How to Prune Grape Vines – Cane and Spur Pruning Explained

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Grapes fruit on new season’s shoots which arise from one-year-old canes. Once these canes have produced their fruit for the season, they will not produce again. To keep grapes productive, they need to be pruned to renew the young canes which will produce in the following year.

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Getting Started, Planting New Vines, Creating the Framework

Grapes are vigorous climbing vines, so they need a structure or support of some kind to grow over, such as a trellis, arbour or pergola. It’s important to ensure that such a structure is in place first before planting a grapevine in the ground.

Plant new grapevines in winter when they’re dormant, or in early spring, to give them enough time to establish their roots before the hot summer weather sets in.

 

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First Winter – Planting

  1. Plant the grapevine, and allow it to grow for a year to gain some height, without pruning it at all. Having as many canes and leaves as possible will allow the vine to gather the maximum amount of energy through photosynthesis to put on good strong growth.
  2. Select a long, strong-growing cane and tie this vertically to a support, to create the trunk of the vine.

 

Second Winter – Pruning

After the grapevine has gained sufficient height, it needs to be pruned to the required shape to develop a framework – a trunk and lateral (side) branches suitable for bearing a crop.

  1. If the main cane tied to the vertical support has reached the desired height, such as the wires of a trellis, or the top of a pergola, prune it back above bud. The buds below the pruning cut will shoot to form side-branches (laterals).
  2. Prune out any other canes, leaving only the the main vertical cane.

 

After this initial formative pruning in the first year, the way the grapevine will need to be pruned from this point onwards will depend on whether it needs to be cane-pruned or spur-pruned.

 

Cane and Spur Pruning – How to Prune Different Grape Varieties

There two main methods used for pruning grapevines are cane pruning and spur pruning.

Which method should you use?

It depends on the grape variety, some grapes are cane pruned, others are spur pruned, and a few can be pruned using either method.

Spur-pruned grape varieties are more vigorous growers which produce fruit on new growth coming from buds close to the base of one-year canes, near the main stem.

Spur pruned grapes include varieties such as Autumn Royal, Black Muscat, Blush Seedless, Cardinal, Centennial Seedless, Christmas Rose, Dawn Seedless, Early Muscat, Flame Seedless, Italia, Marroo Seedless, Muscat Hamburg, New York Muscat, Perlette, Purple Cornichon, Queen, Ribier, Waltham Cross.

Cane-pruned grape varieties are less vigorous and produce fruit on new growth coming from buds towards the end of one-year canes.

Cane-pruned grapes include varieties such as Black Corinth, Calmeria, Carina Currant, Crimson Seedless, Emperor, Fantasy Seedless, Glenora, Himrod, Menindee Seedless, Muscat Gordo, Ohanez, Red Globe, Ruby Seedless, Sultana, Thompson Seedless

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How to Spur Prune Grapes

The grapevine is planted In the first winter and allowed to grow for a year, then pruned in the second winter, as described in the previous section ‘Getting Started, Planting New Vines, Creating the Framework’.

 

Second Winter – Spur Pruning

The first step to developing the T-shaped spur-pruning framework is to allow the main vertical cane to grow to the desired height, and then prune it back above a bud.

Make the cut 1-2cm above the bud to prevent the bud drying out. The buds below the pruning cut will shoot during the growing season to produce new canes.

 

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Third Winter – Spur Pruning

To form the T-shaped framework:

  1. Select two canes near the top of the vine as permanent lateral arms (laterals), one on either side of the trunk.
  2. Tie back the two laterals to the horizontal wires of a trellis, or the top of the frame of an arbour or pergola.
  3. Cut the canes to length to fit the trellis or support structure.

When the lateral canes are trained horizontally, they’ll produce fruiting canes from the buds along their length.

 

Fourth Winter – Spur Pruning

Once the laterals have produced their first fruiting canes, they need to be pruned in winter, when the vine is dormant, to create evenly spaced two-bud spurs.

  1. Select healthy canes, evenly spaced at approximately 15-20cm apart to form the new spurs. Prune these canes back to two buds from the base (not including the bud at the base). Select upward facing buds if possible as this is more preferable. Make the pruning cuts 1-2cm above the bud to prevent the buds drying out.
  2. Prune off all other growth from the main laterals.

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Fifth Year and Onwards – Spur Pruning

After the fifth year, and every year after that, spur pruning is carried out following this two-step rule:

  1. Prune the previous year’s two-bud spurs in half, removing the top half of the spur with the new growth coming from it.
  2. Prune the new growth coming from the spur’s remaining lower shoot down to two buds, creating a new two-bud spur which will produce the new fruiting canes in the following year.

 

Illustrated below is the process of reducing the previous year’s two-bud spurs to single shoots, and pruning the remaining new growth to form replacement two-bud spurs. Once you can see the pattern, this system of pruning becomes quite easy to perform.

 

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Identifying the Age of Vine Canes

When spur-pruning, how do you know which canes are year-old canes and which ones are new growth?

The newer fruiting canes that are to be pruned back to two-bud spurs are easy to identify, they are smooth and reddish-bronze in colour, whereas the older canes tends to be greyish in colour and rougher in texture.

 

How to Cane Prune Grapes

The grapevine is planted In the first winter and allowed to grow for a year, then pruned in the second winter, as described in the previous section ‘Getting Started, Planting New Vines, Creating the Framework’.

 

Second Winter – Cane Pruning

The first step to developing the permanent trunk framework for the cane-pruning system is to allow the main vertical cane to grow to the desired height, and then prune it back above a bud. Make the cut 1-2cm above the bud to prevent the bud drying out. The buds below the pruning cut will shoot during the growing season to produce new canes.

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Third Winter – Cane Pruning

In the cane pruning system, a permanent trunk is established, but the lateral canes are renewed every year. New canes are selected from the head of the vine, at the top of the trunk near the trellis wires.

To establish the first set of lateral canes:

  1. Select one or two canes on either side of the trunk, prune them each to 8-12 buds long (up to 16 for some varieties), and tie them to the horizontal trellis wires for support. Ideally the canes should be growing out from a point as close as possible to the vine trunk, and be as thick as a little finger, with the buds fairly close together.
  2. Select one spur canes on either side of the trunk and prune back to a two-bud spur. These renewal spurs provide additional canes to select from in the following year.
  3. Prune off all other growth.

The fruiting canes will grow from the buds along the length of these temporary lateral canes.

 

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The pruning process is repeated the next year, come winter. Two canes are selected on each side of the trunk, pruned to length (8-12 buds), and trained along the horizontal trellis wires, one cane from each side is cut back to two buds to serve as renewal spurs.

 

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After the third year, cane pruning is carried out following this three-step rule:

  1. Prune the previous year’s two-bud spurs in half, removing the top of the spur and the new growth coming from it, leaving a single long fruiting cane growing from each spur.
  2. Prune the new growth coming from the spur’s remaining lower bud down to either 8-12 buds to create a fruiting cane which will bear fruit, or to 2 buds to create a new two-bud spur which will produce the new fruiting canes in the following year.
  3. Prune two of the previous year’s long fruiting canes into short two-bud spurs (only need two of these, one on either side of trunk)

This process is repeated each and every year

Illustrated below is the process of pruning canes, creating new two-bud spurs and pruning the remaining new growth to form replacement laterals. Once again, there is a repeating pattern which makes it easier to understand, but cane pruning is a bit more complicated than spur pruning.

