Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Backyard Lavender Farm


My wife has been on at me for ages to get rid of our lawn and use it for something useful and I've finally caved and have planted a Lavender Farm! A while ago we visited an amazing Lavender Farm near Queenstown called Ben Lomond Lavender and I've always dreamt of having rows of fragrant Lavender on mass like theirs. Since then I've always had lots of single Lavs planted around my Citrus and dotted around the garden but i think when in rows and properly trimmed, Lavender really shines.
With Lavender, my favourite varietal is "English Lavender" (its common name) or Lavendula Angustifolia (its Latin name). At the plant store you rarely see this one though as the average punter there seems to prefer the Stoechas variety or "Spanish Lavender" which, my friends, is a seriously inferior plant, trust me. The scent & essential oil of the Angustifolia is sweet, light & beautiful, whereas the other lavenders have a resinous, camphor element to their oil which makes it much inferior. 
When deciding on the variety to use we went with "Grosso". For years Grosso has been the world's most extensively grown lavender for oil production. Grosso is a lavandin, in other words, a hybrid between Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula latifolia. It has intermediate characteristics of both parents, having long flowering stems with multiple lateral branching. The habit of the plant is bushy and rounded with greenish-grey foliage. It is reasonably slow growing at first but by its third year forming a spherical mound of between 40-50cm both in width and height. For us in New Zealand it is a plant that looks great from early January through to March if left to flower untouched. This is often a time when many other plants are suffering with the heat and dry yet this lavender never fails to impress. The flowers still look good in March, even if a little faded. Plants can then be cut back and trimmings and flowers and stems make good compost. Personally i would have gone with Pacific Blue which is an Angustifolia as the scent is just so beautiful but they are a lot smaller plants and the yield of flowers is about 1/3 or 1/4 compared to Grosso. The Grosso plants also look more appealing during flowering in Summer as they have many prolific long spikes of flowers that look great over an extended period. 
The plants i purchased are all fairly young and will take about 2 or 3 years to fully mature but we should see some flowers this summer hopefully. Today i laid out all the plants evenly in straight rows. Tomorrow i will plant the Lavenders in a easy draining pumice/compost growing medium mix in raised mounds over the stodgy clay topsoil. I'll then lay weed mat over the entire area to suppress the grass & weeds. Eventually i'll lay bark over to give a more natural look.


The Plants.
Spacing out the plants. 
The growing medium.

Mounding up in the growing medium.

   



Thursday, 11 August 2016

Peaches


Just thinking of the word “Peach” conjures up an image of yellow, juicy, sweet flesh dribbling down your chin in summer. Peaches epitomise Summer fruits. Its hard to think Summer even exists at the moment, being in the dark depths of Winter. But i have just being spraying my Peach trees with Copper this week and it got me looking forward to this years bounty. Peaches are a tree well worth growing for its delectable fruit, the Peach is also a truly beautiful flowering specimen, with its blossoms bursting into ‘pinkness’ in the early spring which are as good as many Cherry Blossoms. And, being a deciduous tree, it will also produce beautiful autumn foliage after the fruiting is over. I have the below four Peach trees at home; two dwarfs, one full size (Golden Queen) and one in a pseudo espalier (Blackboy). With the full size tree i will have to work hard to shape & prune it over its years as they can grow into being massive trees. Its already is getting quite large and i wish i had pruned him down lower to the ground initially as i will probably now need a ladder to harvest the fruit. There is some great videos here from Dave Wilson Nurseries about pruning with Back Yard Orchard Culture in mind (i.e.: keeping trees at home at a manageable size).

Photo: Scot Nelson
Peaches do need a bit of care throughout the year to combat the dreaded Peach Leaf Curl. Peach leaf curl is a disease caused by fungus. It affects the blossoms, leaves, and shoots of peaches and nectarines, and is the most common disease problem for backyard gardeners growing these trees. The distorted, reddened foliage that it causes is easily seen in spring. When severe, the disease can reduce fruit production substantially.
Peach leaf curl first appears in spring as reddish areas on developing leaves. These areas become thickened and puckered, causing leaves to curl and severely distort. The thickened areas turn yellowish and then grayish white, as velvety spores are produced on the surface by the leaf curl fungus. Later affected leaves turn yellow or brown and can remain on the tree or may fall off; they are replaced by a second set of leaves that develop more normally unless wet weather continues. The loss of leaves and the production of a second set result in decreased tree growth and fruit production. 
The best way to combat PLC is to spray with Copper Fungicide. I would recommend an early treatment when the tree is dormant in early August. It is also advisable to apply a second spray late in the dormant season, preferably as flower buds begin to swell but before green leaf tips are first visible.

