Term 3 2012 – Room 9 and their mandarin tree

In the last hour of the last day of Term 3, a wonderfully enthusiastic Room 9 and their teachers Kirsten and Bronwyn braved the not very nice weather to come and learn a bit about why the class mandarin tree is not growing very much.

This tree is probably in the most vulnerable position of all of our fruit trees – right next to the concrete playground where all the ball games happen – we have it surrounded by posts with protective nets but it really needed to be redone so we took off the old nets first so we could have a good look at the tree.

The first thing we saw was that lots of little brown dots were on the underside of the leaves – this is scale, a sap sucking insect that will suck the life out of your tree if not taken off. Since the tree is only small it was easy to scrape the scale off with a fingernail. We then washed the leaves with soapy water to help clean them and also it helps to repell other nasty insects. If the scale was really bad and on a bigger tree we would have to spray it with something like Neem oil to soften and remove the scale.

We then clipped off some little branches that were very low to the ground. No point growing fruit so low down as they would touch the floor and just rot. We also weeded all the grass away from the base of the tree. Then to give the tree a boost we fed it some fish fertiliser – a very stinky concoction that plants love. Then we spread some compost around the base of the tree, covered it with plenty of mulch to keep the grass away and to keep moisture in the soil.

Lastly we put new stakes and nets around the tree to protect it from footballs. After the holidays we will check and see if the star treatment has helped the mandarin tree to grow some new leaves.

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Term 3 2012 – Room 19 and their Meyer Lemon Tree

We have so many fruit trees at Edendale that we have an “Adopt a fruit Tree” initiative for the classes, to help them all get cared for properly. Mostly classes have taken the trees closest to them so they can check on them more easily.

Room 19 are a bunch of wonderfully enthusiastic year 1 students and their lovely teacher Kristin Doscher emailed me to say their tree – a meyer lemon – was looking very sad. So this morning we all went out to the lemon tree to see what the problem was and what to do about it.

This particular tree was planted almost exactly one year ago, and what none of us realised at the time was that in the summer, that particular spot had a shade sail over it. And then with all the rain we had last summer, the water collected in the shade cloth and dripped directly onto the poor tree. So the tree was doubly unhappy. It needed to not have wet feet and it needed more sun, so this morning we moved it from that spot and re-planted it in a better position. Here’s what we did:

1 Dug a new hole and mixed in lots of potting mix (usually i would just use compost but this tree needed a bit more TLC and the potting mix has lots more slow release fertiliser in and some wetting agents which will help the tree not get too dry in summer)

2 Moved the tree, being careful to not disturb the roots too much, and planted in the new hole.

3 We did a little dance around it to fix it firmly in the ground

4 Put the stake back in for support

5 Scattered some more slow release fertiliser around the top and watered it a little

6 Covered the base of the tree with lots of mulch to keep moisture in and weeds away

7 We had fun and made lots of noise (sorry to all those people in classes who were nearby!!)

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Term 3 2012 – Daffodils and bluebells

Our 650 painstakingly planted bulbs have put on a beautiful show for us this term. We put them in just over 2 years ago (April 2010), and really by about bulb 500 (or perhaps well before that) I think we were wondering why we were spending quite so much of our time crawling on hands and knees around the orchard. Anyway, the reason is now blooming beautifully all over the orchard.

The last 2 years has seen daffodils flower first and then fade away and the bluebells were later. This year (and i have no idea why) they have both flowered together. Or at least overlapped, so the sea of yellow and blue has been lovely.

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Term 3 2012 – Banana Harvesting in midwinter

So finally our biggest bunch of bananas looked ready to harvest (to the best of my amateur knowledge). The bananas were all looking nice and fat, having lost that angular appearance, plus with the recent frosts I figured it was best to have them down and protected now since one of our other bunches was looking a bit blackened round the edges. We decided to harvest that bunch too as it has also been fattening up for months, but is in a part of the orchard that gets no sun at this time of year so didn’t want the frosts to ruin it completely. So, with a tall ladder, a machete, several sturdy adults holding the ladder and ready to catch the bananas and quite a large audience of year 2’s, we brought those bunches down. Firstly I cut through the large stem holding the bunch and Tom, our caretaker was ready to catch it. It was pretty heavy, I will have to try and weigh it, but right now i will just say, many kilos! After the bunch was safely down, Tom and I cut down the mother plant as this one will not fruit again.

We did the same with the second bunch, this was easier as it was smaller and also more accessible. For this tree we had space to cut it down in one go and the kids all shouted ‘Timbeeeeeeeeeeeeer!” as it crashed to the ground, narrowly missing our almond tree. As we chopped up the trunk and handed bits out it was interesting for the kids to see how light it all was and several of them took pieces for their class science tables.

