The Old Wagonhouse

The Old Wagonhouse

Thursday, October 18, 2012


As with most good things in life you always finds someone else doing the same thing.   I got a lot of calls and interest in the fruit fly report in the previous post and a lot of it positive.  I am also glad to report that Calitzdorp Cellar is on big time on the wagon.  Some of you might allready have found some funny things hanging in your fruit trees in the backyard.  They took that upon themselves to hang out these fruit fly bait stations.  What it does it attracts the female fly and kills it.  It works for three months.  The Cellar will carry the expense of the first one for the season.  It only works for three months so after that you can go and buy one at the Calitzdorp Cellar.  It is really expensive a price of R3.80 for one.  You hang one per tree and the problem of fruit flies is gone. 
Those of you that did not receive one yet.  The cellar will through young Hein Nel,  son of Joos Nel,  come and visit you and he will put it out.  If you are not there he might take the liberty of doing it anyway.  All in a good cause for better fruit for everyone. 
I think from a farmers respective and a member of the community I would like to thank Joos Nel, Dirkie Brink and rest of the board of Directors of Calitzdorp Cellar for this bold move.  The fight against this insect can be won in Calitzdorp because of the small area and if everyone pulls together this insect had his day in the Port Capital.

A few weeks back I had also the opportunity to talk to the Graham and Rhona Beck Skills Centre.  That is the big building just before Rooiberg Cellar on you left as you drive to Cape Town on the R62. 
Their main focus is the developement of skills among the unskilled.  They are a non-profit organization and make use of outside expertise to present courses in about anything.  Some of the sample they talked about is ironing,  cleaning,  welding,  basic repairs on cars,  driving,  spraying etc.  They are really open to any suggestions for courses and is eager to do some of those courses in Calitzdorp. 
I took the liberty to offer a bed and if we get maybe two or three of you restaurants to also donate a plate of food then the cost can really come down and be affordable for everyone. 
They try and cover any area of work and are willing to look into anything.  I think we must try and think such courses that might benefit the local community.  Do send any suggestions to me and I will sort of try to co-ordinate it.  The players I'll like to see get involved is the tourism,  agricultural and restaurants in Calitzdorp.  See where your workers need some more refinement and maybe there is more than a few that also face the same problem.

On the farming side the apricots is getting bigger.  Now is the time to introduce some real potasium for quality of fruit as well as nitrogen for size.  Don't overdo the nitrogen though.  You might also look into the whole micro element sprays for your plants.  Things like zinc,  boron and Manganese are important for your plants but they need it in small quantities. The first two is the most important in the local conditions. 
As in the first paragraph stated now is also the time to fight our six legged friends.  Do hang those bait stations and replace after three months.  It would not just help you but a lot of farmers will sleep a lot better. 


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Agricultural practices for September / October

For the weekend farmer and or town fruit garden owner maybe a few tips on what to be done.

1.  Fruit thinning.  Usually with our lovely weather our trees produce to much fruit.  To get better size and quality fruit you have to thin.  With peaches it is usually a space between fruit of about 15cm and with apricot and plums a space of 8 to 10cm is fine.  This creates enough space for the fruit to develope and you will pick definately bigger fruit this year.
2.  Fertilizing.  This is the tricky one.  If the trees do get enough water they will usually have enough vigour in Calitzdorp.  To help the tree a bit and to replace the Nitrogen and Potassium which the tree took out of the soil with the removal of last years crop you have to add a bit.  The commercial farmers will tell you that with apricots and other stone fruit you have to replace about 2kg of nitrogen per tonne fruit produced per hectare (800 trees per ha).  The potasium replacement will be about 2.5kg per tonne fruit per ha.  Remember compost never replaces the fertilizer and usually just act as an add-on.  Your trees will definately act on good fertilizing habits.  The compost adds a lot of organic matter which sometimes include nitrogen and potasium in very small amounts but never enough for the plants needs.
3.  Micro elements.  Sometimes plants especially peach trees show some yellow leaves and that is usually a shortage in micro elements.  Here you must look for additions of small amounts of magnesium (Engelse sout) and iron.  A spray of boron and zinc can not do the tree harm either.  Most of these is available in our soils but because of our high pH soils not  very accesable for the plant.
4.  General spraying with a backpack spray (16lt) cost you about R170 at the local Landmark,  can also be done.  Spray for most fungal growth with Mancozeb and Sulphur (Kumulus) base sprays.  Do incude also something for insects as after the wet winter and warm spring their numbers are increasing quickly. 
5.  Do remember to spray for fruit flies and or put out the 'lamp olie / water' mixture to keep their numbers intact.