Peach Blackboy

A stunning peach with a dark wine coloured outer and inner. The rich, juicy, textured flesh is absolutely delicious. One of my favourites. If there are any left over after raiding the tree (which I doubt) they also bottle well. Deciduous.
Suitable for warmer areas including Auckland/Northland
Flower Colour: Pink
Habit: Upright & Spreading
Estimate Mature Size: 5m x 3m


Peach Bonanza

A genetic dwarf standard Peach tree that will provide you with a bonanza of delicious juicy peaches in summer. The fruit have yellow skin with a red blush and yellow flesh. With pretty pink spring blossom and lush green foliage this tree is highly ornamental as well as productive. Self fertile. Deciduous. Peaches are tolerant of most soils but they do need good drainage and love to be in the sun. 
Suitable for warmer areas including Auckland/Northland
Habit: Compact Standard
Estimate Mature Size: 2m x 1.5m


   

Peach Golden Queen

NZ's favourite peach. As the name suggests this is the Queen of peaches with firm, tasty, golden yellow flesh. Great for bottling or eating straight from the tree. Crops well, ripens in late February/March. Cling-stone. Deciduous.
Suitable for warmer areas including Auckland/Northland
Flower Colour: Pink
Habit: Upright & Spreading
Estimate Mature Size: 5m x 3m




Peach Pixzee

This dwarf standard Peach tree is a real little sweetie. With beautiful pink blossom in spring, followed by fresh green leaves and then delectable full size freestone peaches in summer. The peaches are a warm golden yellow blushed red with freestone flesh that is also golden. Happy in the garden or a container. Mostly Deciduous but can hang on to green leaves right through to late winter.
Colour: Pink
Habit: Compact Standard
Estimate Mature Size: 2m x 1.5m





Sunday, 7 August 2016

Common Citrus Diseases & Pests

Here is a list of the issues that i have come across with growing my Citrus over the years. Some you can be pro-active & spray with this or that. I like to be as natural as i can with my plants especially with anything i intend to eat. So i will only spray only if a problem seems to be getting out of control. Also since i have so many fruit trees, to spray them all would take ages to do & be quite costly. I think its very important when choosing sprays to consider the effects on other members of our ecosystem specifically BEES. Please avoid the use of nasty sprays such as Confidor which contains Imidacloprid which is dangerous to our Bee buddies. Using Horticultural Oils such as Neem or Conqueror Oil with, if necessary, added Pyrethrum should be all you need and will be fairly organic. Copper is the only other spray i would suggest for Fungal & Bacterial issues.

Verrucosis or Citrus Scab
Verrucosis or citrus scab can affect all citrus fruit but predominantly Lemons & Limes. It is a very common sight on lemons. Tiny lumps, or wart-like protrusions, appear on the skin of the fruit and leaves. It looks unsightly but the quality of the fruit inside is not affected. If you want picture perfect lemons or lots of zest for cooking, regular spraying of copper is necessary. If you're just after the juice you can let it be.



Blossom-End Rot

Blossom-end rot is due to lack of calcium- either because it's lacking in the soil or there has been drought or irregular watering so the tree couldn't take up enough nutrients to support the growth of the fruit. It is a sign of malnutrition rather than disease and is easily treated - although there's nothing to be done for fruit already afflicted. The addition of lime (a handful or two per tree) around the drip line would be an effective stand-alone remedy, but you might as well cover all bases by applying citrus food too. Citrus are gluttonous plants so proper fertilization and water management help to minimize this problem. Try to avoid allowing the soil to become too dry and then overly wet. Wide fluctuations in soil moisture inhibit calcium uptake and movement.



