Thursday, October 27, 2011

Feed me ! - chomp chomp chomp

The past two weeks or so have mainly kept us busy clearing grass and weed around the trees and mowing the lawn, which has grown with leaps and bounds since spring eventually stuck its head out. It only took a couple of good rain sessions, coupled with warmer temperatures, to blow life into everything. The fruit trees are either full of tiny little plums, peaches and figs, or still in bloom. The almonds are already sizable fruit. Our olives seems to be "slower" than some of the others I've seen thus far, with ours only now starting to make tiny new branches and leaves. And only here and there the flower buds are starting to show. Could it be that Palmy's temperature stays lower for longer and that trees therefore takes longer to bud after winter?

Chomping down knee-length grass with a weed-eater against a slope is no easy task. And that was all it took - two weeks of occasional rain, warmer weather and voila - grass out of control!

We've been thinking of alternative ways to control the grass and no real solutions have transpired yet. Except for one hopeful, maybe - a Billy Goat. Nope, not the four-legged version, but rather an industrial chomper made in America. It is self propelled, a push model and can handle slopes of up to 20 degrees. I'm sure there's many similar machines out there, but we're looking ... and reading ... and talking ... Who knows, maybe one day we could afford something that will make life a hundred times easier.

And like David who refuse to use copper sprays, so do I refuse to use glyphosates ... But who knows how long we will keep clearing around the trees by hand, before we get fed-up with the tedious job and succumb to RoundUp.

While Gerry were mowing bits by bits, I decided that a good dose of a variety of sprays for the olives is just what the doctor ordered. We've been postponing the spraying since MetService has been predicting rain and/or showers for the past week. And not a drop has fallen. So, this time I decided, bugger this, they don't know what they're talking about, and started spraying the fruit trees.

A mix of these will hopefully give the trees super-duper energy!

I only have a 5 litre sprayer and after the second batch figured that I can cover about 50 of the trees with 5 litre. This give them a fairly good coverage. The mix consisted of fish emulsion - to deter rabbits (I hope - so far so good), liquid copper (for fungus related diseases and to deter slugs and snails), Bio-Gold which seems like the best "all-in-one" fertiliser around, and Raingard (to prevent the fertiliser from raining off). It took the biggest part of the afternoon to spray all the trees and Gerry also finished the last section of the grass. Unfortunately the patches that were first cut, some days ago, already needs their next cutting. And so it goes in summer ...

And here's the best part! Exactly 10 minutes after we wrapped up, cleaned everything and put it away, it started to rain ... How's that for luck - just after the trees have been sprayed! The first hour or so was just a drizzle, but then it really came pouring down for the rest of the evening. We measured 25mm in the rain meter. I'm not convinced that the raingard would have coped with the amounts of water coming down... Time will tell.

And like Andrew suggested: "Every saturday that looks good in terms of the weather, should be a spray day". Maybe we should just follow this strategy. :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Olives New Zealand AGM and awards - 15 October 2011

A whole day of fun and events was planned, starting off with the AGM and lunch at Tatum Park. Thereafter we all went over to David and Helen's for presentations by two Spanish gentleman (organised by Goran Erdevicki from GEA): Juan Vilar and Javier Hidalgo - experts by all accounts on all things olive - followed by the fieldwalk in the Kapiti Olives grove (last year’s Olives New Zealand EVOO ‘Best in Show’ Award). The awards dinner was planned for the evening back at Tatum Park, followed by the semi-final WCR game between France and Wales.

Gerry and I decided to go for the morning and afternoon events only, as the dinner was another expense that we couldn't afford currently. We got to meet the chairperson of ONZ, Andrew Taylor, and a lot of other growers from various other areas. It is great to see so many enthusiastic people, passionate about the industry and trying to make things better for all. The presentations by the Spanish (both from GEA Westfalia) were quite informative, albeit focussed on Spain, which is much drier that NZ. Just to comprehend the scale at which they operate, is mind blowing. They also presented everybody with wonderful handouts (books on olives, victorinox knives, flash drives, notebooks, pens, etc.).

Afterwards we all headed outside for a walk amongst the olive trees of David and Helen. The good thing about having experts looking at your grove, is that they can immediately detect if anything could be wrong with the trees. Unfortunately (and fortunately) for David, they discovered that his trees have some mineral deficiencies as well as diseases. Apparently if the tips of the leaves turn brown, you need to up your nutrients in the form of potassium (if the soil is alcaline) or boron (if the soil is acidic). His trees also seemed to be pestered by peacock spot amongst others, and are losing their leaves at a rate. This will obviously effect flowering and fruit set. So, although David swore by his conviction never to use copper spray, it now turns out that he might just have to do that.

All in all a great outing, very informative and insightful. Pity we couldn't make the awards function as well. Some pics from the day:

AGM at Tatum Park, with David discussing some changes to the ONZ constitution.

Goran left and Javier from Spain.

Juan also from Spain.

Listening and learning at the Kapiti Olives grove field walk.

Attending these events provide excellent opportunities to learn more about olives.

David, Juan, Javier and another grower.

Can't remember what disease this is, but it looks like cigarette ash on the back of the leaves,
and it's a main cause for leaves to drop from the trees at an alarming rate.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ascolano obituary :-(

This little piggy decided to go to heaven. Poor little thing. I'm not sure exactly why, but of all the trees, this seems to be the only one who died, presumably from the snow? It was planted in a very soggy spot and I suspect that the wetness in combination with the snow and freezing temperatures, caused its feet to get frostbite! The stem is still soft and green though. Any ideas on what to do with this one to save it from a sure death?