Net produce

Autumn is a very pleasant season in the orchard. The frenzy of the summer fruit crops with their narrow picking season is over autumn crops seem to have a much wider season, partly I think because most of them, like apples and persimmons, are harder fleshed, but also the cooler temperatures just slow everything down. These cooler temperatures are the second reason I like autumn, I know I’ll regret saying this in a few months, but at the moment I’m enjoying not being so hot.

One downside of this season is that the birds are in a frenzy to fatten up before winter. They must know something I don’t because, this year, my figs have been hammered by waxeyes even before they are fully ripe. It’s a relatively easy job to net though, as I make sure to keep my fig tree no higher than the top of my outstretched hand. I can, therefore, just run a roll of bird mesh around the tree, peg it to the ground with weedmat staples and then draw the top together with small cable ties.

I could do the same with the persimmons, but this tree is still fairly young, ungainly in shape and with only a few fruit covering each fruit with a waxed paper bag is the easiest solution. Grapes have the opposite problem, long vines of abundant fruit these can be covered by using the cable ties to create a long tube out of the bird mesh. Mine are housed in a supposedly bird-proof mesh house it’s amazing and frustrating how birds can find every little hole.

Guavas aren’t worth covering at all. Each day new ones ripen so it’s just a case of beating the birds to them whenever you feel the need to harvest some. Plus, I can’t deny the kereru their favourite food these fat burglars just love guavas.


Netting on a fig tree

I’ve always loved pruning and autumn heralds the start of the winter pruning season. My vigorous European plum tree is the first to get the chop, as this reduces the amount of carbohydrates the tree can transfer to the trunk and roots for next season’s growth. I stub back all the water shoots (those one-year-old growths that shoot straight up) to an inch or so. This produces more fruitful spur growth next season. I usually make a couple of big cuts as well, to keep the tree size within reasonable levels.

Table grapes are next, as they are also so prolific that pruning before leaf-fall hardly makes any difference. I prune hard, taking each lateral shoot back to a two to three bud stub on the main cordon. It’s a fast job as I keep the vines well pruned over summer by taking off any growth two to three leaves past the fruit. This also helps the grapes ripen and sweeten more than if they are left unpruned.

Berry fruit are also best pruned now, before secondary growths start popping out all over the place and the whole patch becomes one big impenetrable tangle. Aside from autumn-fruiting raspberries, all vines that have fruited can be cut to ground level. Replacement vines should be growing well by now and can be tied up in their place. Autumn raspberries are left to fruit again next spring, after which they are cut back.