The Season Starts with a Rush

Every day on the farm is a fight to obtain or maintain order against a determination of nature to return things back to the bush. With heavy rain during the winter and intermittent but regular rainy days this month followed by a few sunny days and I am hard pushed to keep the grass in shape much less the weeds under the berries and fruit trees.

We have just about thinned all the stonefruit trees that needed to be thinned. With stonefruit trees it is necessary to thin the fruitlets in order to minimise the potential fro brown rot and ti ensure that the fruit is of reasonable size.  We do this for apricots, some plums, peaches and nectarines. Greengage plums usually self thin and prune D’agen we also leave. We do not touch the cherries.

We also thin the nashis but not the European pears (beurre bosse, winter cole and packhams for example ) These have also been done. We haven’t started on the apples yet but will do so within a week. We would be interested in other peoples ideas on thinning- so leave a comment)

But our main and most interesting problem this year has been to explain why we have had so much die-back with the raspberries. The problem has occurred in previous years but never so widespread as we have seen this year. 

The symptoms seems to be of two types:

  • in the milder cases the top of the canes show a yellowing of the leaves possibly with greenish veins. At one stage I had thought that this might have been due to a nutrient deficiency such as zinc.
  • In other areas the buds just don’t emerge after dormancy or die back shortly after starting. The leaves are usually small if  they get started at all.

Raspberry Cane Damage in Middle of Row

This is a variety in the photo above is called Chillowack. The damage appears to be worst in the middle of the row. As you can see the rows are hilled and heavily mulched which was done just before the onset of winter. I have been researching this for some time and have found a number of sites which have addressed the same problem.  A good example is the article Phytophora Root Rot of Raspberry put out by Ohio State University also Integrated Pest Management for raspberries from Washington State University

We had sprayed the rows with a herbicide when the plants were going into dormancy then mulched after some weeding and removal of old canes and topping of the new canes. . And at first I thought that it may have been the combination of much damper conditions and these sprays which had become  more systemic than they should have been.

However as this photo shows the problem does not extend the entire length of the row but seems to be confined to what would have been the wetter areas.It could well be that our arrangement does in fact trap the water between the rows where their is no fall to one end or the other of the rows.

So what can we do about it?

I decided to weed and work on one row myself. This row was in fact just above where these pictures were taken. Amongst the weeds were many young plants starting again at one end of the row whilst at the other end the canes were more or less intact. However even the better canes had withered tips indicating staggered growth.

What appears to be happening in these areas is that the water is not draining away from the upper sides of the ridges and that in many cases the mulch is acting as a further deterrent and also keeping the ground too moist. Pefect conditions for growing phytophora.

All Creatures Great & Small

Summer is around the corner now. The rains and colder weather are now being followed by much warmer weather. It is often hard to remember just how quickly everything breaks from dormancy.

One minute nothing is growing , the ground is waterlogged and your hopes for a successful growing season seem unlikely.

Some trees set blossom first and then leaves, other species are the complete opposite. For example cherries blossom first followed by leaves. Raspberries on the other hand are the reverse with leaves first and then maybe a week or tow later fruit blossoms. Blackberries are much the same.

Sometimes diseases also burst forth with the increase in  temperatures. Antracnose is often present in Blackberries but starts to become destructive as spring moves into summer. Wet winters accentuate these sort of problems. Powdery mildew is apples and strawberries is often a nightmare at Eureka Farm. And acceptable long-term treatments are often hard to find as the disease often grows resistant to the fungicide much the same way that resistance to antibiotics can occur in humans.

Apricots are notorious for canker and brown rot. Spring and oscillating temperatures with interdispersed rains can make growing this fruit a  nightmare. Having seen the conditions in Laddakh where apricots thrive I would just love to be able to emulate there spring and summer weather pattern. There winters are really cold but once the summer season starts generally there is no looking back. What I mean is the weather is not confusing. The plants come into blossom with steadily warmer weather. And best of all there is low humidity and no rains to worry about.

We have to combat our weather conditions with the use of fungicides copper sprays in the dormant period and other fungicides to follow up after rainy periods in the spring when leaf matter prevents the use of these copper sprays.

In addition to our worries about diseases and there are plenty to worry about we also have to contend with rapid increases in pests. Often the pest populations can wipe our the crop.  In our tree crops the main contenders are aphids and cherry slugs. And the worse thing about getting rid of pests are that the sprays often necessary are not user friendly.
Last but not least are the native animals which are meant to be outside the fences which are generally electric but which often have a desire to get inside as the pickings are just what they love. Lots of tender new leaves just waiting to be eaten. In some paddocks it is almost impossible to get young trees established. Just one undetected and unprotected broken fence and all of our paddocks lose these defenses.

So at this time keeping things up to sratch can be quite exhausting. Constant vigilance is required to check that fences are not broken, that pests or diseases are not out of control etc. Unfortunately this is a feature of the Spring when creatures great and small rule the orchard.


Spring is well on the Way

No fruit yet but strawberries are fruiting and should be ready in a few weeks. Apricots need to be thinned.

Most apple and pear trees are in blossom. We are on particular alert for black spot on the pears which we experienced last year. Also aphids on peaches and plums need to be watched. We have a Santa Rosa plum in the front orchard which always seems to be a victim of early aphid attacks. So by watching it we know when the danger approaches.

Cherry trees have good blossom this year. Maybe we will have a good crop. I am a little worried about parrots too which seem to like the fruit trees and I wonder what they are eating.

Today was a successful day for me in that I managed to get the solenoids up and running. Last year after heavy rains the wiring short circuited and as I wasn’t sure just where the problem occurred. I had from then on  to manually water the trees which involved a lot of turning valves on and off. The problem seems to have been in a section of cable between the new shed and the electrical shed where our main pump is housed. A few years ago a limb fell on this wire and severed all lines. The cables were rejoined but must have become wet and failed> (all located underground.)

So we replaced this section and it worked once it was reconnected. Hurrah!

We are expecting a visit from Inspiring Journeys later this month. This is a follow up after meeting a couple of their guys a few weeks ago. They intend to take trips up the East coast of Tasmania but with a difference. As I understand it adventure and seeing the real thing are determining features. So we look forward to meeting them and introducing them to some od the delights of Eureka Farm.  For more info go to Inspiring Journeys website