We then laid the 2 bunches side by side so the kids could compare them and see how much bigger was the bunch that had the most sun. They also examined the banana flower petals and all the little flowers that did not turn into bananas. All in all, it was pretty cool! Here are the pictures. You can see everything except how nervous i was climbing up that ladder with a big audience and how much i sweated whilst hacking at those trees, but despite that, it was great to see so many kids and teachers there helping and being so enthusiastic about the whole thing and trusting that I knew exactly what i was doing. Well I kind of do šŸ™‚ Also thanks to Fiona and Trish and Brent who gamely assisted and chopped those banana trunks into small pieces that would fit in the compost.

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Term 2 2012 – First day of winter

I went to the orchard to take some photos this week and found that we have yet another bunch of bananas beginning! Amazing. This will be the 3rd bunch from this particular tree, which is the first one we planted and gets the most sun. Ā As i have said on a previous post, bananas fruit when they get to a certain size and have a certain amount of leaves so they don’t care that it is winter at the moment. We may have to protect the bunches with bags over them if it gets really frosty, but the orchard is in such a sheltered spot it never seems to get too cold and windy down there.

In other news – this week saw the start of an initiative for each class to Adopt a fruit Tree. We have 48 trees at the moment – 24 inside the orchard and 24 around the school. Volunteers are so few at the moment it is difficult to look after all the trees now hence getting the kids more involved, which totally makes sense since they are doing a Food for Thought programme as well as Garden to Table and one tree for a whole class of kids is very little work, but actually gives them a lot of learning. All our trees have been in the ground for at least a year now so they are all pretty settled. The ones that have been in for 2 years have all got fruit on them now, which does make it a bit more exciting obviously.

The trees outside the orchard are the ones being adopted and they are now all numbered 1 to 24. The class will get to keep the fruit from their tree. The trees inside the orchard are still being looked after by volunteers and the fruit from here can be used for Garden to Table classes. Garden to Table is going really well after almost 2 terms and we now have a blog about all their latest endeavours which you can read hereĀ http://edendale419.wordpress.com/.

We have some more fruit trees coming this August, if i can recall them all we are getting plum, fig, persimon, quince and more apple and pears which we plan to espalier around the walls on the bottom field. I would say we will have more fruit than we know what to do with but with 650 students, not sure how many teachers, and an extended community of parents and grandparents etc I think there will be plenty of takers. Not to mention I hear there will be soon a Farmers market in Sandringham Village, so plenty of opportunities to sell our produce and teach the kids some entrepreneurial skills too!

Here’s the photos from this week, with the new banana flower:

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Term 2 2012 – Class visits

The last couple of weeks we have enjoyed having 2 first year classes visit our orchard for a tour. On May 17th Jen Harris brought down Room 15 and the next week Kristin Doscher brought down Room 19. It was awesome to have so many (very excited!) visitors. Both classes were so enthusiastic about getting in to see all our fruit trees and especially to see all the avocados and bananas we currently have growing. Also, the pile of mulch was a popular attraction as we were digging through it to see if it was hot in the middle. Anyway, here are some lovely photos of all the kids, and some of the fruit we have growing at the end of Autumn 2012.

 

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Term 2 2012 – Avocados

Last thursday we were lucky enough to have a visiting expert in the orchard – Houshang Hasan whose business you can find online hereĀ http://www.avopro.org/Ā , came to see how our Avocado trees were doing. We bought them from him almost 3 years ago. On his advice we bought 3 trees and planted them close together so they could grow into each other and pollinate each other. We have a Hashimoto, an Ettinger and a Hass – a mixture of type A and Type B trees. We have over 20 fruit on our Hass tree and another 3 large fruit on the Ettinger, which is fantastic for such young trees. Houshang was there to answer all our questions about our trees so we learnt plenty. The main things being:

  • The fruit is ripe about 6 months after the flowers have set fruit, so our fruit will be ready in September
  • We can leave the fruit on the tree for up to 18 months, which means we can have 2 seasons worth of fruit on the one tree and that is ok (but we need to remember which is the oldest fruit and pick it first)
  • The avocado will ripen off the tree
  • We learned to recognise which is a flower bud and which is a leaf bud so that helps us when pruning
  • Our trees will not need pruning until May next year (and Houshang will come and teach us how to do it)
  • One of our trees is looking a bit sad so we need to give a little TLC to this one – remove all companion plants around the base – feed well and look into using phytophera and fish fertiliser to feed the soil. (more info on this later)

I was busy taking photos so i missed some of the talking, but if I have missed anything important can the other people who were there please let me know!

Houshang has made some videos of his visit which you can find hereĀ https://www.youtube.com/user/avocentric?feature=guide

 

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