Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The Citrus Hedge

I thought i'd share with you guys one area of my garden i call "The Citrus Hedge".
I planted most of it about 3 years ago and it seems this year it has really grown to its full potential. It runs along the southern edge of my section and was initially planted to screen off the neighbours for privacy but the main purpose was a space to practice intensive backyard orchard culture for delicious fruit! I first came across the concept of Backyard Orchard Culture online at Dave Wilson Nursery. (See Below). 

Here's what i have planted, just in this hedge area:

Feijoa Apollo
Eureka Lemon
Tarrocco Blood Orange
Tahitian Lime
Scarlett Burgess Mandarin
Variegated Calamondin
Tahitian Lime
Australian Finger Lime
Buddha's Hand
Cara Cara Orange
Invictus Gooseberry
Moro Blood Orange
Grapes : Albany Black & Niagra

Also planted down the side of house i have:

Peach Golden Queen
Apple Pacific Rose
Peach Pixzee

They all seem to be growing well together the only thing is that some of the trees are more vigorous than others, so need pruning to control them so they don't invade the other tree's space. I have to be careful in the timing of this however as in NZ we have a nasty bug called Lemon Tree Borer that, if its around, will smell the freshly cut wounds and lay its eggs which in turn will bore destructively through the tree's branches. I also prune to keep the trees from taking over the whole space down the side of the house and to allow for walking down the area.

What is Backyard Orchard Culture? Here's the low down in a nutshell......

The objective of Backyard Orchard Culture is a prolonged harvest of tree-ripe fruit from a small space in the yard. This is accomplished by planting an assortment of fruit trees close together and keeping them small by summer pruning.
Backyard Orchard Culture Is Not Commercial Orchard Culture.
For years, most of the information about growing fruit came from commercial orchard culture: methods that promoted maximum size for maximum yield but required 12-foot ladders for pruning, thinning and picking, and 400 to 600 square feet of land per tree. Tree spacing had to allow for tractors. Most people today do not need nor expect commercial results from their backyard fruit trees. A commercial grower would never consider using his methods on a 90 ft. x 100 ft. parcel, so why should a homeowner?
Backyard Orchard Culture Is High Density Planting And Successive Ripening.
The length of the fruit season is maximized by planting several (or many) fruit varieties with different ripening times. Because of the limited space available to most homeowners, this means using one or more of the techniques for close-planting and training fruit trees; two, three or four trees in one hole, espalier, and hedgerow are the most common of these techniques. Four trees instead of one means ten to twelve weeks of fruit instead of only two or three. Close-planting offers the additional advantage of restricting a tree's vigor. A tree won't grow as large when there are competing trees close by. Close-planting works best when rootstocks of similar vigor are planted together. In many climates, planting more varieties can also mean better cross-pollination of pears, apples, plums and cherries, which means more consistent production.
Backyard Orchard Culture Means Accepting The Responsibility For Tree Size.
Small trees yield crops of manageable size and are much easier to spray, thin, prune, net and harvest than large trees. If trees are kept small, it is possible to plant a greater number of trees in a given space, affording the opportunity for more kinds of fruit and a longer fruit season. Pruning is the only way to keep most fruit trees under twelve feet tall. The most practical method of pruning for size control is Summer Pruning. There are several reasons why summer pruning is the easiest way to keep fruit trees small. Reducing the canopy by pruning in summer reduces photosynthesis (food manufacture), thereby reducing the capacity for new growth. Summer pruning also reduces the total amount of food materials and energy available to be stored in the root system in late summer and fall. This controls vigor the following spring, since spring growth is supported primarily by stored foods and energy. And, for many people, pruning is more enjoyable in nice weather than in winter, hence more likely to get done.



Monday, 31 October 2016

The Elusive Tamarillo.

Finally, after years of barren stumps & Leaf-less tree skeletons, i have one of my Tamarillo trees that has borne fruit! I have struggled to grow Tamarillos for many years now usually tossing them on the compost pile once they seemingly die & drop all their leaves. Well as it happens it seems you have to break through the other side after leaf drop and they will eventually come good again & bear fruit!
Albeit a very small Tamarillo fruit, it is a massive leap of confidence & i won't bin this year's trees after all. 


