May 2014

New Habitate website and fruit catalogue out now. Formerly known as Sutherland Nursery, is now the home of Habitate Heritage Fruits Nursery and Edible Landscape Design & Installation services of Jason Ross.

Here at George street orchard the season has been kind. Sap is subsiding and growth slows into remaining hardy greens. After finishing apples recently, only feijoas, Chilean guavas and poroporo remain for fruit. It’s a good time to take stock of the year’s yields and successes and to predict and plan for the next flush of opportunity.

Hayward kiwi behind feijoa and 'Tydeman's late orange' apple
Hayward kiwi behind feijoa and ‘Tydeman’s late orange’ apple

Continue reading “May 2014”

June 2013

Feijoa ‘Tagan’ 3 years on from the nursery. Any cool temperate city has an abundance of great spots where we can make use of a warm temperate/subtropical micro climate. In this part of the garden the cold southerly misses overhead, we increased sun reflection by painting the upper wall white and the neighbours bedrooms radiate heat to minimize nighttime cooling. Just a couple of fruit left after a bumper crop.
Avocado seedling volunteering under a feijoa. I’m not sure about the future for this one! Hardy enough for Dunedin winters but fruiting is probably unlikely for now. In our lifetimes I expect we may see a season every now and then which could get the job done. Unfortunately, rather than simply an easy progression to a warmer climate, Dunedin (and elsewhere) should expect unpredictability and crop challenges as a result of climate change. Our eggs need to be in as many baskets as possible. Hence the avocado!
After witnessing the success of feijoas in the backyard I decided last spring to plant a feijoa ‘unique’ hedge bordering the footpath. Aside from fruit this will provide an evergreen screen to gently enclose our courtyard, nectar for birds and bees, summertime afternoon shade for strawberries and a more beautiful view from inside. At the time of planting I scattered hulless black barley, tick beans and sicilian rocket under a thick mulch of linseed straw and large sticks. During the season I chopped and laid the underplanting around the feijoas where necessary. Otherwise the crops were left to seed for us to collect, broadcast and use as mulch in place. Early summer cuts of the barley re-sprouted easily.
With hindsight, one of the first actions in this garden should have been to create sturdy trellis on all suitable walls (neighbours walls included). 2 years ago I (mostly) completed it and shuffled a few plants accordingly. So many species are suited to the two dimensions and become very easy to harvest and maintain. Some may need the increased shelter/light/warmth to thrive. Our high walls are home to climbing beans, boysenberries, fan-trained peach, grapes, espaliered mulberry, kiwifruit and hardy kiwi, tomatoes, goji berries. Shadier trellis houses redcurrants, blackberries and elderberries. Gooseberries are also well suited to a partially shaded espalier.
Vigorous climbing beans (especially scarlet runner beans) are a standout crop for us. They grow back each year on cue with rising late spring temperatures and provide a relentless supply of fresh beans and more importantly, a generous supply of protein (stored dried beans) for the winter. In summer, we eat what we can reach fresh and what we can’t is left to dry on the upper vines. Because the pods dry very straight and vertically, the beans are quite safe from mould after summer and autumn rains (as opposed to broad beans). I sometimes miss a few but find them safe and sound the following spring. When the plants die back (or when you cut them) they can release nitrogen to the soil and plants around them via a bacterial root association that converts atmospheric nitrogen N2 into ammonia NH3. Most legumes (beans, peas, kowhai etc) and some other plants have these symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Nitrogen and carbon are 2 fundamental soil elements that we can harvest from the atmosphere with the right soil management strategies. In the case of carbon this is often called ‘carbon sequestration’, which is exactly what we need to have happening on the balance globally to mitigate and reverse rising CO2 levels. Unfortunately, most of chemical and organic agriculture is a net contributor to atmospheric CO2 through frequent tillage which destroys soil carbon, releasing it to the atmosphere, thereafter increasing ¬†dependence on artificial fertilisers and organic inputs. We need a permaculture (permanent agriculture) that can rebuild soil carbon and provide ecosystem function whilst providing for our needs. This means building systems that mimic natural functions such as plant succession (through time) and plant stacking (in space).

