apple trees

Our first proper harvest of apples

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Our first real crop of Jonathon apples ready for harvest.
Our first real crop of Jonathon apples ready for harvest.

Four years ago we started planting out our guerrilla-gardened food forest in the land behind our house. This included nine different varieties of apple trees, alongside a mix of citrus and other fruit trees.

While we had a tiny harvest two years ago, this is the first year that we’ve had a reasonable harvest.

The Jonathon variety is by far the strongest tree, and the most prolific producer of fruit. We’ve also got a good crop of local Granny Smith apples on the way.

The trees have been very hit-and-miss so far. Some years it’s been the weather, with a lack of rain during key spring growing period. Fruit fly attack is also a constant problem (I’ll post shortly about our bamboo-and-netting solution.)

Still, we’ve harvested two full bucket loads of apples so far this year, with more to come. That’s a lot of apples for two people to eat.

While a many of the apples are blemished or marked externally, they have wonderfully pale green flawless flesh. Not to mention a crispness and depth of flavour that you just don’t get in supermarket apples that have been sitting in a cool store for upwards of six months. Yum! 🙂

Expect more posts shortly on apple-related preserves 🙂

A full bucket of apples, ready for a wash -- and then eating!
A full bucket of apples, ready for a wash — and then eating!

Tree planting map for the food forest

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Rough map of the food forest tree planting

For your interest, and to help us keep track of things, this is what we’ve planted so far in the food forest:

  1. Fuji apple
  2. Cox’s Orange Pippin apple
  3. Granny Smith apple
  4. Sommerset Red Streak apple
  5. Golden Delicious apple
  6. Jonathon apple
  7. Kingston Black apple
  8. Sugar Loaf Pippin apple
  9. Maiden’s Blush apple
  10. cumquat
  11. Meyer lemon
  12. dwarf Kaffir lime
  13. Wurtz avocado
  14. dwarf Washington Navel orange

Not a bad collection to get us started! I’ll keep this page up to date, as we fight back the weeds and fill in the gaps…

Update on our food forest

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Apple tree growing happily in our food forest

About six months ago, I cleared a overgrown mass of privet in the convent’s land behind our house to create a new food forest. Apple trees were ordered and planted, along with a bunch of other fruit trees.

This quickly became the first round of a multi-year war against weeds. With the warm, wet weather, the privet was immediately replaced by half a dozen varieties of invasive weeds, which are now several metres high.

Starting at the near end, I’ve been countering this by laying down newspaper, and piles of mulch (kindly donated by a local tree trimming company). A variety of plants have been established as part of the ‘apple tree guild’:

  • comfrey
  • lavender
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • oregano

I’ve also been planting a number of dominant vegetables to act as ground cover:

  • multiple types of pumpkin (normal and heirloom varieties)
  • watermelons
  • rockmelons
  • cucumbers

It’s clear that this will take some time, years most likely. Still, it’s a good weekend project…

The big surprise has been the hundreds of cherry tomato plants that have come up amongst the weeds. We’re not sure whether these came from the neighbours chucking tomatoes over their back fence, or from seeds being dropped by birds.

We’re not complaining either way, as we’ve already harvested 2-3kg of cherry tomatoes for ‘free’, having done nothing but watch the plants grow. There’s probably 10-20kg of tomatoes yet to grow and ripen, if we can find the time to pick them…

PS. in the end, the food forest is likely to become a ‘convent garden’ rather than a community garden. I’ll be the ‘head convent gardener’, with a produce-sharing arrangement in place. A good win-win outcome! 🙂

Creating our own food forest

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The triangle of land behind our houses

Next door to us is a convent, complete with a pair of very friendly nuns. Due to the oddities of land subdivision, the convent has a triangle of land that runs behind our strip of houses and the railway line.

I have been eying off this land for a while as a possible food forest. In permaculture terms, this would be a mix of food-producing trees, with supporting plants and animals (such as chickens and bees).

To date, this has been just a scrubby bit of unused land. Privet was running rampant along the railway line, creating a dense weedy mess. A local roofer is using another part of the land as long-term storage for roof tiles and slates.

The goal is to create a rich and fertile space that is shared by the convent and the strip of houses that runs alongside. A mini community space, this will produce fruit and other goodies for local residents,the church, and their their youth groups.

Starting to bring order to the chaos

I’ve now spent over a day, hacking out the privet, so the space is now free of major weeds. (Still plenty more work to be done yet though, including mulching all the privet.)

I’ve ordered nine apple trees as the core of the food forest:

  • Jonathon
  • Fuji
  • Cox’s Orange Pippin
  • Golden Delcious
  • Granny Smith
  • Maiden’s Blush
  • Sommerset Red Streak
  • Kingston Black
  • Sugar Loaf Pippin

The apple trees are definitely an experiment. Half the books I’ve read say “if you don’t have heavy frost, you can’t have apple trees”. Other people point to the local Sydney varieties of apples, and the local nursery certainly thinks they’re worth selling. I guess we’ll wait and see. In 4 years, we’ll either have a pile of apples for eating and cooking, or decorative trees with nice spring blossoms…