Adopt a Tree

Be Part of the Adopt a Tree Scheme at the Dairy Road Farm, and learn how to control pests and diseases using natures little helpers.

Canberra City Farm is inviting members of the community to adopt one of the fruit or nut trees at Dairy Road to help with ongoing maintenance. So if you’d like the opportunity to learn about the best and most natural way to look after fruit and nut trees, why not adopt!

No prior experience is required as you will be working along side our in-house experts on pruning & grafting techniques, use of natural fertilizers and application of Integrated Pest Management techniques to control pests and diseases without the use of nasty chemicals. There’s over a hundred individual trees to choose from, including: apricots, peaches, nectarines, quinces, plums, almonds, cherries, apples, pears, medlars, mulberries, feijoas and hazelnuts.

A couple of our present Tree Adopters tell us about how they’ve found the experience so far, and what motivated them to adopt:

“I’ve wanted to do some voluntary work at City Farm for quite a while and adopting a tree seemed to be a good opportunity. Also on my mind was the chance to improve my pruning technique for different sorts of fruit trees and learn about ongoing care of the trees, including organic pest control. There’s a wealth of knowledge amongst the City Farm folk to draw on. Whilst I’ve been at the Farm during their regular working bee Mondays I’ve met lots of friendly helpful people (particularly James who uncomplaining actually did all the hands-on pruning of ‘my’ giant pear tree because it was a bit beyond my physical capability) and learnt a heap about soldier fly larvae, multiple uses of wood sawdust, pruning and other tools and how to safely use a tall orchard ladder. Through observation I’ve also had my eyes opened to commercial worm farming, integrated pest management, soil preparation and bulk plant propagation. I’m in awe of the progress that has been made at City Farm and love the whole concept of learning, socialising and sustainable food production that it encapsulates. For my two hours a week (or when I can get there) the rewards far outweigh my input.” Donna Vaughan, October 2018

“I decided to adopt a tree as: many hands make light work, I like working with like minded people, I enjoy working outdoors and with nature, I am excited to be involved with CCF and it’s goals.” Michele England, October 2018.

So what exactly is Integrated Pest Management? Walter Steensby who is part of the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) team at Dairy Rd together with Carole Ayliffe explain:

“Very briefly, it’s a combination of techniques to keep pests and diseases under control. One goal is to use chemical controls only as a last resort — or in the CCF’s case, never.

There is a lot of material on the Internet, such as:

It’s important to know what pests and diseases need to be dealt with, and what can be left alone. Your IPMs need to recognise a variety of them, and I for one am still learning. My textbook is Garden Pests, Diseases & Good Bugs by Denis Crawford.

As one example, I know what some of the various species of ladybirds look like and are good for — in particular, controlling aphids —, and can recognise them in their various stages of development. In Spring 2017, Carole and I found a lot of ladybird larvae on too few trees in the home orchard, and lovingly carried many to trees in other orchards being attacked by aphids. Crawford tells us that “Larvae, like their parents, are ferocious predators of soft-bodied pests”, and it was so: aphid numbers quickly plunged.

Not so easy this year. The aphids seem to have arrived early and the ladybirds late, and a number of the fruit trees were badly infested with aphids. We didn’t want to spray with anything (not pyrethrum, not white oil) because the bees were still busy and we might harm hoverflies and beneficial wasps, so we spent some hours manually squashing aphids on branches or wiping them off. No pest has yet developed an immunity to being squashed.

We are still coming to grips with the codling moth which ruins apples. But that’s a story for another day.” Walter Steensby, October 2018

Ladybird beetles on Michele England’s almond tree last week, doing some of the work for her.

Ladybird nymphs at Dairy Rd last November on the hunt for aphids (some just visible below the thumb)