27. Full Circle, Three Years In

Here are the annual figures for the garden yields for the period of Oct 2010 – Oct 2011, the garden’s third year.

The annual production for this garden was 131kg in the first year, 202kg in the second year and 194kg in the third year (as a consequence of a minor disaster!). The total garden bed area is 686 sq. feet (64 sq. metres).

The average monthly amount of produce was just over 14kg.

Here are some statistics which break this down further:

 

image

 

This graph is colour coded for season – yellow (summer), orange (autumn), brown (winter) and green (spring)

The most significant anomaly is the “flat-spot” in August, this is what happens when you get seriously ill, are confined to bed, and can’t harvest anything for a month. Things like this really do happen in a real-life garden!

If we look at the monthly production figures:

Yields Per Month (grams)

 

2008

2009

2010

Jan

    22,203

     6,385

    14,769

Feb

    10,860

    13,891

     9,478

Mar

    11,018

    16,700

    20,813

Apr

     3,748

    49,056

    15,413

May

    15,566

    28,277

     5,304

Jun

    11,251

    40,136

    39,995

Jul

    14,341

     3,085

    44,176

Aug

     4,128

    21,804

            

Sep

    11,155

        846

     4,426

Oct

    11,252

    19,351

    20,393

Nov

     6,149

     1,170

     9,542

Dec

     9,556

     1,274

    10,067

Total

 133,235

 203,984

 194,376

Average

   10,936

   16,831

   14,018

 

This year was fraught with disasters, mostly weather related, so we’ve fared pretty well considering…

As I mentioned in my previous article – 20. Spring and Summer Weather Extremes , Cyclone Yasi struck Australia – this category 5 tropical cyclone hit North Queensland on February 3, 2011 and caused major disruptions to the weather further south here in Melbourne. As a result, our weather changed from a hot, dry Mediterranean summer to a hot, wet, tropical one.

To quote my previous article:

We experienced an unseasonably wet spring and an early summer, which has then made a reversal into cold weather, and then reverted back to summer heat. If that wasn’t bad enough, for the first time we’ve experienced what you’d call tropical weather, a period of very hot weather with continuous rain.

The result was pretty much a disaster for people growing food. It was reported in the news that the weather “…took its toll on cherries, table grapes, strawberries, stone-fruit and wine grapes, which have suffered cracking, splitting, marking, softening, fruit drop and disease outbreaks.”

In Victoria, commercial growers lost up to one-third of their early season stone-fruit and wine grape growers expect to lose one-fifth of their yields because they experienced the worst downy mildew outbreak in 20 years. they only managed to rescue their harvests by extensively spraying with fungicides!

 

It’s fairly easy to calculate the harvest losses for this year.

Stone fruit – I counted 52 full sized nectarines and 38 full sized peaches rotting on the ground under the trees. If I very conservatively estimate the weight of these fruit at 100 grams, we are talking about (52+38)x100=9000g, that’s 9kg of stone fruit.

Grapes – there were over 9kg produced last year, and the grape vine has been steadily increasing its harvest. If we once again conservatively assume that it would have produced at least as much as it did the year before, then that’s 9kg of grapes.

Tomatoes – since there was virtually no summer this year, expectedly, tomato yields reduced from 15kg last year to 8.5kg this year, so that’s a loss of over 6kg of tomatoes.

There were other losses, such as other vegetables, cherries, about three weeks worth of raspberries, but I wont bother counting this for now.

If I add up our figures for lost harvest, 9kg of stone fruit, 9kg of grapes and 6 kg of tomatoes adds up to a severely underestimated harvest loss of 24kg. If I add this figure to the harvest total, 24+194=218kg, which would have been 14kg more than last years harvest figure at the very least, but hey, this is the real world, and disasters do happen.

Essentially. this represents a 4.7% loss in harvest, but from a more positive perspective, it shows that the garden design is rather resilient and we were able to harvest 95.3% of our usual amount of produce even with a major disastrous weather change. I’ll count myself lucky that I have a biodiverse food forest, unlike the commercial monocultures, where commercial growers lost up to one-third of their early season stone-fruit. That’s the benefit of polyculture vs. monoculture folks!

 

If we break down the figures by type of produce (fruits, vegetables and berries), we can see the how much produce we got in each of these categories.

 

Fruit

variety

yield (g)

apple

       8,264

apricots

          220

babaco

       8,666

cherry guava

          151

feijoa

          218

fig

       8,643

grapefruit

       5,120

lemon

      10,029

lemon guava

          207

lime

          165

mandarin

      42,954

mulberry

       2,123

orange

       3,203

pepino

       6,839

plum

      12,651

pomegranate

       6,680

rockmelon

          773

sloe berry

          341

total

    117,247

2009 total

127,723

2008 total

53,636

 

This year, fruit production decreased by almost 8%. This decrease is expected, as all the grapes, cherries and stone fruit were lost due to unseasonal weather. The biggest contributing factor though was a major pruning of the pomegranate tree, last year it produced 47kg, this year it only produced less than 7kg, but then again, more than 2/3 of the tree was pruned away! I have planted a few new fruit trees, so there are still many young trees that still have not established themselves yet. My pear trees are now three years old now and might produce their first fruit this year. It appears that fruit trees take around five years to establish and give reasonable yields, and it is evident that yields increase progressively from year to year as the trees mature.