 

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Continuing into the sixth year, the pruning remains the same. To repeat what was explained earlier, new growth is either cut back to a length of 8-12 buds to create a fruiting cane, or 2 buds to create a 2-bud renewal spur which will produce extra canes to choose from in the following year.

Why extra canes? Sometimes the main canes which are produced are weak or buds are too far apart, making them too long, in which case the renewal spurs will have an extra 4 canes to choose from.

Once again, the old two-bud spurs have the top growth cut off, and once 4 canes and 2 renewal spurs have been selected, all other growth is pruned away.

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Additional Notes

Some cane-pruned grape varieties require canes to be pruned to a length of more than 8-12 buds per cane.

  • Crimson seedless requires 15 buds per cane
  • Thompson seedless (Sultana) requires 14 buds per cane

 

Earlier it was mentioned that some grape varieties can be either cane or spur pruned, both techniques can be used.

Grapes which can be both cane or spur pruned include:

  • Flame Seedless
  • Suffolk Red
  • Saturn
  • Buffalo

Concord grapes can be cane pruned or spur pruned to longer spurs of at least 6 buds.

 

 

 

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Gardening Calendar (Australian Temperate Climate) – August

It’s August, the weather is still cold and windy, but the end of winter is draws near, the days begin to grow noticeably longer and the change of season is not too far away.

This month is the last chance to complete the pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs, and for planting raspberries and brambleberries (such as blackberries and their hybrids).

It’s now time to sow the first summer vegetable seeds. Where there’s a danger of frost, sow seeds in trays and place them in a protected area such as a veranda, greenhouse, or indoors near a sunny window.

Towards the end of August, feed fruit trees with organic fertiliser, manure and compost. Also dig these into the soil when preparing new garden beds. The soil life will begin working on the organic plant food and will begin to slowly release its nutrients into the soil after a week or two, ready for the beginning of new spring growth in September. If fruit trees need a feed of potash, late autumn is also the time to do that too.

 

Things to Do This Month:

  • Continue planting deciduous trees, shrubs, vines and cane fruits (and roses!). Wait till spring for planting citrus.
  • Continue pruning deciduous fruit trees (not apricots, best to prune these in late autumn).
  • Continue pruning deciduous shrubs (and roses too if you didn’t prune them in July).
  • Prune dead seed-heads, stems and branches on herbaceous perennial plants.
  • Relocate any deciduous plants (trees, shrubs, vines) or herbaceous perennial plants growing in the wrong place in winter. (Evergreens can only be moved in autumn and early spring, where they have time to regrow roots – remember, they retain leaves in winter which transpire and lose water!).
  • Apply organic fertiliser to fruit trees, so that the slowly released nutrients will become available when the new growth commences in spring.
  • Spray peaches and nectarines to protect against leaf curl fungus. Use lime sulphur or a copper fungicide at the bud swell stage (just before the buds begin to open) but before pink bud stage or colour shows. It is too late to spray once flowering occurs.
  • Feed pot grown shrubs and plants and refresh their potting mix by scraping off the top 2.5cm and replace it with fresh potting mix which has been mixed with slow release fertiliser. Top dressing with compost is also beneficial.

 

Vegetables and Herbs to Sow:

Sow in August Harvest (weeks)
Asparagus* d 2-3 years
Beetroot ds 7-10
Cabbage ds 8-15
Cape Gooseberry ds 14-16
Capsicum s 10-12
Chilli s 9-11
Eggplant s 12-15
Globe Artichokes s 42-57
Kohlrabi d 7-10
Leeks ds 15-18
Lettuce ds 8-12
Mint s 8-12
Mustard Greens d 5-8
Onion ds 25-34
Parsnip d 17-20
Peas d 9-11
Potato d 15-20
Radish d 5-7
Rocket d 21-35 days
Shallot bulbs d 12-15
Snow Peas d 12-14
Spring Onions d 8-12
Strawberries (seed) s 12 months
Sunflower ds 10-11
Thyme s 42-52
Tomato* ds 8-17
Watermelon* ds 9-14

Key:
d = sow directly into ground
s = sow in seed tray
ds = sow directly into ground or seed tray
*= frost tender
**= sow after frost

Download printable PDF version of Gardening Calendar (Australian Temperate Climate) – August

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Product Review – UrbiPod, Indoor Kitchen Food Growing Made Easy

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The idea of growing food in the kitchen all year round may seem incredible, but it’s super easy with an innovative new Australian product, the UrbiPod. I was fortunate enough to be able to test this product over a four month period, with spectacular results!

 

What is the UrbiPod?

From the product description in my previous product preview:

The UrbiPod, by Australian company Urbotanica, is an innovative appliance that makes clever use of the principles of physics to help even brown thumbs easily grow plants indoors – all year round right there in your kitchen. Designed and manufactured in Australia the UrbiPod:

  • Takes the guesswork out of growing so you can be successful
  • Comes with all you need to start growing – no need to purchase anything else
  • Is equipped with a self-watering irrigation system that uses capillary or wicking action instead of pumps to draw up water from the reservoir, keeping your plants watered without supervision for two to four weeks at a time
  • Provides automatic delivery of the all-natural liquid mineral nutrient
  • Each growing Pod has its own water reservoir, allowing plants to survive outside the UrbiPod for up to three days – thus enabling extra Pods and more growing options
  • Beautifully designed to sit amongst modern kitchen appliances
  • Is highly energy efficient via its state of the art LED lighting
  • Super easy to set up and operate
  • Manufactured in Australia and gives back to the community by partnering with disability services provider Activ Foundation for product assembly

The newest model enables the customer to grow a wide variety of herbs, salads, edible flowers, microgreens, mini chillies and superfoods like wheatgrass. Kitchen and Bathrooms Quarterly featured the UrbiPod as one of the must have kitchen gadgets for 2019.

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Which UrbiPod to Buy?

The UrbiPod comes in two configurations, the UrbiPod Garden, which includes its own LED growing light, and the UrbiPod Lite model without the growing light or power adapter, for around half the price.

Why purchase the UrbiPod Lite without the growing light? If you have indoor areas with lots of bright natural sunlight all year round, or already own hydroponic indoor growing lights, then the UrbiPod Lite may be a good choice.

In this review, I tested the UrbiPod Garden system, which comes complete with its own growing light.

 

UrbiPod Unboxing

The UrbiPod combined with its starter kit is a complete growing system straight of of the box, a comprehensive package which contains everything needed to grow fresh herbs and salads in the kitchen all year round, there’s nothing else to buy.

What’s in the box?

  • The UrbiPod unit
  • The light halo with LED lighting
  • An AC power adapter to power the lights
  • 4 growing pods with their wicking system components

The included starter kit contains:

  • 5 coir grow discs
  • A 250ml bottle of liquid mineral nutrient
  • 5 packs of seasonal seeds

Pictured below is what’s in the box, minus the packaging. There’s an almost completely assembled UrbiPod unit with LED lighting attached, and a starter kit in its own zip-up storage bag.