Sooty Mould
Sooty mold is a fungus, which causes the blackening of the leaves of citrus trees. The mould forms on the leaves as a result of honeydew secretions from insects such as whiteflies, aphids and mealybugs. Insect control is the most effective way to prevent this disease. To control the insects and prevent the secretion of their honeydew discharge, spray the tree with Horticultural Oil with Pyrethrum. When spraying the tree ensure that both the top and undersides of the leaves are adequately sprayed. A second treatment spray may be required about 10 to 14 days later depending on the severity of the insect infestation. 
To control and eliminate the mould growth that has already developed, spray the tree with Liquid Copper Fungicide. Generally one application of Copper is adequate for sooty mould control, but a second application about 14 days later may be required in major outbreaks.


Passion Vine Hoppers
The nymph passion vine hoppers are tiny wingless insects with white fluffy tails that are raised above their bodies like peacock tails. The nymphs and winged adults can jump (hop) when disturbed. From late January on the nymphs go through their final molt and change into the small brown adults that look like small winged moths that are often seen in a queue like line on the stems of plants. The adults will be be active through to autumn laying eggs in small branches of their target plants. As they withdraw their egg laying tube, they pull out small white tufts of plant material which show up as white dots on your plants. 
Control of passion vine hopper is best achieved when the insects are in the immature nymphal stages using Horticultural Oil with Pyrethrum and spray the insects directly. This works by physically blocking the insect’s breathing holes and suffocating them. This would be best done before the nymphs reach maturity and grow wings. Once adults they tend to fly off in clouds as soon as disturbed and they will be difficult to spray with the oil the nymphs can be difficult to spray also, because of their hopping habits.


Whitefly

The citrus whitefly is a tiny white winged insect that is about 1mm in length. It is most commonly found feeding on the underside of the tree’s leaves. When the branches are shaken, the Citrus whitefly will rapidly take flight and can be seen fluttering around the tree. In addition to feeding on the citrus tree, the whiteflies also lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves. When the eggs hatch, the juveniles are small oval, almost transparent larva, which attach themselves to the underside of the leaves and begin sucking the sap from the leaves. As a result, the tree’s leaves begin to curl and appear to be covered with a sticky, sooty mold substance. The Sooty Mould is due to honeydew that is excreted by the whiteflies because they are not able to metabolize all of the sugars contained in the leaf sap. The honeydew becomes an attractant to ants. Over the growing season, several generations of whiteflies can emerge. To effectively control Citrus Whiteflies spray the tree with Horticultural Oil with Pyrethrum. It is hard to achieve full control of the adult flies, but several sprayings of the tree will significantly reduce the juvenile population and in doing so the overall population.

  

Aphids
Aphids, when in small numbers, do little damage to a tree, however, under favourable conditions the aphid population can grow very rapidly and cause serious damage to a citrus tree during the growing season. The aphids attack the tree by sucking the sap out of the leaves. The symptoms are very visible on the leaves in the form of multiple puckered marks, yellowing and the twisting of the leaves, which gives the appearance of deformed leaves. As the severity of the aphid infestation increases, leaf drop and twig and branch die back can be seen.
During an aphid infestation, the leaves appear to be dripping sap from the underside of the leaves. This is actually an excretion from the aphids and is called honeydew. The honeydew then becomes an attractant to ants, which feed on it. Ants are known to "farm" Aphids by transporting them up a tree to feed off their honeydew.
Aphids can be controlled using Horticultural Oil with Pyrethrum. The spray should be directed at the undersides of the leaves and other areas of visible feeding and insect concentrations. Normally only one or two spray treatments are required to achieve control. For less severe infections Aphids can be removed manually by squashing or blasting off with the hose.
Lemon Borer
The telltale sign is sawdust exuding from active holes. Other symptoms are that the tree shows poor growth, leaves are dehydrated and branches die. Holes found in branches and sawdust indicates presence of borer. You can spear the lavae with guitar strings poked directly into the holes or spray an product like No Borer Spray Injector into the holes. Remove infected wood where practical. It is a good idea to fill in the borer holes with an acyclic paint. This prevents adults entering the holes and laying more eggs. It also means that it is easy to detect new holes and further problems.
It is a must to avoid pruning between early spring to mid summer in hope that these little bugs will leave your trees alone!

