The Kitchen Garden


Every house should have a kitchen garden. Here are a few tips to help the garden and you survive winter.

Deciduous Fruit Trees
Deciduous fruit trees such as Pears, Plums, Peaches, Apples, Figs, Almonds, and Cherries all lose their leaves in winter. For those of us in the Southern hemisphere, this is a great time to buy bare rooted stock. They can be uprooted when they are dormant. All the soil should be removed from roots and the trees stored bare rooted. The roots should then be covered to prevent them from drying out. This can be achieved by surrounding them with moist straw, loose soil or wood shavings. They will survive well out of the ground for a couple of months until the roots start sprouting. This is usually a few weeks before the tips start growing.

Why not buy your trees bare rooted now? You can often get better trees at a discounted price at this time of year. They are also easier to transplant than as a growing tree with leaf. You can also transplant fruit trees around your garden much easier at this time of year.

Things You Need To Know About Choosing a Fruit Tree
  • Some require cross-pollination in order to develop fruit
  • Inspect the roots and avoid buying plants with swollen or damaged roots, or with abnormal swellings (galls) on the roots.
  • Look at the shape or structure of the plant and choose plants that have a shape that fits the way you want to train the plant (eg. a traditional vase shape, an espalier, single or multiple stemmed).
What is Cross Pollination?
Cross pollination is where two different plants are needed to produce fruit. Each tree provides the pollen, and the ovaries that are fertilised by the pollen, but the pollen must come from another variety of the same species to set fruit. Without different varieties of the same species in close proximity some fruit trees simply do not produce good crops of fruit.

What is Biennial Bearing?
Some fruiting plants have a natural tendency to produce a heavy fruit crop one year and a light crop the next.

Puree of Pumpkin Soup 1
  • Peel and cut 500g of pumpkin into pieces
  • Cook in ¼ cup butter and 1/3 cup water in a covered pan
  • Season with a good pinch of salt
  • When the pumpkin is soft rub it through a fine sieve
  • Put the puree back in the pan and dilute it to the desired consistency with 0.6-0.8 litres consommé (1- 1 and1/ 3pints), bring to the boil and finish off with 60g. fresh butter
  • Serve with small croutons fried in butter
Puree of Pumpkin Soup 2
  • Puree the pumpkin as above
  • Dilute the puree with boiling milk and add 3 or 4 tablespoons of castor sugar
  • Serve with small croutons fried in butter
Saving Pumpkins for Use in winter
  • It is important to pick continuous cropping vegetables like pumpkins regularly. This ensures that crops continue to develop steadily throughout the season (other examples include marrows, melons, pumpkins, beans, peas, cucumbers and brussels sprouts).
  • Always pick the largest fruits first. These will be the most mature and will begin to deteriorate if left on the plant.
  • Pick all vegetables before they become over ripe.
  • If you plan to store them, choose only unblemished fruit that are in peak condition. Tears in the skin of the vegetable may act as an entry point for bacteria and fungi.
Long Term Storage
For long term storage, vegetables are normally frozen, dried or made into preserves.

Pumpkins and other vegetables should be frozen on the day they are picked. This ensures minimal loss of flavour or colour of the vegetable. Most frozen vegetables will retain their nutrients and flavour. Some frozen vegetables however, will lose consistency when thawed out, (eg: Tomatoes become mushy, however they can still be used in cooking). Once thawed out, vegetables should not be refrozen. Vegetables that are particularly suited to freezing include: peas, beans, soybeans, corn and asparagus.

The general procedure for freezing vegetables is as follows:
  1. Pack food in air tight containers such as plastic freezer bags or tupperware containers.
  2. Before sealing the bag or container, remove as much air as possible.
  3. Write the date of processing on the bag or container. Most frozen vegetables can be kept up to 8 months in a standard home freezer.
  4. When you put the container into the refrigerator, place it as close as possible to where the refrigerant circulates. This is the coldest part and is where freezing will be fastest. Leave a small air gap between containers when first freezing. This increases the rate of freezing. You might turn the freezer up to high when first freezing then turn it back later. Avoid frequent opening of freezer door when a new batch of vegetables is first placed in the freezer.

Which plants?
Deciduous fruits - apples, apricots, almonds, cherries, grapes, figs, kiwi fruit, peaches, pears, plums and deciduous berries (raspberry, blackberry, currants).

Most deciduous fruit trees are pruned in winter while the trees are dormant BUT there are some exceptions. Some trees (especially cherries and apricots) are slow to recover from pruning cuts and can become infected with fungal diseases in early spring, especially if the weather is moist and mild. In some areas, these trees are best pruned in summer after the fruit has been harvested.

  • To remove dead and diseased branches
  • To improve fruiting
  • To rejuvenate the tree - newer wood is healthier and produces more fruit
  • To limit the tree's height and to bring the fruit within reach
  • To allow more light and air into the tree

This depends on the fruit tree and its growth habit. As a general rule, remove crossing branches, and dead or diseased wood. Remove vigorous upright growths from the centre of the tree (these are unproductive water shoots) and thin out overcrowded growth. For more specific info on pruning different fruits, see the Australian Correspondence Schools Ad below.

Pruning doesn't have to be done every year - if you don't prune at all, the tree will still give fruit but eventually the fruit will become smaller and possibly overcrowded.

Find Out How to Prune Your Trees
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