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Straight out of the box, the UrbiPod unit, nearly completely assembled, with starter kit in zip-up bag

 

For gardeners who love their facts and figures, I’ve detailed the UrbiPod technical specifications below. The whole unit is fairly efficient in terms of space, the footprint is slightly less then 30cmx 30cm so it doesn’t take up much kitchen space, and being under 40cm high can easily fit on any kitchen bench space below overhead cupboards.

 

Technical specifications

  • Dimensions of UrbiPod: 39.5 cm (height) x 28.8 cm (width) x 28.8 cm (depth)
  • Dimensions of Growing Pod: 15.6 cm x 10.2 cm
  • Capacity of Water Reservoir: 1 litre
  • Capacity of Water Tower: 1 litre
  • Water capacity of each Growing Pod: 100ml
  • Total Water Capacity (with 4 Pods): 2.4 litres
  • Lighting: commercial grade LED grow lights

 

Removing all the accessories, we see that the UrbiPod base comes with the LED growing light halo already attached.

The LED growing light halo slides up and down the main column, allowing the lights to be near the plants to supply the maximum light intensity. As the plants grow, the light can be raised upwards maintaining maximum illumination and plant growth. What a great idea!

The base contains the wick watering system which supplies water and nutrients to the pots. The central column houses the removable water reservoir bottle. Both the base and the water reservoir hold a litre of water each.

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UrbiPod base with height-adjustable LED growing light halo pre-assembled, straight out of the box

 

Included with the kit are 4 growing pods which require basic assembly, and 5 coir grow discs which serve as the growing medium.

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UrbiPod Accessories and starter kit

 

The starter kit comes in a well-made zip-up storage bag and contains a 250ml bottle of the nutrient liquid, and five packets of seeds – mine came with one packet of Parsley, Basil,and  Rocket seeds as well as two packets of Salad Cress seeds.

The storage bag is big enough to store all the bits and pieces that you may use with the UrbiPod, it’s very handy for keeping everything in one place in a clearly labelled bag that can be securely closed. I find it’s convenient to keep the starter kit storage bag in the kitchen cabinet below the UrbiPod so everything I need is close at hand when I need it.

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Starter kit bag with nutrient and seeds

 

The UrbiPod Garden kit comes with four growing pods, these are the pots in which the plants grow in, and they’re very innovative in their design.

When seated in the UrbiPod base, the growing pods draw water through a wicking system, so the system does the watering automatically, and each pod draws as much water as the plant needs.

When not attached to the UrbiPod base, each growing pods can act like a small-self watering pot with its own water reservoir, and when full of water can supply the plant for 2-3 days.

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Assembled growing pods with round wicking discs and coir growing medium

 

With the UrbiPod you’re not restricted to only using four growing pods, you can use more if you like, and swap them into and out of the base.

It’s easy to run eight pods at once, with four in the UrbiPod base and four outside of the base, sitting around the edges to receive light. The pods can be changed over each day, one day in, one day out, so that all pods receive optimum levels of water, light and nutrients. Extra pods are available and can be ordered online from Urbotanica.

 

Assembling and Setting Up the UrbiPod System

The UrbiPod is described as being super easy to set up and operate, and that’s totally accurate as it comes almost completely assembled straight out of the box, there’s not much to set up.

Getting started is a simple five step process, it’s very quick and easy:

  1. Assemble the wicking system in each of the four growing pods (takes about four minutes in total).
  2. Add growing medium – place the coir grow discs into the growing pods, then water to expand the coir.
  3. Fill the water reservoir bottle with water and add some nutrient liquid.
  4. Plant seeds
  5. Plug in UrbiPod base power connector to the lights, then plug the power adapter into a wall point and set height of lights.

That’s all there is to it! The whole process from unboxing to having a fully planted up UrbiPod system on the kitchen bench takes approximately 30 minutes.

All assembly steps are detailed very clearly in the two page instructions sheet which is included with the UrbiPod. The instructions are very well written and easy to follow.

Below are pictures of the instructions, showing the clear layout and excellent illustrations. The full instruction manual can be downloaded from the Urbotanica web site under the Support section or their current download link (at the time of writing).

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The next section covers the five assembly steps in detail, after which we’ll go into the testing of the UrbiPod.

 

Step 1 – Assembling the Growing Pods

Assembling the pods takes a few seconds, and is extremely easy. The short wick already comes inserted into the false floor, it just needs to be pushed in so as to leave 1-2 mm above the top of the false floor.

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False floor, bottom-side up, with wick inserted

 

The false floor is then placed in pod, with wick protruding 1-2 mm above the top of the false floor.

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Pod with false floor inserted and wick barely protruding above surface

 

A round wicking disc is placed on top of the protruding short disk. It sits in the identically sized circular raised lip on the false floor, with the writing (label) side of the wicking disc placed face up. The round wicking disc will not sit flat, but this is normal, it just has to touch the protruding wick for the wicking system to work correctly.

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Round wicking discs connect the wicking system of the UrbiPod base to the growing pods

 

Step 2 – Adding the Growing Medium

A packet of five coir grow discs is supplied in the kit, these are made from compressed coconut coir and are used as the growing medium in the UrbiPod system. Using coir is much cleaner, tidier and more hygienic than using potting mix because there’s no decomposing organic matter on the kitchen bench.

The coir discs are placed into the growing pods, with the two indentations facing up, then 400ml of water is poured slowly and evenly into the indent holes to expand the coir to fill the pod.

What happens if you pour the water onto the middle of the coir grow disc or pour it too quickly? The water simply comes out of the wicking hole at the bottom of the growing pod and onto your kitchen bench, as I found out from experience. Best to follow the instructions!

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Coir grow discs, which are made of coconut coir, serve as a good, moisture-retentive growing medium

 

Step 3 – Filling Water Reservoir with Water and Nutrients

The main column houses the water reservoir refill bottle. The design is brilliant, when the water runs out,the bottle lifts up and a inverted triangular window becomes visible, indicating that it’s time to refill the bottle.

When the water tower and reservoir is full, the water in the UrbiPod can last 2-4 weeks depending on the size of the plants and the temperature. I’ve found that with large plants and ducted heating running continuously in winter, which tends to dry the air out, the water lasts about 2-3 weeks.

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Refill indicator, when the triangle is visible, it’s time to refill with water! Soft purple background? No, it’s white, that’s the colour of the LED grow lights!

 

The water bottle is removable, and the cap unscrew for filling. In the UrbiPod system, nutrient liquid  is added to the water so the wicking system both waters and feeds the plants at the same time.

To refill the water bottle, first add 5ml (one capful) of the nutrient liquid into the bottle, then fill with water to the ‘full’ mark shown on the level indicator.

The amount of effort that’s gone into the design is evident by the thoughtful inclusion of features such as the clear strip window along the side of the bottle to make it easy to tell where the water level is at a glance!

 

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Water refill bottle with clear window along the side showing water level.

