Dream For Three

Pros and Cons of a Semi Commercial Orchard

It was always our plan to have a home orchard to supply us with fresh fruit.

We were thrilled when we came here as it already had an orchard that had been here for quite a few years. The orchard consisted of about 33 plum trees of different varieties, 11 Nashi pears, 11 Packham pears, 11 wintercole pears, 22 royal gala apple trees, 3 lemons, 2 avocados, 3 figs, a couple of macadamia nut trees. 1 peach, 1 necterine some grapefruit and little orange trees and about 11 feijoa trees.

Quite impressive really. Except that most of the trees don’t seem to be doing so well and are certailnly not great producers. One has to wonder what was on these peoples minds to plant the way they did.

So now we have the job of transforming it into not only productive, but also something a bit more useful to the home orchardist.

Last year out of all those trees, we had a good crop of plums off only about 4 trees, and so made lots of jam and plum sauce. We gave a lot of the plums away and put the windfalls into the freezer which the pigs have been enjoying. The nashi’s did well but since we don’t eat them much the pigs also got most of what was left after the cows cleaned them up. Packham pears are one of my favourite pear and we had plenty to keep me happy last year as well, not one single fruit off the winter coles though. And as for the apples, well out of all those trees we barely got enough to put any up for the winter. Peaches did well, they were nice and juicy, but quite small, but the necterine didn’t have much and what they did have the birds ate. Feijoas were good and they make a good wind break too.

Something had to be done.

I started to make compost under some of the trees to help them along a bit and over the winter we looked at which trees needed pruning, and wondered weather we would kill the whole tree if we gave any a hard prune.

It was a pretty rough winter and indeed a few trees did die, like the two apples that kept falling over in the wind no matter what we did, and the smaller of the avocado trees that decided for no good reason that life was no longer worth living.

We also plan to change out some of the trees so we can have longer cropping seasons. So starting with the pears and apples, we planted a Speckles pear tree in a gap so that it could pollinate the wintercoles. Seems to have worked because we actually have two wintercoles with just a few pears on them each this year. Yay!

We also planted an early and late variety of apple and I did a grafting course last year and managed to succeed in grafting another early and late apple so that will be good. We also planted another peach, which Bevan ran over with his lawnmower one day and a necterinewhich I have been carefully nursing through the summer drought.

Now that the apples are ready for this year I have managed to harvest and bottle half of them for apple pies over the winter, which has given us as many as last year with still half of them to go.

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We have chosen not to spray and artificially fertilize the orchard even though the previous owners did, so it is not surprising that production is down. I have been, this year, carefully collecting the animal(mostly horse but some cow)manure and depositing around some of the trees. Eventually they will all get a good and hopefully continuous dose and we should see some action. We also pruned some of our plum trees and every other pear tree in the rows. We did it like this so that if we killed them all off from the shock then we would still have some, and so far it is looking like it may have paid off for us.

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We have our chickens freeranging in the orchard to help with pests and have not seen much in the way of leaf rollers or apple moths, so this has worked well for us.

The drought (which was only just starting to effect us) seems to have been broken and we have had a wonderful gentle rainfall all day. Exactly what we needed, so heres hoping that those worse off are getting the same treatment.

2 Responses to “Pros and Cons of a Semi Commercial Orchard”

  1. Daniel says:

    I read similar article also named and Cons of a Semi Commercial Orchard : Dream For Three, and it was completely different. Personally, I agree with you more, because this article makes a little bit more sense for me

  2. admin says:

    I hadn’t realised that there was anything with the same title, these are just my random thoughts, but I am glad someone else shares my thinking.