Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Fruit growing is something that busy people fear they will struggle to fit into their lifestyle. It’s something we hear a lot when we run the Learn.Plan.Succeed course.
Many people are put off by the idea that it takes too much time and effort. The good news is that with a little bit of planning, you can fit fruit growing into even the busiest of lifestyles.
Do you think of yourself as a busy person? If you said yes, we’re part of the same club.
As farmers for many years, our lives have been packed to the brim with growing fruit, raising 5 kids, and community involvement.
Along the way we’ve taken on a few big projects like setting up the Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op, and the year-long RIRDC Rural Women’s Award that Katie did in 2015.
How to fit fruit growing into your life
We know from personal experience that when you’re busy, it feels hard to fit in the fruit growing.
Sound familiar? Maybe the details are different, but we bet that for most people reading this, there have been times in your life when it just feels like you can’t fit it all in.
The bottom line is that fruit growing is too important to let it be squeezed out of your life. So, we want to show you how to find ways to make room for it, no matter how busy you are.
What does “being busy” really mean?
When Katie was up to the eyeballs with the RIRDC project, here’s what she had to say about being busy…
“My theory is that “busy” is a code word that l (and lots of other people) use when what we really mean is overworked, stressed, under-supported, tired, financially burdened, worried, over-committed, important, in demand, or worthy of your sympathy! For me, busy had become my not-so-subtle way of saying to people (a) look how popular and ‘in demand’ I am; (b) isn’t the life of a farmer hard; (c) don’t expect me to take on anything else; and (d) look at me, I’m superwoman! None of which is actually true.”
So, we totally “get” the fear that a lot of gardeners have about being able to find the time to look after their fruit trees.
Focusing on crunch time in the garden
Growing fruit is seasonal. Most fruit trees only have a single crop each year. While that restricts the job of harvesting to a short time, it can be intense!
You only get one chance to gather the yield from your fruit trees, which means you need to get it right.
If there’s one main fruit growing job that you need to fit into your busy lifestyle, it’s picking the fruit. It’s important to get this part of the process right, or the rest of it is kind of pointless.
Of course, not all the return from your trees is measured in the amount of fruit you pick and the amount of money you save. They also provide a lot of intangible benefits like joy, satisfaction, and a boost to your physical and mental health.
But it’s hugely satisfying to actually harvest a significant amount of fruit!
Strategies for fitting fruit growing into your busy life
At harvest, your workload is imposed on you. There are the demands of picking and storing fruit while it’s in peak condition.
There’s also the work of processing all that delicious food, and of course, recording everything.
It’s easy to feel that it’s out of your control – but of course, that’s not true. Here are a few tips for how to manage your time and fit your fruit-growing into your busy lifestyle.
1. Regular monitoring
Visit your fruit trees for a few minutes at least once a week. This keeps you in touch with their progress and reduces the chance of nasty surprises.
Write yourself an annual calendar so you understand which jobs need to be done at which times of the year.
3. Remember to check your calendar
There’s no point in doing the planning and having a calendar if you chuck it in a drawer and don’t use it. Some good tips to help you remember to use your calendar are:
- If you use a digital calendar on your computer or your phone, include at least the main fruit tree jobs on the same calendar you use to manage your weekly activities;
- If you have a physical calendar for your fruit trees, put it somewhere you’ll look at it often, e.g. the fridge or the wall of the loo;
- If you use a paper diary, transfer the main jobs from your calendar into it.
Try to check your calendar each month at least, so you know in advance which jobs you’ll need to fit in the next few weeks.
4. Include fruit growing in your daily lifestyle
Try to build in some regular gardening time to your lifestyle. It doesn’t need to be very long!
If you know what job you need to be doing in advance, doing the spraying (for example) can be quick and efficient.
You may be able to fit ongoing jobs like monitoring your trees in with other jobs you do during the week, like collecting eggs or hanging up the washing.
5. Be realistic
If you have a lot of fruit trees, accept that during the peak of the fruit season, there may be no extra time to catch up on regular gardening jobs.
While you still need to make sure that the garden gets watered, jobs like weeding, pruning, and fertilising the trees can wait until you have more time.
6. Look for ways to automate
At the end of the busy time, take a moment to reflect on the season. Notice what worked, and what didn’t. Could you introduce more efficiencies, particularly with watering?
Gardening as an antidote to a busy lifestyle
When you’re feeling stressed and too busy, gardening can actually be the perfect antidote. It’s a uniquely productive kind of ‘busy’.
And remember, the more fruit and veg you can grow in your backyard, the less time you need to spend in the 9 to 5 grind earning money to buy food.
When you look at it that way, you might start to wonder how you’ll find the time to fit your job and the rest of your life around your busy gardening lifestyle!
A good grafting knife (and knowing how to keep it sharp) sets you up for grafting success as much as the techniques you need to master.
Involving your kids (or grandchildren) with the care of your fruit trees can help to foster a life long love for gardening.
Making money from your fruit trees is easier than you think – and can also be a great way to help your community.