Orchard Notes for the ACT Orchadist and Home Gardener – General Fruit Culture


I was keen to share with you guys my top 5 support shrubs for Backyard Food Forest Gardens but have decided that they will have to wait until next week. This week I wanted to share with you some Gems from the above Book.


This Horticulture classic was released in 1975 before the ACT had a legislative assembly and was administered solely by the Federal Government. I’m not sure when the Department of the Capital Territory disbanded its Conservation and Agriculture Branch but I’m glad they printed this little primer before disappearing into bureaucratic oblivion.

The book has great tips about soil prep, tree planting and common pests in the Canberra region. Just as a disclaimer early in the post the book also has a lot of bad information. The book includes spraying regimes for most fruit trees which includes Lead Arsenate, Lindane and Karathane. These have all been found to be neurotoxins and extremely carcinogenic. I’d disregard all of the spraying and pest control advise in this thing and look for pest control through organic means and by building a system that pest controlers (beneficial insects) can live in.


Anyway, I wanted to share the best bits here for anyone waiting for their bare root fruit trees to arrive.

Fruit Culture

Selection of varieties

Intending fruit growers in the ACT should ensure that the trees or vines they wish to grow are suitable to the district and not susceptible to variable and severe climatic conditions. Most Apples, Pears, Quinces, Stone Fruits, Figs, Grapes, Berry-fruits and Nuts can be grown successfully, but Citrus varieties can be recommended only where there is maximum protection and warm sheltered positions.


Normally the home gardener has little or no choice of soil or site. They should use the best available aspects with the general objectives of protection against frost, wind and movement of topsoil. Although the domestic orchard is usually on a small scale, it is still important that these factors be considered in the establishment of young fruit trees


Soil Requirements

Most fruit varieties have certain soil preferences, but the main requirements in the initial stages are depth, friability, good drainage and a reasonable supply and full range of nutrients. Where soil is poor it may be necessary to acquire top-soil and incorporate compost and well-rotted animal manure to build up humus content and improve fertility.

Pome fruits, which include Apples, Pears and Quinces, need deep, moderately rich, well drained loam for successful growth. Shallow, sandy soils overlying impenetrable sub-soils should be avoided wherever possible.

Stone fruit varieties such as Peaches, Nectarines, Cherries, Plums and Apricots, generally require light, warm, well-drained sandy or loamy soils. But they will thrive in heavy soil if it has good drainage and suitable fertility.

Little success can be expected by planting by planting in heavy clay soil or subsoil because after several years the trees will tend to gum badly causing die-back.

Broadly speaking, berry fruits including Raspberries, Gooseberries, Currants, Loganberries and Strawberries will flourish in a wide range of soils and climatic conditions, but normally they favour moisture retentive soils of good friable loam, rich in humus and well-drained.


When preparing to plant fruit trees, vines, berry fruits or nuts in permanent positions, consideration should be given to the height and spread of the varieties concerned. Trees of large stature when fully grown, such as walnuts and almonds are best planted where they will not interfere with walls, driveways, overhead wires or other domestic features.

The distance between trees can vary, with a minimum of 4m and up to 7m apart – depending on the size and disposition of the garden area. Where space is limited, certain trees may be trained in a higher density pattern along fences and trellises in the espalier or palmette espalier style.

When the position of the trees has been decided, holes should be prepared of sufficient width to allow the roots to be spread normally and to a depth so young trees will be planted to the same or a fraction greater depth than they were in the nursery. Do not dig into clay subsoil. This can form a sump or basin for water in wet weather. It is better to stop digging when clay is reached. this procedure does not encourage water logging and help with drainage.


Care Of Young Trees

During the growing season it is important to eliminate weeds and grass from around the young trees to avoid competition for the soil moisture available. Do not grow lawn up to the base of a new planting for several years or until they are properly established.

When cultivating with a hoe or other implement take care not to damage the trunk or lower limbs. Mechanical or other injuries in the early stages of growth can often lead to loss of trees and the expense of replanting. Quite often circumstances will warrant the erection of guards to protect the trees.

End quotation


Well ‘ about it for today. The two key things I think to keep in mind are not to dig too deep into our clay subsoils. Really, in Canberra you will be planting into clay so it’s a good idea to mound up with a mix of clay and compost so that the crown roots will not rot. Also, in a forest garden you will be planting herbs under the tree (rather than lawn). To ensure they do not compete, soil moisture levels should be maintained through the season. Remember the closer you plant your trees the more you will need to keep up levels of water and nutrients to prevent competition and very close plantings will likely exclude light from the understory. However, depending on the other features of the garden, light may still be available under the trees.


Until next time. Happy Gardening.









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