Brown Scale
Scale are brown, hard scale-like insects on woody and green stems. Scale numbers build up in dry seasons, Squash manually or for large infestations spray with Horticultural Oil with Pyrethrum as needed to smother & kill the scale.
Photo:Seabrooke Leckie
Soft wax scale
White, puffy soft scale. Flick scale off manually to remove or spray with Oil if infested.

Slugs & Snails
When Slugs or Snails are present it is common to see holes chewed into leaves and the fruit may be pitted or scarred. You may also see silvery trails winding around the trunk and branches near the soil. Lifting lower branches and inspecting under leaf debris under the tree can also detect snails. A proper sanitation program around the tree is important. Clean-up and remove all leaf debris under the tree. The leaves on the ground become a good breading and hiding place for Snails. In addition place Quash snail bait on the ground around the tree trunk will kill Slugs & Snails on contact & prevent them from migrating up the tree trunk and eating the leaves. Quash is the best as its safe for Pets if they eat it accidentally.

Spider Mites
Leaves go yellow and dehydrated. Minute insects & webs under leaves. Common in hot dry weather, spray with Horticultural Oil with Pyrethrum or Liquid Sulphur spray (But not these two together!)
Leaf roller caterpillar
Leaves tightly rolled and foliage and surface of fruit eaten. Squash manually or for large infestations spray with Horticultural Oil with Pyrethrum as needed.
Mealy bug
Often the presence of black, sooty mould will be the first noticed signs. Small, white, mealy insects found in protected cavities. Squash manually or for large infestations spray with Horticultural Oil with Pyrethrum.

Yellow leaves.
Citrus are gluttons for food. When nutrients are in short supply, their leaves turn yellow and they crop poorly. Feeding with a complete granulated citrus fertiliser will fix most of the problems – or help you to avoid them in the first place – as they provide the nutrients that your citrus trees need. But if you're experiencing problems, take a closer look at the leaves.

Magnesium deficiency: Mature leaves turn yellow, with an inverted green V shape at the base of the leaf, and green on the tips. It's often seen on acidic soils. Applying Epsom salts will correct the deficiency. Dissolve a handful into a watering can of water and water into damp soil.

Nitrogen deficiency: shows by light green to yellow foliage over the entire tree in the absence of any distinctive leaf patterns. With mild deficiency, foliage will be light green progressing to yellow as conditions intensify. New growth usually emerges pale green in color, but darkens as foliage expands and hardens. With yellow vein chlorosis, the midribs and lateral veins turn yellow while the rest of the leaf remains a normal green colour. It may occur with the onset of cooler weather in the winter due to reduced nitrogen uptake by the plant from the soil. Nitrogen deficiency will limit tree growth and fruit production, while high nitrogen applications produce excessive vegetative growth at the expense of fruit production, reducing fruit quality.

Iron deficiency: occurs on young leaves. Light yellow/white leaves and green veins are the signs. It's common on alkaline soil. Treat with iron chelates applied to the soil.



Blood Oranges


One of the things i look for when deciding on a fruit tree is that it has to be a little bit special than something you can easily find at the supermarket. Because why go to all that trouble to grow something that when its in season will probably be quite cheap & readily available. This is why i love Blood Orange trees. For starters they are very rarely available to buy in stores and when they are, they are imported and always seem a bit past their prime. Yes they are Oranges, but slice them open and you’re rewarded with a surprise – deep, almost purple flesh and a distinct sweet Raspberry flavour. The fruit is usually slightly smaller than most Oranges. 


The distinctive dark flesh color is due to the presence of anthocyanins, a family of antioxidant pigments uncommon in most Citrus fruits. The flesh develops its characteristic maroon colour when the fruit develops with low temperatures during the night.  Sometimes there is dark colouring on the exterior of the rind as well, depending on the variety of blood orange.


The three most common types of blood oranges are the Tarocco (native to Italy), the Sanguinelli (native to Spain), and the Moro (native to Sicily). The Moro is the most pigmented with an almost black colouration and also has the strongest aroma & richest flavour. While also pigmented, Cara Cara navels have red pigmentation too but this is based on Lycopene,  not anthocyanins like Blood Oranges. I have planted at home : 3 Moro, 1 Tarocco, 1 Sanguinelli and 2 Cara Cara. Of these i have only had the Tarocco fruit and it was moderately coloured but took until late in the season (August) to colour up. It seems the Blood Oranges trees take longer to fruit than some other varieties for instance my oldest Moro is just fruiting this year after 4 years!