 

Step 4 – Plant Seeds

With all four growing pods setup up, topped up with coir growing medium, and the water reservoir bottle filled, the next step is to plant the seeds.

To plant the seeds:

  • Gently rough up the moist coir with a finger or fork.
  • Add the seeds to each growing pod, following the instructions on the seed pack.
  • Lightly cover the seeds with coir

I just use a plastic fork and keep it in the starter kit bag for when I need to replant seeds.

After the planting is done, all that’s left to do is plug the power connector on the base into the light halo.

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The power connector on the UrbiPod base supplies power tho the LED growing lights.

 

Step 5 – Plugging in the Power

Two power connections need to be made, one to the LED lights and the other to power in the wall.

To connect power into the LED lights, push the round power connector from the base into the matching power socket on the underside of the light halo.

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Connecting power to the lights.

 

Make sure the power connector is plugged in all the way into the socket on the light halo as shown below.

When the power adapter is plugged into the power point on the wall, the lights will turn on and run automatically for 16 hours, the switch off for 8 hours.

If you power on the UrbiPod for the first time at 6am, the lights will turn off at 10pm, them turn back on automatically at 6am and repeat that cycle. No need to set a timer, the UrbiPod does it all for you. A 6am start and 10pm finish is the suggested time interval as the lights turn off around bedtime, and switch on around sunrise.

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Power plugged in to the lights

 

Here the UrbiPod is fully set up and ready to be plugged into the power in the wall, the white power adapter can be seen in the background on the right. Plug the power adapter into a wall power point and switch it on, and the lights will switch on automatically.

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All set up and ready to grow!

 

Once the system is set up, there’s not much to do apart from refilling the water bottle every few weeks and harvesting the plants for use in the kitchen. What could be easier than that!

 

Testing the UrbiPod

When my UrbiPod arrived in the mail, I set it up that same evening, but I didn’t want to rush the testing, as I wanted to put it through its paces and see first-hand how well the UrbiPod would perform when tested with a range of edible plants over an extended period of time.

Please note that the unit tested in this product review was a demonstration unit which was used previously, so some of its parts may not look brand spanking new in my photographs!

 

The UrbiPod is intended to be used with seeds, which are planted into the growing pods. The light halo is designed to slide up and down so it can be lowered close to the seeds when they first emerge, providing the maximum intensity of light for the fastest growth, then raised upwards as the seedlings grow progressively taller to accommodate their height.

In my testing, I used the supplied Cress seeds in the UrbiPod, but being naturally curious, also I took the liberty to try the UrbiPod system with seedling plants too! This clearly is deviating from the manufacturer’s specification to be fair, but would it work? Why not try? To this end, also tested the UrbiPod with Chive, Zimbabwe Birdseye Chilli and Thai Basil seedlings.

 

How to Use the UrbiPod with Seedlings

Disclaimer: The supplied instructions only explain how to use the UrbiPod with seeds, the use of seedlings is not part of the manufacturer’s specification, so any problems with growing seedlings that users may encounter are not a reflection on how well the product works, or a problem with the product. I am a professional horticulturist and my success with seedlings in the UrbiPod system is not a guarantee that everyone else will achieve the same results, this is purely experimentation on my behalf to see how well the system works when used out of defined specifications.

Experimentation has its risks and rewards. The instructions only explain how to use the UrbiPod system seeds, that’s what it’s designed to do, so I had to figure out how to use the UrbiPod with seedlings. I worked out how to transplant seedlings into the UrbiPod, and here’s how to do it.

  1. Purchase or grow the seedlings required.
  2. Remove seedlings from their pots or punnets, and very gently shake of as much potting mix as possible off from their roots into a bucket to avoid making a mess. If the roots of multiple seedling plants are entangled, gently pull them apart, trying to keep root damage to an absolute minimum.
  3. Remove two-thirds of the coir from the growing pod and place in it a clean container.
  4. Carefully lay the seedling roots across the layer of coir at the bottom of the growing pod.
  5. Refill the growing pod with the coir, while holding the seedlings upright, and gently level the coir, lightly tapping it with a finger.

 

Here is the test UrbiPod, planted up with chives, chilli and Thai basil seedlings, cress seeds in the fourth growing pod, an instant kitchen garden!

The LED growing lights provide pleasant background lighting during the day which is barely noticeable.

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Fully planted up UrbiPod, with seedlings in three growing pods and seeds planted in the fourth.

 

At night, the LED growing lights appear much brighter, showing a gentle, soft purple hue, which looks rather nice and calming, the light is not obtrusive or harsh in any way.

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UrbiPod at night, with the characteristic soft violet coloured light of high-end commercial LED growing lights.

 

UrbiPod Test Results – How Well Did Plants Grow?

I’ll get straight to the point, I was blown away by the performance of the UrbiPod system. As a horticulturist, I was completely surprised with how well plants grew! I honestly didn’t believe the results I achieved.

Let me preface this by stating that I created the hardest test imaginable for the UrbiPod – by running the four month test from late autumn through to mid-winter, growing plants out of season, using three plants that just don’t grow at all during this time of the year.

Chives grown out in the garden won’t grow at all during the coldest part of the year in temperate Melbourne, and both Thai basil and chillies normally perish in the winter cold, they simply don’t survive.

When I planted up the UrbiPod I didn’t know what to expect. The cress seeds sprouted within three days and grew strongly, much like the instructions state in the Urbotanica website Support section- Herbs & Salads Info page suggested.

My experimental seedlings didn’t do much in the first week. The disturbance to their roots from repotting and sudden change in growing environment meant they needed to to re-establish themselves and settle in. Soon after that, I started seeing lots of new growth, and what the UrbiPod system was really capable of.

The Zimbabwe Birdseye chilli grew upwards towards the LED grow lights into a beautiful elegant form, resembling a well-manicured small bonsai tree. The chillies that were growing on the plant matured and were harvested and dried. These chillies are only about 1-1.5cm long, but are as hot as Habanero chillies, so a little goes a long way in a dish!

Urbipod-chilli-zimbabwe-birdseye
Bonsai tree? No, its a Zimbabwe Birdseye chilli growing in an UrbiPod, in the kitchen!

 

The Thai basil seedlings I used came out of a unheated greenhouse at work in late autumn and weren’t looking the best, but soon recovered, and even flowered up being replanted into the UrbiPod. After the flowers were cut, the plant put on lots of new growth. The trick with growing basil indoors is to continuously harvest to promote new growth. I kept one flower on the plant to produce seed, and planted the seeds into the growing pod to produce more plants.

With all aromatic herbs, if they don’t receive enough light, they won’t produce high levels of aromatic oils, and will therefore be low in scent and flavour.

I found that the Thai basil in the UrbiPod released a noticeably powerful aroma when brushed against. Even a visiting tradesman who was admiring the UrbiPod system in the kitchen commented on the powerful and amazing scent after he unintentionally touched the Thai basil plant.

From this observation, it would be reasonable to conclude that the UrbiPod LED growing light provides plenty of light for aromatic herbs to develop their full flavour.

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Thai basil seedling growing nicely in the in the UrbiPod system.