Tamarillos are native to the Andes in South America but can be grown in many subtropical regions around the world. Prior to 1967, the Tamarillo was known as the "tree tomato" in New Zealand, but a new name was chosen by the New Zealand Tree Tomato Promotions Council in order to distinguish it from the ordinary garden tomato and increase its exotic appeal. The choice is variously explained by similarity to the word "tomato", the Spanish word "amarillo", meaning yellow, and a variation on the Maori word "tama", for "son or boy". They are a popular tree grown in NZ home gardens and will often be seen in supermarkets during the season.
The plant is a fast-growing tree that grows up to 5 meters. Peak production is reached after 4 years, and the life expectancy is about 12 years. The tree usually forms a single upright trunk with lateral branches. The flowers and fruits hang from the lateral branches. The leaves are large, simple and perennial, and have a strong pungent smell. The flowers are pink-white, and form clusters of around 10 flowers. They produce 1 to 6 fruits per cluster. Plants can set fruit without cross-pollination, but the flowers are fragrant and attract insects. Cross-pollination seems to improve fruit set. The roots are shallow and not very pronounced, therefore the plant is not tolerant to drought stress, and can be damaged by strong winds.
The fruits are egg shaped and about 4-10cm long. Their colour varies from yellow and orange to red and almost purple. Sometimes they have dark, longitudinal stripes. Red fruits are more acidic, yellow and orange fruits are sweeter. The red and purple types of fruits are preferred even though they taste more acidic, their colour is preferred by consumers. he flesh has a firm texture and contains more and larger seeds than a common tomato. The fruits are very high in vitamins and iron and low in calories.
The flesh of the tamarillo is tangy and variably sweet, with a bold and complex flavor, and may be compared to kiwifruit, tomato, guava, or passion fruit. The fruit is eaten by scooping the flesh from a halved fruit. Some people in New Zealand cut the fruit in half, scoop out the pulpy flesh, sprinkle lightly sugared and add to cereal at breakfast. Yellow-fruited cultivars have a sweeter flavor, occasionally compared to mango or apricot. The red-fruited variety, which is much more widely cultivated, is more tart, and the savory aftertaste is far more pronounced. In New Zealand, Tamarillos fruit around October. The skin and the flesh near it have a bitter taste and are not usually eaten raw.

Monday, 10 October 2016

October in the Garden

Well its mid-Spring here in Auckland and as far as fruit harvests it's a bit of a lull at the moment. On the other hand though, for the garden itself it's peak growth time. All my plants have started to wake up from their Winter hibernation and are pushing out new growth & flowering like mad in preparation of a big Summer. The Citrus especially are all pushing out new leaves and branches from last years buds and most are flowering like mad.
Here's a few photos from the garden this morning - hover over a photo for a description:)











Sunday, 25 September 2016

New Citrus: Key Lime.

Well i finally caved and brought a Key Lime tree today. I had tried to resist the urge as i already have way too many Lime trees already (6x Tahitian, 2x Australian Fingerlime, 1x Kusaie, 2x Kaffir). But i have been reading through the Gardenweb forums lately, and from what a lot of the members there say it is the best flavoured of the Limes compared to a Tahitian. Funnily enough, even with all my Lime trees, i have run out of Limes at the moment! (this is how i have justified the purchase). Must be time to ease up on the cocktails LOL.

Key Limes are smaller and seedier, with a higher acidity, a stronger aroma, and a thinner rind, than that of the Tahitian lime. It is valued for its unique flavor compared to other limes. 

The peel is thin, smooth and leathery, and greenish yellow to yellow at maturity. The pulp is greenish yellow, juicy, and highly acid with a distinctive aroma. They are quite seedy, which are highly polyembryonic (two or more plants identical to the mother plant may be produced from one seed). The name comes from its association with the Florida Keys, where it is best known as the flavouring ingredient in Key lime pie. (Here's my recipe for Key Lime Pie). It is also known as West Indian lime, bartender’s lime, or Mexican lime.

Key Lime is a small, bushy tree that will grow to around 5 metres when fully mature. Its trunk, which rarely grows straight, has many branches, which often originate quite far down on the trunk.  It has slender branches armed with short to medium length thorns.  The leaves are small (
3-9cm long) & ovate, resembling orange leaves (the scientific name Citrus Aurantiifolia refers to this resemblance to the leaves of the orange, Citrus Aurantium). The flowers are 2.5 cm in diameter, are yellowish white with a light purple tinge on the margins. Flowers and fruit appear throughout the year, but are most abundant from May to September in the Northern Hemisphere.


There are various ways to cultivate Key limes. This variety of citrus can be propagated from seed and will grow true to the parent. Alternatively budwood can be grafted onto rough lemon or sour orange rootstock. The method of cultivation greatly affects the size and timeliness of the harvest. Trees cultivated from seedlings take 4–8 years before producing a harvest. They attain their maximal yield at about 10 years of age. Trees produced from grafting or 
cuttings bear fruit much sooner, sometimes producing fruit (though not a serious harvest) a year after planting. It takes approximately 9 months from the blossom to the fruit. When the fruit have grown to harvesting size and begin to turn yellow they are then picked.