So why we don’t see Blood Oranges commercially grown in NZ? I think this is partly due to the degree of difficulty in growing them.  To deliver a true blood orange, we need to have the right environmental conditions to help build the levels of anthocyanins.  Half the battle is growing them in the right temperament, in a lattitude that provides harsh, dry and hot summers as well as cool, nippy winters.  The next issue is to then choose a suitable location that will provide maximum temperature differential during autumn & winter.  What this basically mean’s is that to grow Blood Oranges successfully and to their fullest potential, they need to be grown in a location that will provide almost freezing night temperatures as well as high day temperatures.  In a technical standpoint, the stress the tree endures during this weather process forces the tree to develop the much needed anthocyanins.  Not many places that are suitable for Citrus meet this quality. That said, in my garden in Ponsonby, NZ, i was still able to produce Blood Oranges with a good degree of pigmentation last year with my Tarocco. So i look forward to what i can produce when the Moros gets around to fruiting. My theory is they need almost a freeze in winter to colour up as i checked the Bloods in about June and they were sweet & ripe with no colour. But left until August after a few cold weeks they had good colouration.

  

Monday, 1 August 2016

Bergamot Orange

Photo: Leslie Seaton
I was going through my Citrus Inventory the other day as i had a rare spot open up in the garden for two new trees. I have quite a good coverage of most Citrus varieties and thought it would be a good idea to choose something extra unusual that i didn't have already. So my shortlist was Sumo/Dekopon (something i've wanted for a while now), Meiwa Kumquat, (another) Yuzu, Afourer Tangor, Lemonade, Ponderosa Lemon, Limequat, Serville Orange and Bergamot Orange. I decided after visiting the store to go with Bergamot Orange and another Yuzu. I chose these mainly because Meiwa Kumquats were out of stock. I have more than enough Lemons with my Meyer & Eureka. Sumo/Dekopon is not avalible in NZ yet:( Limequats seem pointless to me, plus i have 6 Lime trees already. I would have got a Afourer but they were also out stock. 
I am excited by my new Bergamot as its extremely rare to see the fruit in NZ shops. So what do you do with a Bergamot Orange you ask? Lets have a look......

My New Friend.
Bergamot has a long history of commercial culture, grown primarily for the distinctive essential oil from its rind. The area for this is mostly confined to a province of Calabria in southern Italy.
Bergamot oil is an important component of a Toilet Water (Eau de Toilette), which was first developed around 1675 in Cologne, Germany, by an Italian immigrant. Bergamot oil soon became a constituent of high quality perfumes and of men's perfumes, aka "Cologne".
The other main use of Bergamot Oil is to flavour Earl Grey tea which has been made since the 1820s.

Bergamot is about to experience a Yuzu-style renaissance within the Culinary world with many high-end chefs exploring the distinctly nuanced flavour. It can be used in a wide variety of ways such as:
  • Using the aromatic rind and acidic (yet sweeter and more delicate and floral than lemon) juice to flavour yoghurt mixed with cucumber, fresh dill.
  • It is an excellent partner to fish especially in curing.
  • Add bergamot to Asian-style marinades with soy, ginger and rice wine vinegar.
  • Bergamot juice can also be substituted for vinegar in vinaigrettes for a perfumed tartness.
  • Add bergamot zest to Meringues.
  • Bergamot and Mint make for a refreshing sorbet.
  • Use in Cakes or Icing.
  • Make Bergamot Syrup to add to Prosecco or Sparkling Water.
  • Bergamot-cello (Liquore al Bergamotto)
  • Cocktails
  • Marmalades
Bergamot Sorbet
The refreshing, fragrant flavour of bergamot makes the perfect palette cleanser so try this sorbet at the end of a rich meal.