 

The Urbotanica SupportFAQ section states that “The lights are commercial grade LED – what the experts use. They foster plant growth 3-5 times faster than natural sunlight.” Reading that amazing claim, I needed to witness it to believe it! Growing chives in the UrbiPod was all the proof I needed!

While experimenting with trying to film time-lapse photography of cress seeds sprouting in the UrbiPod over a week, I noticed in the footage that the chives were growing super quickly. This observation was made mid-winter where outdoor temperatures were so low that the chives in the garden weren’t growing at all.

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Chives grow extremely well in the UrbiPod system, and literally grow back after being cut in less than a week in the middle of winter!

 

Growth rates became more evident after harvesting. It’s handy having fresh chives in the kitchen, you can harvest a supermarket-sized bunch from one growing pod, plenty for an omelette and more. The chives in this picture were cut quite low to harvest them…

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Fresh hives for omelettes, nothing compares to cooking with fresh ingredients.

 

Quite unexpectedly, within five days the chives grew back to their original size. This process was repeated four times at the time of writing and the chives were once again ready for harvest! The chives even started flowering, that’s a lot of growth during their usual dormant season.

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Chives regrown after five days, ready to be harvested again, these are really productive.

 

By harvesting and monitoring the regrowth, I discovered that the chives were able to grow out of season indoors in the UrbiPod faster than they would grow outside during their growing season! It appears that commercial-grade LED growing lights, which reproduce the various parts of the light spectrum needed by plants, really do speed up plant growth significantly.

Not to be outdone, after harvest the chilli plant put on its own impressive growth display, going into bloom with 40 new flowers counted, as well as lots of chillies in various stages of maturity, from green to red.

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Chilli plant flowering and fruiting prolifically in the middle of winter in the kitchen
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Some chillies still in the green stages…

 

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Other chillies almost ready to harvest.

 

This photograph was taken at the end of the testing period in late July, showing the prolific growth of the plants. To get an idea of how big the plants are , remember that the UrbiPod unit is close to 40cm tall.

The Thai basil has really taken off and ready for aggressive harvesting, the chives on the left are barely visible as they were harvested the day before the photograph was taken, they were needed in the kitchen!

The gentle purple light from the LED growing lights can be seen in the background against the white backdrop I placed behind the UrbiPod.

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Growing Seeds, It’s Easier Than You Think

How well do seeds grow? I had a bit of learning to do here as I mistakenly thought that the seeds might need extra moisture and misted them frequently using a spray bottle. True, I didn’t follow the instructions… Big mistake! The seeds sprouted, grew, but then collapsed, rotting off at the base. The cause is a fungal disease known as ‘damping off’ caused by excessive moisture when seedlings are kept to damp. No extra water is needed, just follow the instructions, the UrbiPod system does provide all the moisture needed to raise seeds.

Seeds definitely grow well, even out of season as I accidentally discovered when a Thai basil seed fell into the chilli growing pod and a new basil plant sprouted in a short time.The plant was removed and transplanted, I like keeping my plants organised and tidy! It’s interesting to note that basil seeds are normally sown in spring, while this seedling grew in winter. The UrbiPod really does extend the growing and harvesting season by creating a stable, controlled environment favourable to plant growth all year round.

As a general gardening tip, with seed raising, whether in an UrbiPod with coir or in indoor pots and punnets filled with potting mix, there are initially no plants to take up excess moisture from the growing medium until the seeds sprout and the seedlings emerge. Depending on the surrounding air temperature and humidity, the growing medium will lose moisture at different rates. In a cold room with not much air movement, the growing medium will stay damp longer.

What happens if you accidentally get your growing medium too wet like I did? I discovered how to fix that problem too!

If you’re finding that the growing medium is too moist for the seeds and they’re either not sprouting or do grow and then die off, simply reduce the water by lifting the growing pod out its slot in the base so it’s not taking up any more water from the wicking system, and sit it on the kitchen bench alongside the UrbiPod so it still gets light. Even better, you can sit the growing pod across the top the long slot that it sits higher up and closer to the LED lights.

Another solution is to let the coir dry out a little by placing the growing pods on a window sill for a day or two, and then plant the seeds, this worked for me. I replanted cress seeds after letting the coir I accidentally over-wet dry out a little, and kept the growing pods out of the wicking system slots until the seeds sprouted and the plants grew in size, and the salad cress grew without a problem.

Here’s a picture of the healthy looking vibrant green salad cress I grew. Cress grows incredibly quickly, it’s great if you want fast results!

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Salad cress growing with pod lifted up and rotated so it sits on top of the slot rather than inside it, disconnecting it from the water wicking system to reduce water supply if there’s too much water.

After the cress is harvested, I decided that I’ll like to replant the growing pod will with either parsley or coriander, as these plants are often used in the kitchen and would be handy to have growing.

The advantage of parsley is that it’s a biennial plant, so it will grow for two years, and can be constantly harvested over that period, before finally finishing up. By comparison, salad cress can only be harvested once, but it grows so fast that it can be harvested and replanted often. It’s really fun trying out various herbs and salad greens in the UrbiPod, and seeing how they grow.

 

The Final Verdict

After testing the UrbiPod Garden System for four months, I can confidently say that I am totally impressed with this innovative way to grow food in the kitchen. It’s quite revolutionary, I haven’t seen such complete turnkey growing solution like it ever before.The commercial LED grow lighting is super-effective, with plants growing much faster in the UrbiPod than they would under natural daylight.

Being able to grow edible plants indoors all year round in a system that’s fully automated is amazing, but being able to grow perennial subtropical plants such as chillies and Thai basil in winter, which don’t survive outside in cooler climates, is an even bigger bonus.

The UrbiPod is an Australian made product designed by an Australian owned company, and the build quality is excellent. The unit is built solidly like a high-grade kitchen appliance, and the modern styling and  design aesthetics are spot on, making the UrbiPod look right in place on any kitchen bench.

Beyond the performance and technical excellence, there’s something else quite special that I only realised after using the UrbiPod for a while. There’s something really beautiful about having a collection of lush, vibrant, healthy plants growing on the kitchen bench. These are in effect indoor plants, but are more interactive as they’re harvested for food preparation and eaten! Gardening indoors is such a different experience, it’s so wonderful to ‘see how the garden is going’ while getting breakfast ready each morning.

 

The UrbiPod can be purchased for the Urbotanica online store, or from a variety of retail store stockists around Australia. The online store also sells a wide range of accessories, extras and plant seeds too.

At the time of writing of this product review, the retail price of the UrbiPod Lite is $146.00 and the UrbiPod Garden is $229.00.

In my experience, the UrbiPod is the most easy-to-use and best-designed indoor food growing system I’ve ever seen, nothing else comes close. This is a wonderful system that belongs in every kitchen, bridging the gap between gardening and cooking, making gardening more accessible to a wider audience, and providing fresh ingredients for quality cooking. A truly amazing system, which I can definitely and wholeheartedly recommend!

Deep Green rating for the “UrbiPod Kitchen Garden System” is 5 stars!