The Key lime tree does best in sunny sites, well-drained soils, good air circulation, and protection from cold wind.
Generally, Key lime trees need only limited pruning. Prune only to shape trees, to remove dead wood, to limit tree height & maximise the circulation of air.

Key Lime Pie

Monday, 12 September 2016

How to make Lemon Curd.


There's something about Lemon Curd that makes it so luscious, so delicious. Its a magical mixture of tart Lemonyness, sweet Sugar & creamy Egg yolks that makes it like the Chocolate of Citrus lovers, the ultimate for any Citrus Enthusiast. Made by gently cooking a mixture of fresh Lemon juice, Sugar, Butter & Eggs until thickened, its simplicity makes it even more attractive. Lemon Curd is divine on buttered toast, a simple and perfect way to appreciate the curd's cool, satiny texture. It also makes an easy and delicious filling for tarts, cakes & desserts. Its tart Lemon flavour makes it a great ingredient to balance the spiciness or the richness of other ingredients. Pair it with a Scone or slice of Toast and you'll appreciate how Lemon Curd can transform a simple, somewhat homely item into something wonderful.

Lemon Curd Recipe

250ml fresh Lemon juice, finely grated zest.

5 Whole Eggs

500gm Caster Sugar

100gm Butter, cut into small cubes.

  1. Put the Lemon zest and juice, the Sugar and the Butter into a heatproof mixing bowl. Sit the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Stir the mixture every now and again until all of the butter has melted.
  2. Lightly whisk the Eggs and stir them into the Lemon mixture. Whisk until all of the ingredients are well combined, then leave to cook for 10-20mins. Be careful that it doesn’t curdle by making sure the temperature remains constant, and it doesn’t get too hot. Stir regularly until the mixture is creamy and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  3. Remove the Lemon Curd from the heat and set aside to cool, stirring occasionally as it cools. Once cooled, spoon the Lemon Curd into sterilised jars and seal. Keep in the fridge until ready to use. It will keep (refrigerated) for 1 month.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Spring Blossoms!

Well its officially Spring! Finally we have made it through the drudgery that is winter. Though the wind, rain & cold still didn't stop us achieving quite a lot of new plantings and enhancements throughout the garden. We put in a new deck for our daily Sundowner, a new Lavender farm of over 60 plants and many new fruit trees and natives. These were all planted in mid-winter with the hope they will be well rooted by the time the dry, parched Summer comes.
With Spring comes the sweet bounty of fruit blossoms and the blossoms of Citrus have to be the most intoxicating of them all. If the flower itself wasn't enough, the perfume they exude is the icing on the cake (especially Oranges).



I usually try to make sure my fruit trees are well fertilised in anticipation of the new growth & flowering that comes in Spring. Early August is a good time to make sure to spread a good Fruit Tree/Citrus fertiliser and even some extra Potash to aid flowering & fruiting. Then when things start to warm up in Spring the plants are all ready to push out their new growth & produce fruit. It is also a good time to spray Copper on the Stonefruits to prevent Peach Leaf Curl. 

Peach Blossom
Spring also heralds the start of the growing season especially for the Vege Patch so I'm also starting to plan what i will be growing this year in there. I will definitely be planting Tomatoes, as far as varieties go i love Cherry Tomatoes so i will plant one red, one yellow teardrop and one black striped Cherries. I also love the Mexican heirloom tomatoes such as Zapotec and other Oaxacan beefsteak varieties that are big, colourful with fluted ribbing and most importantly beautiful flavour. I will also plant three varieties of Courgette, Tomatillos, Jalepenos, Habaneros, Coriander, Basil, Lebanese Cucumbers and Corn. With these i will use them mostly for my mexican-inspired recipes which really shine during summer. For some of my recipes check out my book called 'Viva La Mexico' its available for free download as an e-book at www.blurb.com/ebooks/379548-viva-la-mexico

Tomatillo harvest.

My favourite Summer recipe though has to be my Caprese Salad. Nothing beats a late afternoon Sundowner and then munching this one down with a glass of Rose. Here's the recipe:

Caprese Salad.

Buffalo Mozzarella or Bocconcini.

Ripe Tomatoes.

Basil Leaves.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil.

Maldon Sea Salt.


1. Slice Mozzarella & Tomatoes into thick, round slices.
2. Pluck whole leaves of Basil.
3. Layer Basil, Tomato & Mozzarella around in a circle.
4. Place a sprig of Basil in the centre.
5. Drizzle well with a good Olive Oil & sprinkle with Salt & Pepper