Colleen, YCG President, was inspired after researching intensive orchards in small areas, as practiced in Europe and the US, to try this in our gardens. We submitted a grant application to celebrate the Sunshine Coast’s 40th Birthday celebrations, in May 2017, and the Sunshine Coast Council approved $700 to cover the costs of trees, netting and the construction of an espalier.
This is an example of espalier method with a fruit tree in Europe…
We wanted to demonstrate that growing a variety of fruit trees is possible even in an average back yard by planting them very close together and that espaliers usually associated with apples and pears can be applied to sub-tropical fruit trees such as custard apples and mangos.
The design for the intensive orchard followed the recommendations set out by the Dave Wilson Nursery in California (https://www.davewilson.com/home-gardens/backyard-orchard-culture).
Renate, a regular volunteer, researched fruit tree varieties that are suitable for our climate (low-chill) and can be grouped close together. We planted three groups of trees (apples & plums, stone fruit, and sub-tropicals) which will be kept pruned to “head-height” for ease of harvest and to encourage air flow.
Trees were sourced locally from Oasis Fruit Trees, Sunray Nursery, Coles Creek. They included a Sun Snow and Sundowner Nectarine, China Flat and Tropic Beauty Peach, Anna and Dorset Apple, Early Blood Plum, Fuyu Persimmon, Carambola, Bengal Lychee, Longan, and Feijoa. The Nam Doc Mai Mango and African Pride Custard Apple were planted against the post and wire fence.
Some of our Volunteers with our first harvest in November 2019
Funds were approved late June 2017 after volunteers had already dismantled and removed the old besser-block raised garden beds. We then planted a cover crop in preparation for the fruit trees that were planted during Spring/Summer 2017. West Indian Lemon Grass surrounds the beds.
Renate oversaw tip pruning of the trees and in October 2019 we were able to cover the peaches and nectarines with wildlife-friendly netting to enjoy a prolific and delicious harvest during November.
Nets are now off and when the rain returns trees will be well-pruned (back to head height) and well fertilised with worm juice, compost, and a bit of potassium ready for next year’s crop.