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If you are interested in submitting a product for review, please contact us via email at deep_green@optusnet.com.au , thanks!

 

 

 

 

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How Far Do Large Tree Roots Extend?

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Arboriculture is the cultivation, management, and study of trees and shrubs, and arborists use several formulas for calculating how far tree roots extend in order to protect the health of trees when construction works and soil disturbance occurs nearby.

Knowing how far tree roots extend can be important for locating large shade trees so their roots don’t encroach into nearby garden beds and affect the growth of the plants there by taking up their water and nutrients.

It’s also important to be able to work out where tree roots can be cut into when installing root barriers, without killing the tree or causing it to fall over!

 

What is Root Spread

Calculating how far tree roots reach out is fairly straightforward.

Most tree roots spread 2-3 times the radius of the canopy, and often reach out 5 times the radius of the tree canopy or more in dry conditions.

So, for example, if a tree is 6m wide, the radius of the canopy is 3m.

The root spread = 2 (to 3) x canopy radius = 2 (to 3) x 3m = 6m (to 9m).

Therefore the roots will radiate out from the trunk to a distance of 6m to 9m, and up to 5 x 3m =15m!

So if you’re wondering why your newly planted trees aren’t growing, and the neighbour’s giant trees are within that root range, then there’s the answer. Large tree roots can extend considerable distances, taking up water and nutrients that young trees need to grow. Installing a root barrier along the fence line can give new trees a chance be reducing competition from large trees nearby.

tree-root-spread-calculation

You can use this formula to determine how far any nearby tree roots might reach before digging a hole to plant a new tree or selecting a location for a new garden bed.

 

What is the Tree Protection Zone (TPZ)

The Tree Protection Zone (TPZ) is an area defined by arborists as being off limits to any construction because of the location of roots that are critical to tree health.

The TPZ indicates the zone that should be protected from development on all sides if a tree is to be retained, and only on an arborist’s approval can construction encroach on this area, as root damage will lead to drought stress and possibility the death of the tree, and the effects of such damage may take several years to show in the crown of the tree.

 

TPZ-calculation-methods

There are three conventions for calculating the Tree Protection Zone (TPZ):

  1. TPZ = canopy drip line + 1m
    This is a less accurate method, where the edge of the tree canopy (known as the canopy drip line) is identified, and extended out one metre further to determine the boundary of the TPZ.
  2. TPZ = DBH x 12 , where DBH (Diameter at Breast Height) = trunk diameter measured at 1.4 m above ground
    This is a more commonly used method, where the radius of the TPZ is calculated for the tree by multiplying its trunk width (diameter) at breast height, 1.4m above the ground (DBH) and multiplying it by 12.
    Note, the radius is measured from the centre of the stem at ground level.
  3. TPZ = 1/2 x Height
    This method is only used for tall, narrow trees, the TPZ is defined as extending out to half the tree height.

 

Note: Section 3.2 of the Australian Standard AS4970–2009 (Protection of Trees on Development Sites) states that the TPZ of palms and other monocots, cycads and tree ferns (pachycauls) should not be less than1 m outside the crown projection (canopy drip line).

 

What is the Structural Root Zone (SRZ)

The Structural Root Zone (SRZ) is an area around the tree trunk which is essential for tree stability. Damage to the roots in this area will most likely cause the tree to become unstable in the ground, which means the tree can possibly fall over.

The TPZ, which is essential to tree health, is a larger area than the SRZ, which is important for tree stability.

If construction or digging will intrude significantly into the Tree Protection Zone (TPZ), the Structural Root Zone (SRZ) is calculated to ensure that the works will not cause the tree to become unstable and fall over.

calculating-tree-SRZ

Calculating the Structural Root Zone (SRZ) is a bit more complicated.

The DRC (Diameter Above Root Crown) is the width (diameter) of the tree trunk measured immediately above the root crown or root buttress.

The formula for the Structural Root Zone (SRZ) radius is as follows:

SRZ radius = (DRC x 50)^0.42 x 0.64

Where

  • DRC (Diameter Above Root Crown) = trunk diameter, in metres, measured above root crown
  • Radius is measured from the centre of the stem at ground level.

To calculate, multiply the DRC value by 50, then multiply the result by the power of 0.42 (which is not the same as simply multiplying it by 0.42), and then multiply the result by 0.64.

 

If using Microsoft Excel to calculate the formula, type it in as =(DRC*50)^0.42*0.64
(but type in the value of the width of the tree above the crown in place of the letters DRC in the formula)

For example, if the DRC is measures to be 0.6m, the formula in Microsoft Excel should be types as follows:

=(0.6*50)^0.42*0.64

This example will return a value of 2.67m if typed correctly.

 

Note: The SRZ for trees with trunk diameters (DRC) less than 0.15 m will be 1.5 m.

The SRZ formula is not used for palms, other monocots, cycads & tree ferns. Also, pachycauls – trees with thick, fat stems/trunks with few branches, such as Baobabs and Brachychitons technically do not conform to the definition of trees according to arborists, and therefore do not technically have a SRZ, though in the real world are trees and do have structural roots!

 

Installing Tree Root Barriers

Tree root barriers should be installed outside of the SRZ to maintain tree stability.

A simple formula for estimating the minimum distance that tree root barriers can be placed is as follows:

Minimum distance to root barrier = 3.5 x DBH

Where

  • Minimum distance is measured from the centre of the stem to the root barrier
  • DBH (Diameter at Breast Height) = trunk diameter measured at 1.4 m above ground when mature.

Note: The minimum distance should be 1.5m if the calculated figure is less than this.

 

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Know and Identify Your Chilli Species

Rocoto-Manzano-chilli

Chilli peppers (Capsicum species) are members of the Solanaceae (Nightshade) family, along with tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes. They are native to the warm climates of South America and Central America, and they’re perennial plants in tropical and subtropical climates, but are grown as warm season annual plants in the cooler temperate climates as they don’t tolerate the cold.

Chillies have become a very important spice worldwide due to their spicy hot flavour which is primarily produced by the chemical  compound capsaicin.

 

There are five major domesticated chilli species, each with their own identifying characteristics and unique properties:

  1. Capsicum annuum
  2. Capsicum baccatum
  3. Capsicum chinense
  4. Capsicum frutescens
  5. Capsicum pubescens

Let’s look at each in turn and see what’s special about each of these five chilli species!

 

Capsicum annuum

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Zimbabwe Bird’s Eye chilli flowering

The most widely grown chillies are from the Capsicum annuum species, such as the Jalapeno, Paprika, Cayenne and Serrano peppers. The sweet peppers, also know as bell peppers or sweet capsicums, which aren’t hot, are also part this group. They’re the most diverse in shape, colour and heat rating.

The species name annuum means ‘annual’ even though most chilli species are perennial in their native regions. As we mentioned, earlier in cooler climates they grow as annuals because cannot tolerate the cold.

The distinguishing feature of this species is that flowers are produced singly, not it groups or clusters, and the filaments which support the anthers are not purple. The corolla (flower petals) are milky white (but sometimes purple), the fruit flesh is usually firm (though it may be soft in certain varieties),and the seeds are straw-coloured.

