Frequently Asked Questions
“How long will it take every week to do this course?”
We recommend you put aside half an hour each week to look after your fruit trees, depending of course on how many you have, and also what time of year it is. We find that spending at least a short amount of time each week with your trees really helps you notice and often prevent any problems, but also to get a good sense of what “normal” looks like in your fruit trees. We provide a “monitoring this week” section in the program, which is a list of things to check for that only takes a few minutes to run through, though of course if you need to take a particular action (for example pruning your trees, spraying them to prevent fungal disease, or thinning the fruit) those jobs will take a bit longer depending on how many trees you have.
“What happens if I want to quit the Grow Great Fruit program?”
No worries, you can unsubscribe at any time.
“Can I access previous instalments of the program regardless of when I join?”
No, but that’s because the Grow Great Fruit program is seasonal, which means we’re sending you the information that’s relevant to the time of year. No matter when you join the program, you’ll be sent information explaining what you should be doing for your trees at that time of year. Within the program we allow for slight seasonal variations in different climates to make sure you’ll have the information you need before you need it.
“I can’t see on the website anything about how to grow citrus. Does the Grow Great Fruit program apply to citrus fruit as well?”
We teach people how to grow deciduous fruit, because that’s what we know! ‘Deciduous’ means fruit trees that lose their leaves and go dormant in winter, and includes all the types of fruit we grow on our farm—apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums, apples and pears. Citrus are ‘evergreen’ trees, which means they don’t lose their leaves and are very different to produce, so the answer is no, we don’t teach how to grow citrus (or berries, or vegetables, or bananas…) because we don’t know anything about them!
Having said that, a lot of the principles our program covers about diversity, healthy soil, and how to grow organically are applicable to every garden and every crop, so our program will certainly make you a better organic grower, no matter what you’re trying to grow.
“How do I access the website and information once I have paid?”
After you have completed payment in PayPal you will be directed to our registration page where you add your email address and create a password, and you will then have access to the first eclass, downloads, and bonuses. Further instalments will then arrive by email every week. Until you complete this registration step, you will not have access to the members’-only website, and will not receive weekly instalments by email.
“Do you do site visits?”
Yes we do, you can book them through our farm website www.mafg.com.au, however a lot of people find that by the time you factor in the cost of covering our travel to and from your place, it’s usually much more cost effective to join the Grow Great Fruit program and take advantage of the free monthly one-on-one mentoring sessions that are included.
We understand that everyone’s situation is different and it can be really frustrating that your trees might not look quite like the ones in our examples, so when you book a one-on-one session we ask you to send your specific questions in advance with photos if possible, so we can really use the time to help you solve any particular problems you’re having.
“So, how does the program work?”
The program is designed to give you information in three main ways. Firstly, we want to make sure you’ve got the right information, in a timely way, to help you prevent a lot of the problems that commonly happen with fruit trees. For example, we alert you in late winter that if you have peach and nectarine trees, you’ll need to put out a spray (organically allowed, of course) that will prevent a common disease called Leaf Curl, and then tell you step by step how to do that. Each week we provide you with this sort of ‘urgent’ or ‘pay attention now’ type of information, which also includes detailed instructions on how to do each task.
Secondly, we build up your body of knowledge throughout the year to help you get your organic garden humming along as a thriving, biodiverse ecosystem – it’s like doing a year-long course in organic growing.
Lastly, we help you tailor the program to your unique situation by giving you an ‘indoor’ job (sounds better than homework, doesn’t it?) each week that personalises the program. In this section you’ll be applying the information we provide in the program to your climate, your trees and your garden.
Key topics are also presented as audio or video files, because we know some people absorb information much more easily by hearingor seeing it, rather than having to read it.
Here’s a sample list of topics that will be covered in the program during the year:
- Pruning different types of fruit trees
- Understanding different types of pests and how to prevent them
- How to protect your trees against diseases
- How to apply nutrition through the year
- Understanding soil and how to build healthy soil
- How to build a worm farm
- How to set up a nutrient cycling system
- How to use green manure crops
- Different compost systems and how to build them
- How to make and use compost tea
- Growing your own fruit trees from cuttings or seed
- How to do four different types of grafting (and when to do each one)
- Planting shelterbelts to protect trees from wind
- Moving mature fruit trees
- Why it’s important to control pests and diseases organically
- How to tell when your fruit is ripe and ready to pick
- How to store your fruit for the best results
- How to store apples without electricity
- Using permaculture principles to plan your fruit tree garden for fruit self-sufficiency
- How to plan your garden to pick fresh fruit for as long as possible each season
- How to use weeds as indicator plants
- Three different methods for monitoring how much water your fruit trees needs
“How does this program take the risk out of fruit growing? Isn’t it dependent on the weather and other factors outside my control?”
What a great question! Fruit growing, like all gardening and farming, IS quite risky of course, because we can’t control the weather, and at one time or another are likely to be affected by drought, flood and hail, as well as plagues and pestilence!
We wrote the Grow Great Fruit program for two main reasons. One is that we’ve been through all of those natural disasters ourselves, so we learned (the hard way) how to prepare for them, how to do what we can to prevent damage, and how to recover from them after they’ve happened – that’s where a lot of the tips and tricks that are included in the program have come from.