Ingredients:
4 Bergamots, juiced and zested
150g caster sugar
2 egg whites
300ml water

1. Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat, before gently bringing to the boil for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and add the bergamot zest, cover and leave to infuse for half an hour.
2. Add the bergamot juice to the sugar syrup, then strain and place in a shallow container. Freeze for two hours until slushy.
3. Whisk the egg whites until fluffy and mix into the sorbet. The sorbet must be only semi-frozen to be able to do this. Freeze for at least 6 hours. Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving.

Bergamot Marmalade

Ingredients:
  • 8 bergamots
  • 3 cups Sugar
  • 4 cups (1litre) Water
  • pinch of Salt

  • 1. Rinse and dry the bergamots, then cut each in half and pluck out the seeds.
    2. Cut the bergamots into quarters and using a sharp knife, slice the quarters as thinly as possible.
    3. Add the bergamots to a pot, add the sugar, 1 litre of water, and salt, and bring to a boil. Cook the bergamots, stirring occasionally, until the marmalade begins to set using the wrinkle test: turn the marmalade off and put a dab on a plate that’s been in the freezer then check it after five minutes; if it wrinkles when you nudge it, it’s done. If not, continue to cook, repeating this step, until it reaches the desired consistency (about 30 mins).
    4. Ladle into clean jars and twist on the lids. Once cool, store in the refrigerator, where they’ll keep for at least six months.
Photo: Leslie Seaton


Currently In Season: August

Well the Citrus season has been quite bountiful so far and i guess you would say we're heading into mid-late season fruits now. I went out today to pick an array of what is currently available right now in the garden.




I was most interested in a Moro Blood Orange that had fell off onto the ground. I was hoping to leave them on as long as possible to get some good colouration happening. But i still have two on the tree so its good to crack one open and check their progress. Here's a photo........





So as you can see the blood colouring is pretty unimpressive. This winter hasn't been very cold at all here so there hasn't been enough cold to colour it up. We really have had only one night that there's been a frost, so it looks like there may not be much colouring this year. I will leave the rest on the tree until the end of August and check them then.


As i just posted recently Tangors are ripe and ready for eating and are really delicious. They are currently my favourite citrus of the moment, if only they could be seedless.



Tahitian Limes are still available but they are all a little over-ripe at the moment and are turning yellow and dropping off the tree, but they still taste good.



Kusaie Limes are the same they're very ripe and dropping off the tree or getting munched on by something. 



Scarlett Burgess Mandarins are ripe and ready to eat and are holding well on the tree to eat as i need.

  



Cipo Weeping Oranges are ripe and ready to eat also but are still a little tart for my taste.



Meyer Lemons have been ripe and ready to eat for a while now (a month or so). They are holding well on the tree but some of the fruit are getting munched by some sort of burrowing insect.


  


Eureka Lemons look like they have just reached perfect ripeness this last week. They are quite large compared to the Meyers. I haven't used them yet as I'm having quite the glut of Lemons lately as my mum gave me a big bag of them so i'm keeping mine held on the tree for future use. I'll look forward to comparing flavour to the Meyers.

  

Buddhas Hands are almost over I've harvested most of them already but the one that is left looks like its been eating my mice or something-uh oh!


My Pomelo tree only has one fruit this year. It looks ready to eat but i'll leave it for a while to sweeten up hopefully.





Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Taste Test: Dweet Tangor.


Well today i decided that it was time to crack open & try one of my Dweet Tangors. They all seemed to have fully coloured up and look about the perfect ripeness to eat. So here we go.......

It was quite a large fruit, bigger than your usual supermarket Navel with a rigid, thick, pebbled rind that was surprisingly very easy to detach like a Mandarin.
Once peeled it had very little albedo left on the segments which were easy to separate for a very easy eating of the fruit.
Taste-wise it was very enjoyable. Very sweet but with just a slight tang at the end. 
Taste was mix of a rich Tangerine/Mandarin with Orange finish very flavourful.
Flesh was orange coloured & very juicy but quite delicate like a Mandarin not dry at all.
There were about 5 seeds present but for its size didn't seem to problematic.
Overall it was a very pleasant fruit to eat, way better flavour than an Orange almost like eating a giant Satsuma. 
Im excited about the up-coming Blood Oranges that are next to harvest. Still about two weeks i reckon so i can try and get some good blood colour going!