclun mixes are exploiting this warm opportunity to grow. I’ll be having mesclun sald with blue cheese dressing for lunch tomorrow!

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Its been raining on and off the whole day as if somebody is playing with the tap. Didn’t stop me, I was out in the garden whenever it stopped raining. The grafting nursery is completed! Really pleased that the idea of using bamboo sticks to frame the cover works.

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Transplanted some white alpine strawberries into the asparagus bed and topped it up with mulch. Apparently strawberries makes good companion with asparagus. This makes sense since asparagus crowns are planted 15cm beneath the surface while strawberries can be planted in between the gaps and live near shallower depth. I’ve decided on white alpine strawberries because this bed will not have bird protection, and birds somehow don’t find white strawberries attractive.

The way I have done the covers for the grafting nursery with bamboo sticks gave me an idea on how I could provide more shelter for the raised beds. I’ll show you next week.

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The peach trees I have ordered from Koanga Institute have arrived! For these peaches, I am planting four of them very close together for vigour control. Left most is Batley Peach, the one to the right is just a Marianna rootstock which I am going to graft a Red Leafed Black Boy onto it, and the one on the right is a River Peach Seedling. Still waiting on Keri Gold Peach from Edible Garden.

A not so original idea to increase the variety of fruit trees in limited space is to plant 2 to 3 in a hole. I would prefer to do this as long as they are on the same type of rootstock, instead of buying multi-grafted trees. First reason, I might not have all the varieties I want available on a multi-grafted tree, and I am unwilling to compromise. Second reason, its not easy to control vigour for each variety on a multi-grafted tree, and if not managed, the weaker variety might die out, having each variety grown on its rootstock, and all on the same type of rootstock, provides more insurance.

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I thought all my guerrilla grafting on the wild plums by the road was a failure. Perhaps, maybe not, as this Angelina Burdett Plum might have taken, judging from 2 very short new stem that has formed on the original scionwood. I’ll keep an eye on it come Spring and provide a confirmation.

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Daffodils are ready to flower!!! And a clump of second year Takahue Red garlic can be seen at the back.

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I am not very sure if these are first year bluebells or second year. They might be second year.

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So, I decided to take a break from all the work in the garden and went for a walk with Caesar behind the house. He loves this spot because he can run free all over, sniff and pee here and there, and there’s the river that he likes to cross too!

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Then back to work, doing the groundwork for tomorrow where I am going to finish setting up the trellis for the Belgian fence.

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Meanwhile, I am chitting potatoes ready to plant out in September. And have ordered a 50cm by 50cm pet heating mat to be used with my tall dome Viagrow propagtors to start seeds next month. Its a thrifty cheat as it will require four propagation heat mat to cover the same area, which will cost 5 times the price of a single pet heating mat. Just make sure it is waterproof and comes with temperature control.


That’s it for now. The Orchard Cottage this week. 6 more weeks of Winter, then its Spring!


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