My name is Shaked, and this is the opening post for our forest garden/ nursery Koanga blog.
Now, if you ask yourself Sha…. what? -as many kiwis do, Sha-ked is how its pronounced, and since I’m originally from Israel, Shaked in Hebrew means Almond tree.
I was born on a special day in Israel, which, in direct translation means the holiday for the trees. The almond is the first tree to blossom in Israel at this time of the year, and so…. I was born a tree.
I arrived at Koanga a year-and-a-half-ago, have done my Permaculture Design Coure here, a bio-intensive gardening internship, and have started to work for the institute. Now I manage our organic heritage fruit tree nursery and our developing forest garden.
And so, I am so excited to be doing this work and research, to learn and to teach, and now, I am more than happy to share this also on our forest garden blog.
So, in order to share what’s going on here, I would like to start with what we are actually trying to achieve.
The Koanga Institute, and mostly Kay Baxter, has collected around 200 different heritage varieties of apples, pears, stone fruit, olives, berries, figs, grapes, and more over the last 30-years. Most of these have been planted here, at the developing Kotare village, outside of Wairoa, in Northern Hawke’s Bay, which is where Koanga Institute moved to three-years-ago.
As the collection needed to be planted in order to be kept alive, this is the first stage at which our forest garden started with. Yet there are more trees from the collection to be planted here, and obviously more to be collected, (we are just starting to get familiarized with our new bio-region, and develop a collection based on the Hawke’s Bay climate, soil and history)
So, what are we actually aiming for?
Well, if I needed to put it in one sentence it would be:
“A local, regenerative, resilient system, that provides us with highly nutritious food and other basic human needs, while being efficient and easily manageable.”
…while of course, taking care of our collection, making it more resilient and less demanding, and making the trees available to everyone.
Where are we now?
Well, most of our heavy feeders are already planted, some are fruiting, and more will fruit in the next few seasons.
And now, we are slowly building the rest of the forest layers.
In some of the blocks we have already started establishing the lower trees. As quite a bit of our land has good drainage down to a silt pan 0.5-1.5 m under the top soil and pumice, we needed to find many varieties that could handle wet feet.
We have planted some tagasaste, siberian pea tree, tree medic, acacia, casuarina, maakia, alder, and more varieties of mainly nitrogen-fixing, poultry-feed trees, that will do well in our climate and drainage/ soil type.
In a couple of weeks we are conducting a forest garden design workshop. This will take everything we’ve learned throughout our experience here as well as Kay’s 30+ years of experience. The workshop is aimed to share these experiences so more people understand and start to implement their own forest gardens.
My other main focus these days is our nursery.
There we grow from seed or cuttings our support trees for the forest garden, mainly propagating from the organic heritage fruit tree collection, making those available for anyone who wishes to be fed with these amazing heritage cultivars of fruit.
Last month we invited Murray Jones, an experienced nursery man, to share with me a budding lesson. This was great, watching and experiencing a new (for me) technique for propagation.
We walked through the forest garden, collected scionwood from the trees to be propagated for the next season, and budded them on rootstocks we propagated last season.
This allows us to do most of the propagation now, it’s faster and easier, giving us another opportunity to graft later on whatever didnt take.
These budded trees will be on the 2015 Koanga tree catalogue, while the 2014 catalogue has just been published a month ago. It is filled with flavours, ideas and stories.
It’s a bit awkward, as most of these trees I am propagating I have never tasted yet, and Kay is my guide for all the “which and how”. Although, the last season was a great start for my heritage fruit tasting. I was waiting for it, and it hasn’t disappointed -even though the peaches were the only ones mature enough to produce fruit yet.
It started with Mary’s christmas, Mammie ross, Christina, Four winds, Batley, Green’s special, Mrs. Robinsons, Massie eliot, and Waiatea. Wow!! What an awesome variety of timing and flavours, from white flesh to yellow and dark orange, sweet and buttery. Definitely the best peaches I’ve ever tasted.
I really love my duty here!
If your trees are producing more than you can eat in one go, try Kay’s peach crumble recipe.