The Mossman Branch of the RFCA Inc. held a field meeting at Chris and Don Gray's orchard, Julatten on Sunday, 23rd May.

A good roll-up of around 50 members and visitors attended. Everyone bought their lunch and sat around having a chit chat until Don arrived to show everyone around the orchard.

Chris gave a talk on growing veges organically. For a start, it is best to have a vegetable garden near the house, in a full sun position. To keep the bandicoots out, it is best to have the garden fenced. Chris went on to say that any vegetable that will grow for twelve months or longer, should be grown at one end of the garden. An example of this is perennial capsicums, herbs, celery and any asian vegetable, as it will leave the balance of the garden clear for later mulching and preparing for the vegetable season. The only time vegetables cannot be grown in Julatten, is from late December to the end of February. In this time, the vegetable garden can be covered with a sheet of black plastic, to stop weeds and keep the soil sweet during the wet months. It is then easily prepared in February.

Chris plants sections of the garden at a time according to the moon stage. Applications of meat and bone meal, dolomite and chicken manure are applied to the surface of the soil. The soil is only dug over with a fork (so as not to harm earthworms). Peanut shells are then used as a top mulch, the earthworms taking the fertilizer down into the soil.

Don must have arrived before me by just a few minutes, as I was late due to work commitments and didn't arrive until after 1.30pm. I was fortunate enough not to miss out on the field tour. We walked and listened to information on various fruits. For example: Abiu - to set fruit - 2 months prior to flowering, hit it with zinc sulphate-heptahydrate, boron and epsom salts (magnesium). One month after fruiting is finished, hit it with potassium nitrate, to force it to flower and bring on fruit.

Photo of Don and Christine Gray.

Don has a soursop called 'Costa Rica Aspadore'. He also has Cherimoya X Red Sugar Apple seedlings set, to try to get a more tropical sugar apple with a red skin. Perhaps we'll hear about these beauties in time to come. The Cherimoya is not much use in the tropics, but down south, it grows lovely fruit.

Soursop: Cuban Fibreless - to set fruit on this one (a large tree) - 1 kg zinc-heptahydrate, sprinkle in a band of about 10-12 inches all around the drip line of the tree, the drip line being the edge of the over-hanging foliage, as this is where the feeder roots are, and they will take it up into the tree. He says you can do this at any time of the year; but only once a year. If there is no rain in sight, you can water it in, not too heavily but according to your soil structure.

Another of Don's innovations is to mulch some of his trees with river sand, four inches deep, to keep in the moisture and keep down the weeds. Don says that the trees treated with river sand this season have fruited earlier than the other not treated.

Don also has a very rare custard apple called the 'Berniski' and he said it's the best in the world! We all wait with bated breath for this one! Another of his custard apples of which there are only one or two at best bearing fruit in Australia. This is the Purple Allana from Zaire in Africa, and he said it tastes like strawberries and cream. He has grafted trees for sale (I bought one). Another cross Don is experimenting with is the Purple Allana X Red Sugar Apple. He has done this by cross pollinating, and as soon as the fruit is ripe he will be planting the seeds. Hopefully we will see a couple of new varieties emerging in a few years. Good on you, Donny.

As we walked through the property, Don showed us where he had grafted a Pon Tin variety of mamey sapote onto the stump of a mamey sapote which was not a good-eating one, and he will gradually remove the existing tree as the graft grows and takes over. Then all growth will go to the new graft. This could take up to 2 years.

Don said that every fruit tree in his orchard has had a ton of filter mud put around them (not all at once) but over a period of time.

The feijoa does well in the south, but it is very hard to fruit in the tropics. The tree will grow and you can eat the flowers. Don also has a mangosteen there that was 27 years old and had not fruited, so he fed it a kilo of potassium nitrate around the drip line and it fruited.

The Zevulu (jungle sop), another custard apple from Zaire (Africa) can weigh up to 12-14 lbs and has a taste similar to a jak-durian cross. Don also has this one grafted for sale.

The Mamey Sapote takes 14 months from flowering to mature fruit, but it flowers several times a year. When you do get fruit maturing, it shouldn't be too long before the next crop begins to mature and so on; you will have fruit on your trees at various stages of growth all year around.

The Posh Té custard apple tastes a bit like Monstera deliciosa, and when the stem starts to separate from the skin, the fruit is mature and may be picked and ripened indoors.

It is not easy to set fruits on the Green Sapote. If you make the flowers more fertile it will help. You must feed it a combination of 2 cups magnesium (epsom salts), ½ cup zinc sulphate-heptahydrate, and ½ handful of agricultural boron or borax (will suffice), once again at the drip line.

A rare tree from South America (Guiana), the Guiana chestnut, when mature has a big pod like the Brazil nut with 15 to 20 nuts inside with a flavour similar to our own macadamia, when raw, but once the nuts are opened, the kernels don't keep for more than a few days and must be either eaten or frozen or perhaps roasted. Don said it is beautiful in a stirfry.

Rambutans need zinc and iron for a healthy crop.

Another tree Don has on his property is the Go Wok. He doesn't know what the fruit looks like, or how it tastes and it hasn't fruited as yet. He said that the Indonesians use it in cooking. Someone asked, "How do they use it in cooking?" Don said, "I don't know." Someone else said, "Probably in a WOK!" Don said, "I'll pay that one!."

And last but not least, the Purple Mombin (spondias) will not grow from a seed or a small cutting. You must take a cutting at least as thick as your arm and stick it in the ground like a fence post - then it will grow like hell.

Don also gave us a recipe to beat the fruit fly.

A wonderful day was had by all and a good round of applause showed their appreciation. A few of us took advantage of the opportunity to buy some good grafted trees before leaving. The raffle tree and book were won by John and Helen Bartolo of Julatten.

There was a good spread of fruits and cooking on the table. A mamey sapote cake, date and walnut cake and other homemade cakes, custard apple, passionfruit, carambola and soursop were some of the fruits for tasting. President Trudy Woodall thanked Don and Chris on behalf of all who attended.

Mossman Branch Newsletter, August 1993

DATE: November 1993

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