The attack of the Fruit Fly

 The first fruit is allready visible and so far the setting looks great.  It seems as if we did have a warmer and drier August and it the warmer weather really hit us in the mid of September.  This is also what the long term forecast for the Southern Cape predicts.  To look more into the future it seems that the months of September and October will be drier than usual with the chance of only 80% of the normal rainfall. 
The weather will change in November with the rainfall being 120% of the normal.  This means problems especially for the fruit farmers and these days the onion seed growers. 

With more rainfall comes higher possibilities of fungi growth and insect counts.  Talking about the six legged creatures: Do you also find that the mosquitoes are more active earlier this year.  I was surprised to also find the first fruit fly in my plum orchard.  This is a menace to the local farming community and we really want to encourage the people in town with the one and two fruit tree gardens to help us in this battle. 
The last few years it seems as if the numbers of the fruit flies really took off.  There is a few possibilities but the two most common is also the most expensive.  In the Boland / De Doorns areas where the table grapes and fresh fruit production is huge the release infertile males which leads to females being not fertilized and thus less fruit flies being born.  This is an very expensive exercise. 
The best option is probably the second one.  Spraying.  Hire and aeroplane and spray the whole town.  This is a practice done in the Americas with great succes and can easily be applied here.  It still stay very expensive and spraying residue will be in the air for some time.  It is not harmfull and very safe. Again it is expensive. 
Now you ask what can I do to keep these menaces out of my town garden to help myself getting better fruit and keeping the population of fruit flies down for my farming neighbour.  There is two possilities.
1.  Spray a product with active ingredient Mercaptithion at least once every week.  You can put it in any open container add some water according to the dosage on the bottle and add some sugar (the one which you put into your coffee).  This will draw the fruit fly to the poison and the kill it.  The Mercaptithion will break up very easily in direct sunlight so this must be done weekly so that you keep the population down.   You can start as early as October.
2.  Some of the older farmer do have a other solution.  You take a two litre plastic  bottle like a coke or the other famous beverage in town which bottles are distributed everywhere in town.  Cut a few holes in the bottle in the top part.  Keep the bottom intact.  In it you pour some Parafin or Lamp Oil with water and hang this container in the fruit trees in your garden.  This mixture you can replace every two to three weeks.  You will find a lot of our insect friends in there. 
I want to take the opportunity to really ask all the town small holding farmers to take trouble in this fight against the six legged organisms.  They don't contribute anything to our fruit industry and really create a big problem especially to the late season cultivar fruits.

Town of Dreams

Well the last few months anyone visting our little village would have noticed a lot of work done on the overall look of the town.  Barrels with succulents later being replaced by other plants with some more thorns to take the possilbe use as seating out of the equation.  This is all done from lately a project of 'Droom vir 'n Dorp' which started in a small town of Bonnievale with huge success.  The application of the same principles to Calitzdorp was done with the driving force of the local Tourism association.
Withoek and James of Spekboom Cottages decided to make our contribution by replanting the edge of the road which enters the town from the North - that is the Groenfontein side of town.
We planted two rows of trees with some aloes and other succulents and also installed a drip irrigation system.  The plan is later to introduce more plants and also some resting places for the community of Besemkop on their way home after shopping on a Saturday or a walk to town any other time.  We found that their is not many places for a person without transport to rest if he / she walks into town and or returns. 
The trees planted are all plants made from cuttings by the workers at Withoek.  There will be a few Wild Fig trees,  Olive (Mission) trees,  an Oak,  Pepper and Karee.  An real collection of types found on the Herminashof property. 
We hope that this will better the view for the incoming traffic from this beautiful valley in our town.  Anyone who want to contribute a plant feel welcome.  Advice is also very much appreciated.

