Simon Rickard gives us a fruit tree masterclass!

Prune pomefruit in late summer for fruit, prune in winter for structure. Prune stonefruit in early spring. Select your rootstock with care and train your trees early. Apples and pears should be pruned in winter for their first four years of life before reverting to summer pruning.

So went Simon Rickard‘s  key message to the 39 keen gardeners who attended our fruit growing workshop on November 20. Participants travelled from Melbourne, Trentham, Ballarat, Daylesford, Macedon, Point Lonsdale, Yandoit, Yapeen, Maldon, Castlemaine and local surrounds.

Simon gave an enthusiastic presentation on the basics of fruit growing, including rootstock and varietal selection, soils, site, training and pruning and pest and disease management. Lucy Young from Mount Alexander Shire’s  Growing Abundance Project (Castlemaine Community House) briefed us on the emerging fruit fly threat to our region and some important hygiene strategies.

After lunch Simon led the group into the garden to demonstrate and discuss care of our large collection of heritage apple, pear, peach, nectarine, quince, persimmon and feijoa trees. He was excited about some of our tree selections, particularly the beautiful Chinese Quince and flavorsome apple varieties, including Blue Permaine, Rome Beauty and Bramleys Seedling, a spectacular cooking apple. We have a busy winter and spring ahead to train the trees for espaliering and control pest and diseases!

Simon also gave us some tips on harvesting our garlic and on other communal crops, including the strawberries which we have been enjoying in the last few weeks, with more crops ahead as the days warm and lengthen.

We’d like to thank Simon for his generosity of spirit and inspiring contribution, Maldon and District Financial Services (Bendigo Community Bank) for the marquee, Taste of Gold for catering gear, The Food Garden for donated fruit, Ron and Julia at Welshman’s Reef Winery for wine and assistance, and to all the garden members (and partners) who helped out for the day.

Go to the photo gallery for some images from the day.

Thanks to workshop participant Anne Maree Jumpertz who sent us her notes from the workshop. I have attached them here: Fruit workshop Newstead. The workshop was packed with information, but Anne Maree’s notes may give you a bit of a guide. Soon I hope to download some audio.
The key message from the day was that it takes hard work and attention to grow productive backyard fruit trees. But it’s well worth the effort and Simon certainly inspired us all to have a go. Simon also suggested the Royal Horticultural Society “Pruning and Training” manual would be useful – it’s his most valuable reference book.
*We have plans for a follow up workshop in March with Penny Woodward, but details are still being finalised. 

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