In the picture of the Zimbabwe Bird’s Eye chilli flowers shown above for example, we see single flowers which have white filaments (the long parts coming from the centre of the flower with the little bumps on the ends). This plant is compact in form, only growing to 30cm, making it ideal to grow in a container indoors.

 

Capsicum chinense

The hottest chilli varieties, such as the Scotch Bonnet, Habanero and the infamous Bhut Jolokia ‘Ghost chilli’ (which the Indian government uses to make control crowd agents), are Capsicum chinense species.

Despite the botanical name, ‘chinense’, meaning ‘from China’, they’re not native to China at all, but native to Central America, the Caribbean Islands and the Yucatan region of Mexico. They were mistakenly named by an early botanist who thought they were from China, and the species name has stayed ever since.

Even though these chillies vary widely in heat level, flavour and size, what distinguishes these chillies in terms of taste is their intense spiciness combined with a fruity aroma. With this species the flowers appear in pairs or clusters (two or more flowers at each node), but occasionally flowers may be solitary, appearing singly. The corolla (flower petals) are greenish-white (sometimes milky white or purple), without any diffuse spots at base of each petal, the fruit flesh is firm and seeds are straw-coloured. The plants are compact, with multiple stems and an erect habit. Leave are pale to medium green, and usually large (up to 15cm long x 10cm wide) and ovate in shape. A distinguishing trait of the Capsicum chinense species is that the leaves are usually crinkled.ovate-leaf-shape

These plants are very productive, but need plenty of warmth to get started.

 

Capsicum frutescens

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Chenzo chilli, showing the characteristic clusters of flowers and conical ellipse shaped chilli pods of the Capsicum frutescens species

The Capsicum frutescens species includes varieties such as the Tabasco, Thai and Chenzo chillies. These chillies are esteemed for their dry, smoky flavour. The species is well known because of the Tabasco cultivar used to make Tabasco sauce.

The botanical species name ‘frutescens’ means bushy, shrubby, or twiggy. These plants are ideal for growing in containers, and perfect for growing indoors, as they are usually compact in form with with short stubby growth, and they flower heavily in clusters, making them very productive. Plants tend to need a long growing season.

This species is of the easiest to identify – the flowers and chilli pods are produced in groups or clusters, the pods are on the smaller side and are are usually a conical ellipse shape, with the stems growing fairly vertically and weeping down at the tips where the fruit is borne. without any diffuse spots at base of each petal, The corolla (flower petals) are greenish-white, without any diffuse spots at base of each petal, fruit flesh is usually soft, and the seeds are straw-coloured.

The picture of the Chenzo chilli above shows these characteristics.

 

Capsicum baccatum

The Capsicum baccatum species are the Peruvian chillies, and mainly consists of the South American Aji chilli varieties, such as Aji amarillo, Aji panca, Lemon Drop and Bishop’s Crown. This species are renowned for their characteristic smoky-fruity flavour that no other chilli species can reproduce. The heat range of the chilli pods can range from mild to very hot, but even at the hot end of the range, there is still a mild sweet fruity taste which imparts a unique flavour.

The botanical species name ‘baccatum’ means ‘berry-like’ , because the chilli pods are more berry-shaped than other chillies, their shape being smallish and squat, wider than they are long, averaging 2.5-5cm (1”-2”) long x 5-7.5cm (2”-3”) wide, producing colourful orange, yellow and red wrinkled pods when mature. The plants are generally tall growing with an open habit, growing around 1.2-1.5m (4’-5’) high and 1m (3’) wide).

This species is easily identified by its flowers, the corolla (flower petals) are white or greenish-white, with diffuse yellow or tan spots at base of the petals on either side of mid-vein, and the anthers are white but turn brownish-yellow with age. The fruit flesh is firm and seeds are straw-coloured.

flower-structure-diagram

Capsicum pubescens

The Capsicum pubescens species, which includes the Rocoto and Manzano pepper, originate from the  mountainous regions the Andes,  which means they are cold tolerant and can grow in cooler climates, growing as perennial in temperate climates.

The species name ‘Pubescens’ means ‘hairy’, and this plant does have hairy dark green leaves, along with purple flowers and chilli pods which contain black seeds, making it very easy to identify.

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Manzano chilli flower is a distinct purple colour with purple filaments and white anther, the plant also has furry leaves. Yellow nectar spots are visible in the lower white-coloured portion of each petal.

The plant form can vary from a compact form around 60cm (2’) high to an erect habit (which is sometimes sprawling and vine like) growing up to 2.4m (8’) high. Quite interestingly, this species of chilli cannot cross pollinate with the other domesticated species.

The flower corolla (petals) are purple (occasionally with white margins at the base of the petals), without diffuse spots at base of the petals. A drop of yellow nectar may accumulate at the base of the petal to look like a corolla spot, but the drop of golden liquid is easily distinguished from a marking. Flowers grow either singly or in pairs, but may grow in clusters of four, though this is uncommon.

The chilli pods are pear or apple shaped, and as they ripen they change from green to purple, then finally becoming a red or yellow colour. These chillies are unique in that they’re quite fleshy and juicy, with thick walls, much more like a smaller sweet pepper (capsicum).

The Rocoto Tree chilli pictured below produced red pods prolifically all year round in a temperate climate, and grows to around 2m (6’) tall. This one is growing in a corner against a north facing wall (facing the midday sun in the southern hemisphere) and is around ten years old. They can be grown from cuttings or from seed in springtime.
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Rocoto Manzano tree chilli, fruiting prolifically mid-winter in temperate Melbourne, Australia

 

The Manzano hedging chilli pictured below grows up to 1m (3’) high, and has been flowering through autumn and ripening chillies in winter. This plant is planted out in the open in a garden bed with vegies and other plants, and has coped with cold weather perfectly well.

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Manzano hedging chilli, recently planted, producing its first chillies mid-winter in temperate Melbourne, Australia

 

 

 

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Tree Pruning, How to Remove Tree Branches Correctly

The first step in pruning a tree, before making and cuts to change the shape or size of a tree, is to remove any dead, diseased or broken branches. If removing a branch completely, it’s important to make the cut correctly so as to not cause any further damage to the tree.

Thinner branches around the thickness of your thumb or smaller, that is with a diameter of 20mm (3/4”) or less, can be removed with a sharp pair of secateurs or a two handed pruning lopper. Thicker branches can be carefully cut off with a pruning saw.

When removing branches, DO NOT make the pruning cut flush with the trunk or parent branch as this will damage the branch collar.

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At the base of every branch is a distinct bulge where it connects to the trunk of the tree or an older branch, known as the branch collar.

The branch collar is comprised of interlocking layers of cells of the branch and the trunk, and it plays an important role in healing the wound left by the pruning cut, sealing it off to reduce decay and prevent the entry of disease pathogens. A correctly made pruning cut leaves the branch collar intact and undamaged.

On some trees the branch collars are large and clearly defined, making them easy to spot, while in other trees they may be harder to distinguish, but they’re always there, so always make branch removal cuts with the intention of preserving the branch collar.

