Monday, November 12, 2012

Notes from the Apple Orchards of Mustang

by Brian Coates

Central Asia is the crucible of many stone and pome fruit ecosystems. Most notably quince, pomegranate, apricot and pear. The origin of the apple is uncertain but it is most likely Western China.
We were fortunate this year to go treking in Northern Nepal to a region called Mustang which is famed for its apple orchards. Interestingly no other fruit trees are grown apart from the occasional apricot but Mustang has a lot of apples.

Mustang is a high cold desert with characteristics of high radiation, low precipitation, low soil nutrients and low temperatures. It is cut by the Kali Gandaki river gorge which supplies most of the water and soil nutrient. High desert regions along river valleys allow high hours of sun, soil nutrient, water and chilling hours for setting of fruit.

The apple orchards however are often located on the high ground above the river where the soil is rocky and sandy and water supply is supplied by snow melt from the high mountains.To see apples thriving in sandy rocky ground with high soil drainage,hot summer sun and no mulch or ground cover only to be surrounded by stone walls 2M high made me think how tough they must be. The only protective factor is wind protection. There is also the added advantage of very few birds !!

Apple Trees in Mustang - Manoj Adhikari

In most orchards however, companion vegetables are grown such as beans/peas to provide nitrogen and cabbages to attract and absorb pests. Interestingly there was often a dead apple tree with an underplanting of tomatoes !!! Tomatoes are obviously toxic to apples.

Having said all this, the apple tree is a tough old thing and in my experience it resents being over cared for. So long as soil is very well drained, tree protected from hot strong winds, a steady supply of water via some sort of slow drip irrigation and a good companion planting arrangement should see the apple tree do well in the Blue Mtns. For bird protection grow as a tight hedging arrangement.

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We can harvest a wide range of fruits and nuts locally each season.

Local fruit and/or nut gardeners are invited to make additions or suggest modifications to the following work-in-progress compiled by Lizzie Connor.


Across the mountains: loquat, mulberry, rhubarb, strawberry and (in late spring) raspberry

Best in the lower mountains: avocado, jaboticaba, lemonade


Across the mountains: apricot, blueberry, boysenberry, cherry, currant (red, black, white), gooseberry, kumquat, loganberry, loquat, mulberry,nectarine, peach, plum, raspberry, rhubarb, strawberry and (in late summer) almond, apple, fig, hazelnut, passionfruit, pear (incl. nashi), pomegranate, youngberry

Best in lower mountains:lemon (Eureka), lemonade, lime, mandarin, orange, persimmon (non-astringent) and (in late summer) avocado, babaco, macadamia, rockmelon, wampee, watermelon

Best in upper mountains: jostaberry, lemon (Meyer), persimmon (astringent)


Across the mountains: almond, apple, chestnut, feijoa, fig, grape, hazel, kiwi fruit, kumquat, medlar, olive, passionfruit, pear (incl. nashi), plum, quince, raspberry (some), rhubarb, strawberry, strawberry guava, walnut

Best in lower mountains: avocado, babaco, cherimoya, grapefruit, lemon (Eureka), macademia, monstera deliciosa, orange, pine nut, pistachio, rockmelon, tamarillo, walnut, watermelon, white sapote

Best in upper mountains: lemon (Meyer), mandarin (Satsuma)


Across the mountains: apple, hazelnut, kiwi fruit, kumquat, pear (incl. nashi)

Best in lower mountains: grapefruit, lemon (Eureka), orange, tangelo

Best in upper mountains: avocado (Bacon), lemon (Meyer)