Now that the sun is shy of rising early, my urban orchard is starting to change its colour. The citrus trees, though already laden, had so far camouflaged their fruit, green on green, amongst their leaves. The time has come for them to take over and show their strength and dominate the orchard.
Once it was their domain. I grew citrus, and only citrus trees when I began as a budding orchardist six years ago. It was that old adage of doing what you know. I started with cumquats (calamondins) and progressed to other varieties. There were plenty of them to keep me satisfied at that time but in time my desire for other fruit grew.
The advantages of growing citrus trees in the home garden are many. They are attractive, evergreen trees. They have shallow, non-invasive roots and branches that respond to pruning so you can keep them to a certain size and shape. Their fruit keep well on and off the trees so you can enjoy them almost all year round. But then one day I tasted a fig off a tree and I was bewitched.
In August 2008 I spent six weeks at Hedgebrook, a women writers retreat on Whidbey Island, Washington. Hedgebrook offers writers their own cottages, fully funded and fully catered, in their 48 acres of woodland, organic gardens and orchard – at no cost to the writer. If nothing else ever go right in my life, I can still say, I have had that. It was late summer and the figs were in season. Two towering fig trees were laden with fruit. I had a fig-fest and when I came home, I started to grow my own.
Now I have ten varieties of figs; four are producing well and the others are still new. You would have to eat the figs from tree to tree to appreciate their differences. This year I was able to do so–it’s a joy–but now it’s autumn and the figs are losing their leaves, retiring for the winter.
The cumquats are yellowing and soon it’ll be time to turn them into marmalade. I have already picked lemons and limes. The oranges and mandarins will follow. The quinces are now paste. The guavas are also asserting themselves and putting on weight. Harvest is not an event in my orchard; it’s a continuous fruit-fest.
http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s4072376.htm – a video (4:33) of my urban orchard on ABCTV