Black Barn Farm Orchard Philosophy (the quick version)
The orchard is a key part of the Black Barn Farm enterprise. We seek to redesign agriculture in natures image thus our orchard looks and operates very differently to most commercial orchards.
Do unto those downstream as you have those upstream do unto you – Wendell Berry
Water is life and we use keyline orchard row design to passively move water from wetter gullies to drier ridge lines. When needed we irrigate using gravity fed drippers with water supplied from a solar pump to a header tank, utilising the suns free energy rather than running diesel pumps.
We often refer to our orchard as a poly-orchard with ‘poly’ meaning ‘many’. Many of what? Well as many things as possible. Within our orchard is a diversity of tree species (apples, pear, stone fruit, berries, quince, carob, stone pine, pomegranate & persimmon), roostocks, varieties (over 50 apple varieties alone), understorey plantings, pollinators and soil biology. Diversity increases the resilience of a system and spreads our risk.
Disease & Pest Control
Fruit is simply a dense collection of sweet carbohydrates that are desired by every bird, insect, mammal, nematode, bacteria and fungus to appease their hunger pains and reproductive desires. Fruit can hang vulnerably in a tree for up to 4 months. It is damn amazing that such a food source can last to harvest time unblemished. This is without doubt the largest challenge for an organic fruit grower. First we rely on maximum tree health and the diversity of our orchard ecosystem to maintain a balance of predators and pests. When that is not enough we use pheromone disruption, baiting, competitive biology, netting and scare guns to help us out. This will be a battle that we won’t always win and one that will take decades and quite possibly generations to truly optimise when using no synthetic pesticides however we’re up to the challenge and at the end of the day we’re happy to share a little of our bounty with the biology around us.
Ultimate tree nutrition comes from the soil, so we don’t feed the trees, we feed the soil and the complex web of life within it (fungi, arthropods, nematodes,bacteria and protozoa) using very specific woodsy composts, green manure crops, brewed microbes and soil amendments. We do not use any synthetic fertilisers.
Our orchard rows bend, weave and curve following the landscape in a patttern known as keyline design which allows us to make the most of every drop of water that falls on our property. Our orchard block is east facing, collecting the gentle early morning sun whilst also protecting from the burning afternoon sun. Our orchard rows are roughly aligned north/south which gives even sun exposure on each side. Our most frost sensitive species are highest in the landscape away from low lying pockets where cold dense air settles and invites jack frost to visit during late spring when blossoms and young fruit are vulnerable.
There is no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place – Charlie Mgee
That Charlie knows what he is on about, and this Charlie follows suit. Prunnings, animal manure, food scraps, waste fruit and roadkill are all either composted in large hot woodchip piles or in-situ. This feeds soil biology and adds nutrients, carbon and structure to our soil which all means healthy trees and great fruit with no waste, just like a natural forest.