Planting and planning

It’s been a busy few months. I know that this time of year always feels very hopeful, and by the middle of summer the heatwaves of desperation have set in, trying to keep everything alive.. but I do think it is getting better each year. Easier, maybe.

I mean, we have actual winter pasture this year. Not much, yet, but the clover is properly established, and we’ve put out a pasture mix this time around so we should have ryegrass and more clover by spring.

We’ve also got almost all of the trees in that are in the plan. Four date palms went in at the end of July, along with five avocadoes, and this month we should get the grapevine cuttings I ordered last October from The WA Vine Improvement Association (WAVIA).

Should being the oeprative term, though. I currently do not recommend ordering from WAVIA – it took 6 months to get a receipt for the payment I sent them for the vines, and they have been promising me an update since April with details for an August pickup – which they have not provided. I still don’t know when or even where I’m supposed to pick up my grapevines. Probably Manjimup, since that seems to be where the germplasm collection is kept currently, but who knows? I got an email reply today within the hour of sending a request for an update, and all it said was don’t worry we can store your cuttings in the cool room for a few weeks if the timing isn’t conveneint when we finally actually cut them and tell you about it.

Unfortunately, they are the only source of most wine grape varieities in WA, so there is no one else to deal with. I would if I could.

In brighter news, the wattles are all doing well, and the pistachios are in the ground, finally. So are a bunch of almond rootstocks, waiting to be grafted onto in a year or two once they’re established and a bit bigger. (Hopefully the Australian Almonds people will be more like AusCitrus, who are a pleasure to deal with, unfailingly helpful and friendly, and less like WAVIA.)

One of the big challenges of setting up a small farm in Australia is that the numbers you want to order don’t make sense ot anyone. Garden centre retail prices are fine for the typical back yard planting of, for example, one almond tree, but become painful when you want 10 – 20 of them. But unless you’re ordering 100 or more, more commercial growers just aren’t interested in giving you the time of day, and the various industry bodies which are technically meant to support smallholdings like ours mostly ignore us.

It means that the people and organisations who are helpful are things to be cherished, and the rest.. well. You wonder why there are so few new vinyards going in along the swan valley? And don’t get me started on walnut and pecan trees – they’re just about impossible to get at all. We were on a waiting list for 5 years for our pistachios, and I’m currently on the ‘notify me when they become available’ mailing list for pecans with Daleys.

In spite of the challenges, though, things are going well. The stone fruit are thriving in our soakwell-planters (the ground is too hard for the baby trees to get established, so we put concrete soakwells down and planted into good soil in those), and the apples and pears are doing well. My roses have started leafing out, even the new ones that I bought as bare-root plants from Treloar Roses, which only arrived a week ago. The raspberries should start leafing out soon, the boysenberries have, and the blueberries are flowering already. I’m looking forward to a summer full of flowers and fruit.