Withoek Vegetable project

At Withoek we decided with the current economic conditions as well as current state of employment we will try and produce at least some of the food for the community.  Withoek Boerdery will provide the land and water and the workers as well as community members the work force. 
The plan is that the work would be done after hours and that the workers will take the responsibility for the day to day running of the garden. 
The garden which will grow eggplants,  cabbage,  tamatoes,  pumpkin,  beans and carrots will cover about 0.3ha and will be drip irrigated.  Let us hope this project is a success story. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Long time - no write

As you can gather from my frequent writings I have been busy.  The harvest was one of the biggest that I can remember and according all records I have of the farm.  We were about 48% up from the previous year and most  produce were one of the biggest yet by Withoek.  Just our plums disappointed but with only 3% of the area and of that 2% is still in its first year I can't really complain. 
Because of all the plantings recently we decided not to plant anything this year.  Of all our fruit about 26% is less than 4 years old.  Meaning still not in full production.  No the questions is when do the different fruit groups come into full production.  With grapes it seems the 3 year you are very near and with peaches it looks like the 4th year. Apricots takes the longest according to my experience and will only start to produce good yields in the 5th an 6th year.  Luckily I planted a lot of grapes recently. 
We are busy cleaning the farm up.  Especially the weeds that took over while we harvested must be controled as we are also in the phase of after harvest fertilizing.  This means that we reward the plants that did produce with nitrogen(N) and potasium (K).  This is given according to the yields of every block.  Usually a rule of thumb is about 2kg for each tonne fruit delivered from the block.  You must also take into account the growth pattern (vigorous or normal or bad) and the fruit type (apricots / peach / plum / grapes). 
We are lucky that because of the investment in the infrastructure we now fertigate (irrigate with fertilizer).  This means better introduction of the fertilizer and hopefully better delivery to the plant.  We also give it in two parts so that better absorbtion takes place.  If you do it at home you must leave a week or two weeks in between the different parts as the plant will otherwise think the overflow of N and K is normal and then it doesn't absorb as much. 
We will be irrigating until the second week into May and then stop.  The plants roots because of the colder weather will grow slower and leaves will be lost and thus the plants doesn't need that much water anymore.  A good irrigation will probably take place in the end of June - beginning July to get water in the rootzone before the first root growth of the summer. 

Well I will be back ....sooner

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Death of Monster

As most of you that might be traveling past Calitzdorp know, the apricots is a bit late this year.  About nearly 6 to 8 days.  Which is surpising is the earlier cultivars was on time.  The waite won't go without any benefit.  The sizes looks promising.  I would guess they would be about 20% larger than usual.  Not a bumper of a harvest but with bigger sizes it certainly will make up for the less fruit.  Quality also very  good and it seems to have a lot of substance.  I did fertilize with a lot of potasium which enhance size and quality but the rest of the Calitzdorp farmers observe the same - so maybe just a 2011 thing. 

This week a Rhodesian Ridgeback called Monster passed away.  Every body knew the late Monster.  Especially us that visited 'The naked Lady' for a breakfast or just a drink.  Now Monster was to put it mildly a straying dog.  Had probably as many masters as meals.  Well known in town where he went to visit everyone and the neighbour.  Hope you have enough space up there Monster.

The weather in Calitzdorp is also playing games with really cool nights and very mild days.  Seems like spring is going to continue forever.  In combination with the extreme dry conditions with not a lot of rain coming down we really have excellent fruiting weather.  The fruit all seems healthy and the vineyards are all in excellent condition.  The yields of the apricots look average while the plums are at a alltime low.  Only 3 tonnes a hectare.  Not at all viable.  The vineyards looks excellent with a good harvest hanging.  If the weather plays with this might end up being a great season. 

As most of you heard the Port Festival is happening this next year.  I think most of us is very excited about this new developement.  The Festival has really made a turn for the good with more emphasis on lifestyle.  This is really a story about less is more.  

Well I have to leave to go and have a look at those apricots ripening.