The great synergies between chooks and fruit trees, and the challenge of managing fungal problems in a hot humid climate were just two of the many topics covered in a Biodynamic Agriculture Australia (BAA) workshop on ‘Biodynamics in the Home Orchard’, held at North Farm. The workshop covered key practical skills in orchard management, such as pruning, as well as principles of orchard design and species selection.
Other topics covered included chemical-free management of fruit fly and the encouragement of beneficial insects in the orchard. We also had great fun making manure concentrate and compost for use in boosting soil health in an orchard. First, we mixed fresh cow manure and various mineral ingredients in concrete mixer for an hour, then built a cow pat pit and filled it with the mixture. Also demonstrated was the fine art of making (and breaking) a vortex during stirring of BD preps for use in manure concentrate – harder than it looks, but very satisfying when a nice deep vortex emerges!
The workshop format was really interactive, with BAA presenters Alan Johnstone and John Hodgkinson inviting participants to each share their own special insights into fruit growing.
For example one participant, an experienced horticulturalist, noted just how many people start by buying fruit trees – whereas if they were to invest six to twelve months in site preparation then the fruit trees they plant would more than catch up with any trees planted prematurely in compacted or demineralised soil. When it comes to fruit growing, patience is definitely a virtue!
A tour of fruit trees at North Farm proved to a good conversation-starter – and definitely highlighted some ‘what not to do’ lessons. For example, an apple tree planted inside the big netted orchard was suffering badly from woolly aphid because of lack of airflow; a very tough prune and a generous application of biodynamic tree paste may or may not fix the problem …
People came from as far away as Queensland, Inverell and Grassy Head, and the workshop had a distinctive permaculture theme because several participants had recently completed Robyn Francis’s acclaimed Permaculture Design Course. The dialogue between the biodynamics and permaculture practitioners was a good reminder that we all have something to learn from each other when it comes to the fine art of growing great food …
The next workshop will be a two-day event on 10-11 August, at which the basics of biodynamic farming will be covered in depth. This event qualifies for the Farm Ready scheme.