Berries

variety

yield (g)

blackberry

          26

blackcurrant

          15

goji berry

          64

raspberry

     5,687

redcurrant

        236

strawberry

     1,088

total

     7,116

2009 total

4,021

2008 total

2,584

 

The performance of the berries is once again outstanding this year, as it was in the last year. Last year yields have increased by 56%, this year they increased by a whopping 77%. This berries I added last year – youngberries, thornless blackberries, loganberries, thornless gooseberries, black currants, red currants and golden currants are growing well. I’ve added a few more this year, some boysenberries, silvanberries, lawtonberries and marionberries! I’m expecting next years berry harvests to be phenomenal!

 

Vegetables

variety

yield (g)

broad beans

    20,267

cauliflower

        553

chilli

        473

climbing beans

          47

edible canna

        760

eggplant

        764

jerusalem artichoke

     9,400

kale

        220

lettuce

        536

loofah

        846

potato

     2,501

pumpkin

     1,917

rhubarb

     1,199

silverbeet

     1,700

sweet corn

     1,954

tomato

    10,056

water chestnut

     1,115

yacon

    15,705

total

    70,013

2009 total

70,231

2008 total

75,052

 

This year I actually got exactly the same amount of vegetables as the year before, that’s 70kg, even though I couldn’t harvest anything for a whole month being bedridden with a bad fever, I forgot to harvest nearly all of my potatoes (they re-sprouted after being left too long in the soil!) and most of the annual vegetables ‘bolted’ and went to seed after we had a two or three extremely hot days during a very mild spring.

So, I’m really producing 70kg of vegetables a year without really trying…

 

 

To get some perspective on these yield statistics, we see that production is commonly measured in terms of yield/acre.

  • One acre is approximately 4047 sq. meters

Now, if we look at my garden, still in its infancy at three years of age, its best production to date is:

  • 202kg/64 square metres

To convert this to acres, we do dome simple maths: 4047/64 = 63.23 (so you can squeeze approximately 63 of my whole gardens into one acre!)
Now, a bit more math to get the yield per acre: 202×63.23 = 12,773kg/acre

Without the harvest losses, the theoretical yield per acre: 218×63.23 = 13,784kg/acre, almost 14 metric tonnes per acre.

So, my 3 year old garden that is just getting started is producing the equivalent of 12,773kg/acre, in other words, close to 12.77 metric tonnes per acre!

Now that I’ve added a few more trees – a mango, another babaco, a persimmon, and another half dozen varieties of berries, I’m curious to see how the garden will perform over the next two years, even in adverse weather conditions.

Also. in case people miss this fact, this garden is completely organic, no pesticide was used this year at all. I’ve used a bare touch of organic neem horticultural soap or white oil in previous years, but absolutely none was required this year. Fertilizer was provided courtesy of my three worm farms and five compost bins, and a few bags of sheep manure to replace the nutrients lost from the produce I give away!

The fruit trees are starting to fruit once more as summer arrives once again, the berries are beginning to grow quite vigorously, and by all appearances it’s promising to be better than ever this coming year!

 
 
 Next Page – 28. The Last Six Months or So…

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6 Responses to 27. Full Circle, Three Years In

  1. shanegenziuk says:

    A fabulous piece of data gathering, and shows how efficient Jerusalem artichoke and Yacon are in food production.
    I had so much JA last season I passed it on to a local fruit and veg shop, and should have about 30kg of it come Autumn.

    Was at your place this Winter, and if you are ever out around Bentleigh way let me know so I can return the favour.

    Like

  2. Frogdancer says:

    I was there with Shane and want to thank you for the rhubarb and raspberry plants. Currently harvesting my first boysenberries and am amazed at the amount of fruit I’m getting.Just magic!

    Like

  3. sanjita says:

    So wonderful and plentiful information you have put together for a newbie garden enthusiast like me. Thanks a bunch ! I am in a sub-tropical temperate climate of san francisco bay area planning to put some gooseberries and currant. But I was told my climate may not be cold enough for them, same way not hot enough for tropical fruits. How do you pull off growing babaco and currants in the same garden?

    Like

    • Angelo (admin) says:

      Currants need a specific number of hours of cold, a ‘chill period’ for them to produce. We have fairly cold winters (without frost) and very hot summers (but unfortunately quite short). Each climate has its challenges! You can try growing sub-tropicals, and ‘low chill’ varieties of plants and trees that require a winter chilling period. There are some low chill currant varieties out there that may be worth a try.

      Like

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