SUMMER PRUNING

I’ve been intending to write an article on summer pruning but did not want to during the recent humid spell in case you were all tempted to rush out and do it in the unfavourable weather. Pruning is best done on a warm sunny day to avoid fungal and other diseases. The next few days will be perfect weather for pruning and just about your last chance to summer prune. It used to be the case that trees were pruned in winter but the motto now is: for fruit, summer prune and for growth, winter prune. I came across this wonderful article by Nadja of Nadja’s Garden that I could no way improve on. With her permission I am posting it here. Nadja is a local living south of the city and a professional permaculture designer, not a bumbling hobby gardener like us! I suggest you like her Facebook page and follow her blog for excellent local gardening info.
https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/6133206/posts/922536124

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PEAS

I sowed some peas today, the earliest I have done so for a few years. Ideally, it is said to plant them on St Patrick’s day so hopefully the still warm soil will allow them to germinate quickly. I remember one year I was very late (June?) and they took about three weeks to come through as the ground was icy cold. It’s a good time to get all your winter vegetables in to give them a good kick off.
I really love fresh peas, picked slightly under ripe when still very sweet and juicy: they don’t even make it to the house(unless it’s raining). When you pick them, the sugars immediately start turning to starch which is why shop bought fresh peas are nothing to rave about, being usually rather dry, floury and tasteless. But straight off the vine – I bet your kids will be fighting for them as they would for sweets.

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One of my best garden memories is from last year when a very busy young pregnant mother took the trouble to bring me a bag of peas from her garden after I had raved so much about them. An example of the extraordinary generosity of gardeners and a reason why we continue to grow the garden, even when faced with some pretty serious obstacles. The picture is some of last year’s crop: I wish I had more space as I would go overboard with peas like I have with my strawberries.I have planted normal peas thus far but if I can scrounge some more space I will put in the sugar snap as well. I like Greenfeast the best but I put in Massey earli-crop today(as I hope they will) and some giant peas given to me by a friend of the garden that I have not tried before so am interested to see what happens. I haven’t grown telephone peas in recent years as when they grow to 2 metres they will bend over in strong winds and you lose a lot. I think that happened with the snow/sugar snap as well. I am even thinking of putting a raised bed in a sunny corner out of the way in my front garden so I will have so many peas that I might even get sick of them!

POMEGRANATES

Every year or so I do a rave on a few selected fruits that I see as a must for your garden so long as you have some space as they can all grow quite large if not kept under control by pruning. To make the short list they have to be easy to grow, love our hot dry summers, be a good looking tree and carry especially delicious fruit that is not all that easy to find in the shops and if you can find them, they are obscenely expensive. Figs, pomegranates and persimmon are three I love to promote. Pomegranates are back in fashion again after decades of being ignored.

DSCN2001One of the oldest cultivated fruit trees in the world, the pomegranate has appeared in Greek mythology and hymns dating back to the 7th century BC – a feat not matched by any other berry or fruit.  In fact, there are some schools of thought that suggest the pomegranate was in fact the “forbidden fruit” in the Bible, rather than the humble apple.  Either way, the pomegranate is a backyard beauty, and well worth growing even if you don’t particularly like the fruit. Last year they were selling for $4 each for a small one in the supermarkets so you might even be able to make a little pocket money from them. The fruit of the pomegranate is incredibly attractive, but the real winner here is the fleshy jewel like arals inside.  Tart but sweet, citrusy and incredibly juicy, pomegranates have become trendy and the juice is touted as a super food.

DSCN1310Originating from Persia, Afghanistan and thereabouts, the cultivated pomegranate (Punica granatum) translates as “seeded apple”, but is in fact a true berry…and a tough one at that.  A deciduous tree growing to around 5m x 4m, the pomegranate will tolerate a range of soils, from lovely and loamy to tough clay. Seriously, these things are so easy to grow that everyone should have a go.

DSCN1042Plant your pomegranate in a warm sunny spot where you can enjoy the gorgeous, glossy spring/summer foliage as it changes from burgundy to green with the seasons. There is a beautiful show of bright red large blossoms in late spring. It should be fairly trouble-free; pomegranates are extremely cold tolerant and love a hot, dry summer – perfect for South Australia. In fact, pomegranates are pretty good in almost all parts of Australia.

Water is important for pomegranates, so prevent from drying out over spring – it will improve growth and fruit set in the long run.  Water for the rest of the year can be fairly limited – they don’t need too much, especially not in heavier clay soils. They are one of the few trees that seem to love our hot dry summers. Don’t be afraid to prune your pomegranates, and this is best done over winter.  The idea is to clear out the middle of the tree a bit to prevent over-crowding.  Remember though that pomegranates bear their fruit on mature wood, so don’t go too silly with the secateurs.

DSCN1307Pomegranates are ready to harvest in autumn and the secret here is to grab the biggest, brightest fruits first. They will often split when ready to eat which isn’t a problem if you pick them right away. If picked at the right time, pomegranates can be stored successfully for a couple of months in a dark, cool place or the fridge.

If there is a downside, they can be a bit pesky and fiddly to eat, especially if you are an impatient sod like I am. I guess one could make eating them a kind of meditation or at least eat them by the TV when the slowness will be less likely to irritate. Pomegranate juice is wonderful – tastes good and is super healthy for you – but I’ve yet to find an easy way of making it. Any ideas?

PERMACULTURE REVISITED

 

Friday was the launch of the world first post-graduate course in permaculture so I was really interested to get there despite the 10am start and having to battle Clipsal extra traffic in the city. To make matters worse I only got one hour of sleep the night before courtesy of my stupid feet having a much more boisterous party than usual (peripheral neuropathy and restless legs). So I almost did not go but I am so glad I pushed through and made the effort as it was great morning. An honorary doctorate was conferred on Bill Mollison, the co-founder of permaculture, and we heard from the other founder, David Holmgren, via Skype. I was delighted to see so many people l knew there from friends from 40 years ago to my fabulous new friends I’ve made through the permaculture groups.

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I am quite astounded at how incomplete my knowledge of this philosophy was and it’s been quite exciting to see that it is a complete plan for living involving much more that gardening. I used to think it was organic gardening carried to a further extreme and as I facetiously remarked in a post a few weeks ago, I had a picture of a lot of hippy ferals scrounging treasures from the hard rubbish collection and then growing vegetables all over their trophies. Like all stereotypes, while there was a tiny bit of truth in that, the big picture was totally obscured. Joe and I joined up officially a few weeks ago and look forward to further connecting with the wonderful “permies” that we have met and now count among our friends.

An email I got a few days ago said the essence of permaculture was 1. Care for the earth 2. Care for each other and 3. Share the surplus. That’s very few words but it sums up perfectly my own personal philosophy of life which has always been to be honest, respectful and generous in my dealings with others and never compromise my integrity no matter how hard it sometimes is. Attempts to fit this “spirituality” into organised forms of religion have failed so I was resigned to going it alone. I used to say, “I am too much of a hippy for mainstream people and too mainstream for the hippies”. I often felt uncomfortably perched with one foot in each camp, able to speak to both types of people with ease but never entirely comfortable about committing to one side. It’s really exciting to find something that is a very good fit without having to compromise my personal philosophy. You have my permission to tell me off if I start sounding too evangelical!

For those of you who might be wondering, the new background is our currently ripe goji berries. I had limes up before but the picture did not work very well.