I suppose you can say that our interest in growing trees began in our childhood. My husband, Don, has lived in the Mossman area all of his life and has seen many changes take place. During his youth, Don loved to collect and eat fruit from wild fruit trees growing along roadsides, abandoned Chinamen's gardens and areas surrounding the town of Mossman. Don also planted fruit trees in the backyard of his home in Mossman.
Progress and development took over the district. Most of the wild mandarins, bush lemon, mango, banana, pawpaw, guavas, five corner, longan and native burdekin plum trees were bulldozed out as the graziers and cane farmers cleared more and more for farm land. Even a rare native 'black currant', as Don called it, was bulldozed out to make way for a dump. Don has never seen another tree like it.
Myself, I had taken an interest in gardening since I was a child. I can remember my father showing me in the garden which was a weed and which was a good plant.
I met Don Gray - a long story ..... We set up house in an old cane barracks on a cane farm in Mossman. Don's and my interest in growing fruit trees took off. We collected rare fruit trees and planted them around our little farm house.
We worked and saved and purchased our own block of land in Julatten. The entrance of Carr Road, the road into our block, was hardly visible. Huge hammel grass covered the road.
Don decided that the hammel grass on the roadside area at the entrance of Carr Road, which was about ¾ acre, had to be cut down to give a clear view so on-coming traffic could be seen as one entered onto the main Rex Highway. The Mareeba Shire Council rarely came to Julatten as Shire Funds were short for roadworks at the time.
Our old Massey Ferguson tractor and slasher was used to cut down the heavy thick hammel grass. Don decided that he would turn the area he slashed into a park. We set aside our spare seedling rare fruit trees. Don, remembering his childhood, said these trees will be great for kids to gather fruit from, and we agreed the fruit trees will give passers-by the incentive to grow trees, and an added advantage will give the native birds and animals extra food. The bees and butterflies will also be able to feed on the nectar from the flowers.
We began to plant and care for the trees in our "Park" as we called it. Our local councillor, Wally Gray, thought it was a great idea. Often he would pull up and have a yarn as Don and I would tend to the trees.
We lost quite a few trees to neighbouring goats and horses that ventured onto the roadside land and nibbled and pulled out the young trees. We replaced the trees and overcame the problem with rings of wire netting firmly staked around the young trees.
We now have a 16 hp Iseki tractor. We traded in the old Massey for this small, easy to manoeuvre, mid-mounted slasher-tractor. The light tractor prevents soil compaction around the trees.
To fertilize the trees, all the grass cuttings from mowing the grass between the trees is mulched around the drip line. This also helps to conserve moisture. Don uses trace elements to boost the young trees along during the wet season, so they can survive better during the dry. All the weed growth that is close to the trunks of the trees is pulled out. This prevents ants from making nests and ring-barking the trees. Allowing sunlight to enter around the trunk stops the ants from annoying the trees, as ants do not like exposure to light for any length of time.
The larger trees are pruned of side branches to about eight feet high so a clear view of oncoming traffic can be seen when one has to enter onto the main road.
This is a section of land that we plan to use to extend the park. Our local councillor has promised us that he will have the Council grader smooth out the bumpy, uneven areas for us soon so we can plant more trees. This will make it easier and safer for moving.
There are 39 trees in the "Park". Some of the trees we have planted two of one variety. The list is as follows:
Rare Fruit Tree from Jamaica
South American Sapote
Japanese raisin tree.
Carambola (five corner)
These fruit trees are from all over the world.
Some of the trees are now 15 ft high. The Carambola is fruiting. It is a 'Star King', one of the original carambolas we grew. The fruit ripens bright yellow, and just the other day we were sitting under the tree resting and decided to try the fruit. Well, the fruit is so sour, the fruit ended up in the grass. Don said with a cheeky laugh "Well, there will always be fruit on this tree for someone to try."
The Jakfruit has borne a huge jakfruit. The inga bean has had heaps of beans. The neighbouring kids love this fruit. The flesh is white, chewy, sweet and tasty. The tree flowers in abundance. Great for the bees and butterflies.
The Spondias trees (hog plum) are now in flower. They drop their leaves in Winter and then blossom into growth in Spring.
The Soncoya has fruit. The soursop has small fruit also. It is quite exciting to see the trees come into fruit. They do not get any water, and considering all angles, they are all doing well.
We believe that all trees are important for the environment. The fruit trees in our little "Park" are doing a little bit extra by giving people a simple pleasure of picking and eating a fruit for free - a treat.
DATE: November 1989
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