Autumn 2013

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This tamarillo tree is only 2 years on from a small cutting. They are very quick to grow in Dunedin’s mild climate. Light frost will ‘prune’ them a little, only to re-sprout strongly the following spring. Prolonged hard frost (which we don’t really get here on the coast) will kill them. Ripe fruit is not unheard of in Dunedin but they need a really sheltered position. What they do not like (as we learned after last week’s snow (28 may)) is snow on their wide welcoming leaves, which will snap the branches! No surprises there….but if you can keep off the snow the fruit will hang around and hopefully ripen late winter. I will keep you posted on how ours are now ripening indoors.
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Chicory ‘Red Treviso’ is an amazing perennial plant, we use it stir-fried roots and all or the leaves in salads and smoothies. Re-sprouts strongly after the whole plant is sliced off. In cool weather it takes on a deep red colour.
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Chicory, boysenberry cane tips, strawberries and a young blueberry.
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250 g monster and the rest of the day’s feijoa harvest.
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Grapes, possibly ‘Albany surprise’ ripening against a sunny wall.
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The Silver-eyes (Wax-eyes) and my paintbrush did a good job of pollinating the feijoas this year. If you don’t see small birds in there chasing the nectar then facilitate reproduction yourself with a fine brush.
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Runner beans and a young grapevine.
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Trellised boysenberry. A favourite of ours and the birds – keeping it in the 2 dimensions makes it easy to net and harvest.
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Fan-trained peach ‘Blackboy’ (left), grape, beans. Gooseberry ‘Pax’ and blueberries in front.
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Apple ‘Tydeman’s late orange’ with pumpkin running underneath. We have about 12 varieties of apple, mostly on quite dwarfing m26 rootstock. This way you can create a grove of smaller trees, with the apples ripening at different times and having quite diverse tastes and uses. The m26 rootstock is best suited to fertile garden soil, so if you have heavy soil go for at least the more vigorous m106 (about a typical orchard size) or if you have room, m793 (almost as vigorous as an average seedling apple). Always ask what the rootstock is before you buy, as many fruit trees are unlabelled or simply say ‘dwarf’ or ‘semi-dwarf’, which doesn’t mean too much as even a large orchard tree is likely a dwarf compared to a seedling. Our selections are from Habitate Heritage Fruit Nursery (formerly Sutherland Nursery, see links page), organically grown heritage and disease resistant varieties known to thrive in the south of the south.
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Italian parsley is great as a companion for chopping and dropping around trees as you need (here with Belle de Boskoop apple). Let them seed and witness all the chest-high insect diversity.
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Climbing beans can make a great living wall.
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Consider using a couple of square metres to multiply plants for your own system and friends. This area shown houses 48 hardwood cuttings; worcesterberry, white currant and 3 varieties of blackcurrant. These will be dug up in winter, I can keep a couple – the rest to a good home! Growing open-ground (as opposed to pots) cuttings and seedlings enables much healthier and vigorous root development while decreasing time spent watering and fertigating. If you can, plant cuttings directly where they are to live on.
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As with the berries, you can easily create a little fruit tree nursery. This is especially useful if you need lots of trees and want to save money or if you wish to reproduce that awesome pear at your mum and dads’ that you don’t know the name of. Shown here we have apple rootstock m26/m106 (2 options for grafting apples) and quince c rootstock (one option for grafting pears and quince). If you can open a can of beans you can graft… is holding a grafting workshop in September, please register by June 10 via their events page.
march 2013
Pumpkin ‘Marina di Chioggia’ with sea beet, borage, puha, parsley, dandelion and kale.

Autumn 2011

Apple ‘Tydeman’s late orange’ on m9 rootstock in a pot.
Borlotti beans.
A late summer selection of tomatoes.


may 2010 (4)
Rainbow Inca corn.
may 2010 (23)
Purple climbing bean and corn.
Peninsula banana passionfruit and apples
Peninsula banana passionfruit and apples
may 2010 (7)
Outdoor grown Russian red tomatoes.
may 2010 (5)
Sow broad beans almost any time of year in Dunedin, though best crops probably come from sowing April through to September.
may 2010 (15)
Sugar snap peas in bathtub, beans on the fence.
may 2010 (29)
Runner bean wall.
may 2010 (37)
Young feijoa with pumpkin, corn and beans.
october 2009 (26)
Rainbow chard.
may 2010 (33)
R.I.P. rhododendron, soon after this photo it was blown over in strong westerlies. Dare I say Dunedin has enough rhododendrons already though.