Fruit trees and rain water in an Adelaide kitchen garden

The two kitchen gardens on this blog – while only 22 kilometres apart – are in quite different climates. In VG's hill's garden, some hundreds of metres of extra altitude mean a shorter growing season and the ability to grow cool-climate crops like berries and cherries.

Down here on the Adelaide Plains, and moderated by the sea in St Vincent's Gulf nearby, the climate is somewhat warmer and berries and cherries struggle, while citrus and stone fruits do better. So here’s a brief list just to show the great variety of fruit that can be grown within easy reach of the kitchen and the cook.

Fruit trees in this suburban Adelaide garden

Apples, mandarins, Valencia and Washington navel oranges, olives, Satsuma plums, grapefruit, lemons, purple and green figs, chestnuts, sultana grapes, freestone and clingstone peaches, almonds and Lady Finger bananas – all these provide fruit and nuts from this garden throughout different seasons. There are berries, such as boysenberries, raspberries, Kiwi Fruit, josterberries and of course, strawberries, but these are fairly recent additions to the garden and are not yet prolific bearers. Some common fruit trees are missing at the moment – persimmons, pears, prunes, passionfruit, nectarines, walnuts and apricots. These will be planted out into the new orchard, once it is fully enclosed to keep the parrots and possums out.

 Lemon tree with smaller Valencia orange on right  ...and here's the next crop of lemons coming along

This olive tree is still young but has many small black olives beloved of birds, if not the cook!This beautiful grapefruit tree reliably bears several months supply of fruit each year with no maintenance. We've learnt to enjoy a small glass of freshly-squeezed juice for breakfast each day. This magnificent grafted chestnut tree stands in the old Italian garden next door, but drops its crop onto our driveway. The same with the deep-purple fig on its left. This almond tree is very old, dating back to a time when this area was all orchards and vineyards. The original tree is dead; this is a sapling that grew from the base.

The open forked trunk of this Washington Navel orange tree serves as a useful storage place for home-grown bamboos used for staking tomatoes The base of this Satsuma plum tree show its great age, plus dry rot that will eventually end its long life. An old orchardist that came to prune it estimated its age to be in excess of 100 years. dating back to the original settlement of this area for fruit grape and vegetable growing.

This mulch-covered garden path also acts as a 'sump' to capture run-off from the driveway. This rainwater is stored in the soil below for the fruit trees that surround it. Rainwater from the house roof is piped below this path to the tanks beyond. Washington Navels are a winter eating orange, and are just starting to show colour now in late autumn.

This enclosed orchard (under construction) is needed to keep possums and parrots from the peach trees. The lemon tree is to the right. Valencia oranges - a juicing variety



The major limitation to gardening here in Adelaide is water; rainfall occurs reliably only in the three coldest months of the year, and peak production in the garden occurs six months later during the long hot and dry Mediterranean-style summer. While we grow just as many crops during winter as in summer, holding water over from the rainy months to the summer months is all important. Every roof is connected to rainwater tanks, which have a total capacity of about 70 000 litres, or about one month’s supply when the heat’s really on and consumption peaks at 15000 litres per week. Just not enough. And with ‘peak water’ costing nearly $3 per 1000 litres from the town supply, making up the gap means water bills of $45 per week. The garden has to be productive to supply the replacement cost of water in store-bought fruit and vegetables. Mulching and drip irrigation help water use efficiency.


So here (below) is the view from the deck outside the back door of fruit trees, easy-to-reach vegetables and herbs and the main rainwater tanks down on the back-right. This is the ‘kitchen garden’. Not visible – and off to the left – is the main production garden where ‘bulk crops’ are grown.


What is not so obvious is the large ‘sump’ area between the gardens in the foreground and the background. This is the area where we hang our washing to dry in the sun on a pull-out clothes line from a box on the left-most wall. Once this area was lawn, which always looked lousy unless freshly cut, and which had the highest maintenance cost of the whole garden, thanks to petrol driven mowers and trimmers needed to maintain it. Food output was zero. Now it’s been converted to kitchen garden, and all this middle area is covered deeply with wood chips from an old gum tree that died in the front yard. Here all the runoff from the concrete driveway ends, sinking once more into the earth and supplying the surrounding fruit trees throughout summer. The wood chips prevent evaporation, and is pleasant underfoot.


Anonymous said...

hi andrew, are you growing these fruits on the plains? for instance, are the kiwis providing fruit?

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