The second is that our experiences of the natural ups and downs of farming also led us to understand the power of diversity in food production, and we want to share the information so you don’t have to make all the mistakes we did! We have a bit of a ‘fruit salad farm’, growing more than 80 varieties of fruit, and this means we’ve managed to grow a crop of fruit every single year, even when we had big disasters. That’s where our program differs from a lot of other advice about fruit trees that we’ve seen. We practice what we preach, which is to grow as many different things in the garden as possible, because this is our best protection against the risk of natural disasters.
The way it works is that when bad things happen in nature (as they often do), they often only happen to one type of fruit at a time. For example, if it’s excessively wet for a week in spring, this can lead to a fungal disease called Blossom Blight, which can kill the flowers of some fruit trees, particularly apricots. The risk is that whichever apricot trees were flowering when it rained will be wiped out—however, if you grow more than one type of apricot, they are likely to be affected to varying degrees, depending on the vulnerability of a particular variety to that disease, but also which ones were more advanced in their flowering when it rained. And if you have an apple or a pear tree next to the apricot tree, chances are it won’t be affected at all because they flower so much later.
Even the risk from problems like drought or flood can be reduced with diversity. As part of the Grow Great Fruit program we teach you how make your soil healthy, because we learned that having healthy soil means your soil will not only hold more water (extremely helpful in a drought) but also drain much faster after a flood!
Our experience is that the principle of diversity holds good in pretty much every circumstance, and we go into a lot of detail in the program to teach people how to do that at every level in their garden—from soil microbes, to weed control, understorey plant selection, garden planning, and variety selection. It even applies to things like having multiple sources of everything you use in the garden, from water to compost!
“Can I ring you to talk about the program before I sign up?”
Thanks for your enquiry. Unfortunately, as we get many requests like yours every week we don’t have time to follow up everyone by phone, because we’re also busy farmers! We save whatever spare time we have for the one-on-one time with members of our program. However, feel free to send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns you have, and we’ll reply to it as quickly as we can (usually within 3 days).
“How can you teach me how to prune without seeing my trees? Aren’t everyone’s trees different?”
Everyone’s trees and gardens are different, but luckily deciduous fruit tree physiology is the same all around the world! We have a three-step process for teaching pruning (and we also use the same process for many aspects of our teaching).
- We start with the basic principles, because they are the same all around the world, and once you understand them it gives you the power to apply them to every situation, and every fruit tree.
- Then we provide more detailed information, with lots of photos, about different types of trees, including
- Peaches and nectarines
- Young trees when first planted
- Young trees in the first 3 years
- Mature trees
- ‘Monster’ trees that have got out of control and need renovating
- If you have any particular problems that haven’t been solved by the first two steps, book in your monthly one-on-one sessions, take several good quality photos of your trees (from different angles works well), and we’ll talk through each tree in your Skype session.
“You say you teach how to grow a year’s supply of fruit, but in my district the fruit season only lasts for a few months.”
The season for deciduous fruit is only about 6 months, but from a food security point of view, we need fruit available all year (without having to buy fruit that’s out of season, or been kept in cool storage). Our farm really is a working demonstration of how to grow a year’s supply of fruit, because we aim to preserve enough fruit each year to last us through the winter.
The program includes detailed instructions for how to:
- Plan your garden and grow the right varieties of fruit to extend the fresh fruit season as long as possible
- Pick fruit at the right stage of fruit for different types of preserving
- Store fruit for as long as possible, using as little energy as possible
- Preserve fruit by multiple methods including drying, freezing, bottling, canning, and making a wide range of preserves including jam, pickles, chutney, liqueurs, and fruit pastes. We also include lots of simple but delicious recipes to help you include healthy fruit in your diet all year.
Here’s how it works on our farm: we harvest fresh fruit from the tree for about 6 months of the year, from mid-spring right through until almost winter. Most weeks we pick between 3 and 15 different varieties, and for a lot of the season we have at least three different types of fruit available, e.g., any two different apricot varieties, a peach, and two plums. By picking at the right stage of maturity (not too ripe but not too green), and by storing them in the right way, we can keep the last apples, pears, and plums in good condition for many more weeks at the end of the season. Last year we ate fresh fruit for about 9 months of the year. As well as that, all through the season we preserve a little bit of fruit often—in the apricot season we dry a lot of apricots, and do some bottling (canning) because we love eating apricots for winter desserts! During the plum season we also dry a lot of plums, and make plum jam because that’s a family favourite. We make sure we end each season with a full pantry to see us through until the following spring when the fresh fruit starts again.
“Why would I spend money on your program when there’s so much free information available on the internet?”
Firstly, we know what we’re talking about and our results and knowledge are tested every fruit season when we sell our fruit at markets – and it’s pretty immediate and honest feedback, we can assure you! Secondly, we’ve been running the program for several years now and have many satisfied customers who are getting great results. The thing that sets our program apart is that we don’t just tell you what you need to know, we remind you at the right time to prevent problems happening. One of the reasons we started the Grow Great Fruit program is because we were constantly being asked how to solve problems after the event! For example, we can help you prevent Leaf curl by taking action at the right time, but once you’ve got it, there’s nothing we or you can do. We’re also the only program we’re aware of that has all the information together in one place, so you don’t have to go trawling all over the net, and sort out the useful stuff from the not-so-useful stuff.
“How do I cancel my subscription to the program?”
To cancel your subscription, please email us so we can be sure you have all the content before your access ceases.