Harvesting fruit from tall trees can be a problem. Some people ask young children to climb the trees and harvest ripe fruit. If the children don’t have a basket they throw the fruit to the ground. The child may fall and injure a leg or hand as they try to reach out for the fruit. Needless to say, this method is dangerous. Other people throw stones or sticks at the ripe fruit. When the flying object hits the fruit, the fruit falls to the ground. The flying object may hurt other people or break window panes. Some people shake the tree especially if it is small. Sometimes branches break as a result of the shaking. Both ripe and unripe fruit fall to the ground. If this is done a few more times, the family quickly runs out of fruit as there won’t be anything left to harvest. Also, when the fruit hits the ground it is bruised and soiled, and fruit with soft skin often disintegrates.
Bruised or damaged fruit is not appealing to the eye, let alone to eat. It does not sell easily. It rots fast as the bruised skin allows germs to get into the pulp. There is a method that can help you to selectively harvest clean, undamaged fruit, especially fruit with soft skin. Mrs. Chikowore of Harare, Zimbabwe, uses a stick with a container to harvest avocadoes. The harvest is not bruised, and this method does not pose any danger to children, other people passing by, or the health of the family.
Here is the technique. First, you need a stick that is long enough to reach the tree top. Second, you need a container that is big enough to hold your biggest fruit. Third, you will need a rope or thin wire to tie the container to the end of the stick. The container should be open on one end. Tie the container to the top end of the stick, with the opening facing upwards.
To harvest fruit, lift the stick and peck the ripe fruit with the container. The fruit will fall into the container. Mrs. Chikowore can pick two or three avocadoes in her container before she lowers the stick to collect the fruit.
Weeding and cultivation can be time consuming for farmers. This is true with sweet potato and peanut crops. Here’s how one farmer in the Philippines saves time. He uses relay cropping. He prepares the land the usual way except that he builds slightly raised beds, 15 20 centimetres high, and half a metre wide. He plants a double row of peanuts on the raised bed. Two months after planting the peanuts he plants sweet potato in between the raised beds. Later, as he weeds the peanut, he is also hilling up the sweet potatoes. After harvesting the peanuts, the soil in the ridges can be used to hill up mounds for the sweet potato. It is easier to hill up mounds this way than when the field is level.
I have worked on a tree planting project in the southeast region of El Salvador, where we successfully planted 2000 fruit trees with a 95% survival rate. The size of the planting hole, soil preparation, and protection of the tree are all fundamental to the tree’s survival.
The best size for a planting hole is 50 centimetres wide, 50 centimetres long, and 60 centimetres deep. The earth that goes into the hole should contain rotted manure to add nutrients. If the soil is clay you should also add sand to improve drainage.
Adapted from Sustainable agriculture newsletter, Vol. 3, No. 1, Nov. 1991, published by CUSO Thailand, 17 Phahonyothin Golf Village, Phahonyothin Road, Banghen, Bangkok, 10900, Thailand.
For more information about using leucaena as a dewormer contact the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction, Silang, Cavite, Philippines.