Stone fruit season just a few days away
STONE FRUIT may only be picked for a two months but farmer Graham Finlay knows a whole year of work goes into creating the perfect peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots.
Workers will start picking an early white flesh peach in the next couple of days followed by nectarines, yellow peaches and finishing up with plums just before Christmas.
Mr Finlay said the fruit was setting in well at his Pikes Creek farm and it looked to be a good crop, especially compared to last year.
"Last year we had a bit of frost in this orchard that took out a hectare of our early nectarines and some of our early plums.”
The 30-year-old orchard 50km out of town started with just one and a half hectares of land and one variety of nectarine and one variety of plum.
The farm now has 18,000 trees growing over 20ha of land and producing at least 2 million pieces of fruit a year.
When it comes to deciding what to grow, Mr Finlay said the market made that choice.
"The fruit breeders are constantly chasing new and better varieties as well,” he said.
"We try and keep up to speed, so if it looks like there's a new variety coming in our time slot that's better than what we've got we'll look at those seriously.”
Like most farmers in the region, water is a premium issue at the orchard.
"If you had an endless water supply you'd probably say 'I'll just irrigate everything' because you'd know exactly how much to give it. But this year when the water supplies are limited, you'd like to think you can get a bit of help from upstairs with a bit of rain.”
Mr Finlay believed a lot of people didn't realise growing stonefruit was a year round process.
"It starts as soon as we finish picking the fruit.
"There's the fertiliser program for the whole new season. The trees you have to look after all through the summer. You thin maybe 80 percent of the fruit off the tree so you end up with a number that's ideal for the trees so they get good size and a good amount of flesh.
"If you leave too many... the fruit size is small and you end up with a big stone and it usually doesn't taste as good either.”