 

Removing Branches Using Secateurs or Loppers

Thin branches can be removed with secateurs of loppers in a single cut. Most secateurs are rated for a branch thickness of 20mm (3/4”) and the largest ones made for gardeners with large hands can handle branches up to 25mm (1”) if you have sufficient hand strength to make the cut.

Secateurs are one-handed tools and you can get a bit of extra force squeezing with the second hand, but they have their limits. Loppers are basically larger two-handed versions of secateurs, requiring much less effort and strength to cut thicker branches. They have a branch thickness rating which is related to the length of their handles and any mechanisms which impart mechanical advantage, such as with cantilever or ratcheting loppers.

To make the cut, place the cutting blade side of the secateurs or loppers towards the side of the branch crown when making the cut, this prevents the flat part of the blade crushing the bark and plant tissue.

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Removing Branches With a Pruning Saw

When removing large branches with a pruning saw, three cuts are made  to prevent tearing off the bark and damaging the tree as the branch comes off.

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  1. Undercut the branch a few inches away from the trunk to prevent bark tearing. Only cut part way through the bottom of the branch.
  2. Move a short distance away from the first cut, further out on the branch and cut al the way through to remove the entire branch. This will eliminate the weight of the branch, allowing you to make the final pruning cut. If the falling branch tears the bark off the trees as it drops, the bark tear will stop at the first cut.
  3. Start the third pruning cut on the outside edge of the branch-bark ridge and cut through the branch to the outside edge of the collar swelling on the underside of the branch. Remove only the branch; do not damage the trunk or branch collar.

When removing tree branches, don’t ever cut the branch flush with the trunk or parent limb, be sure to always leave a short stub, to preserve the branch collar so the tree can heal over the wound more easily.

 

 

 

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How To Plant a Fruit Tree

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“He who plants a tree plants a hope.”
-Lucy Larcom

Planting a fruit tree is truly an investment in the future, it may take a year or three before a tree begins to bear fruit, but most fruit trees can be productive for 20 to 30 years or more. To give a fruit tree its best chance at a good start in life, a little preparation and forethought goes a long way.

 

The Best Time to Plant a Tree

Is the tree you wish to plant a deciduous tree, which loses its leaves in autumn and goes dormant in winter? Best time to plant deciduous trees is in winter when they’re dormant, but they can also be planted in spring and autumn, when they’re actively growing.

If you’re planting an evergreen tree, which is in leaf all year round, then the best time to plant is in spring, and the next best time is in autumn. The reason? In spring or autumn the weather is mild, and the tree is still growing, so the roots can grow to reach more water as the tree needs it.

Planting in summer is a bad idea as the roots can’t grow fast enough to access more water when extreme heat and wind strips moisture from the leaves. Unless you plan to water daily, or several times a day, then avoid summer planting.

Evergreen fruit trees are not planted in winter because their roots don’t grow in winter, the rootball remains the size of the pot the tree came in until the weather warms up. On dry winter days, cold winds will strip moisture from the leaves, and once the pot-sized rootball dries out, the tree won’t be able to access any more water, causing the tree to dry out.

It’s important to pint out that tree purchasing time doesn’t have to be the same as tree planting time, it’s okay to buy trees earlier and plant them at a later date. Evergreen trees can be kept in pots over winter, and just like any other container plants, will need to be checked for water, and watered when they need it. An evergreen fruit tree can be planted in the ground in winter, but if it is, it should be treated just like it’s growing in a pot (because the roots are the same size  as in the pot) and watered as often as one growing in a pot would be!

 

The Best Place to Plant a Fruit Tree

Trees and plants use sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to photosynthesize, producing sugars which they use for energy. More sunlight equals more energy, which equals more fruit.

All fruit trees need a minimum of 6-8 hours of bright, direct sunlight while they are in leaf to bear fruit.

As sunlight is reduced, fruit production drops, and beyond a certain point, fruit trees will not produce anything at all, and in some instances, can become much more susceptible to diseases.

If you have a spot in the garden that is sunny throughout most of the year, but in deep shade in winter, then plant a deciduous tree there, winter shade won’t matter as the tree won’t have any leaves at that time.

Planting a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees? Plant the deciduous trees closest to the sun and the evergreen trees behind them. The deciduous trees need to be facing the sun so the soil warms up faster, allowing them to come out of dormancy earlier in spring, and to ensure that they receive enough light as their new leaves emerge.

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Soil Preparation for Tree Planting

A few minutes of soil preparation before tree planting can save countless hours of work trying to fix a problem that isn’t easily fixed! Seriously, initial soil preparation can make all the difference between success and heartache when it comes to growing healthy, productive fruit trees.

All soils are made of various mixtures of sand, silt and clay, and each has its benefits and problems.

Sandy soils drain well, but don’t retain moisture and nutrients, which can be a real problem in the peak of the summer heat.

Clay soils retain moisture and nutrients well, but don’t drain very well and can become waterlogged during wet winter weather, causing tree roots to rot.

Both of these extremes and any other soil problems can be improved by adding organic matter, such as compost and manure. Mixing organic matter into the soil improves moisture and nutrient retention in sandy soils and drainage in clay soils.

Compost restores the soil structure, but does not contain much nutrients, so if the soil is quite depleted and lacking fertility, it is best to also add some manure to provide nutrients for the tree’s growth.

 

How to Plant a Tree in 6 Easy Steps

  1. Dig the hole, which should be three times the width of the pot the tree came in. If the tree came in a 30cm (12”) pot, then dig a hole 90cm (36” or 3’) wide. Dig the hole to the same depth as the rootball, so the top of the roots in the pot sit at exactly the same level in the ground.
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  2. Mix some compost into the soil at the bottom of the hole to improve the soil below the rootball.planting-tree-02
  3. Take the soil from the hole, and mix it in a bucket in the following proportions – 7 parts soil, 2 parts compost, one part manure. If manure is not being used, use 7 parts soil and 3 parts compost instead. It’s easy to measure with a spade, garden trowel, potting mix scoop, or small empty plastic pot.
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  4. Sit the tree in the hole, holding the trunk straight and vertical, making sure that the top of the root ball is level with the top of the soil.
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  5. Fill around the tree with the soil-compost-manure-mix, then water it it, don’t pack it down! If the soil level settles down lower after watering, and more soil-compost-manure mix and rewater. Mix some seaweed extract into a watering can and water around the tree. Seaweed extract contains compounds called cytokinins, which are natural root-growth stimulants, which help a newly planted tree establish itself and put its roots down quicker.
  6. Stake the tree to support it (if required), this prevents the new roots from being torn when the tree sways in the wind. Place two stakes outside of the filled hole (not through the rootball against the trunk!), and tie the stakes to the trunk using purpose-made soft tree-tie fabric strip (or pantyhose) in a figure-8 shape to support the tree.
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Feed the tree with a balanced fertilizer in at the start of spring, then again in the start of autumn (September and March) to support healthy growth of roots and branches.

Most fruit trees won’t fruit the first year they are planted because they divert all their energy for growth into producing new roots, branches and leaves. After this, they will be more better established and able to reward the gardener with home-grown fruit!

 

 

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