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Gardens of Brighton and Moorabbin

Mr George Stayner's Orchard South Brighton

The patronymic of Stayner is among the historical ones of this district. Mr George C. Stayner, sen., came to Brighton in 1849 from the old country, and although he did a little gardening his chief avocation was in the carting and carrying line. Like almost every one else he departed for the goldfields when the gold fever was on, but returned to this locality, and in 1854 took up land in South Brighton on the Highett road. During these years Mr. George Stayner, junior, was in adolescent stage, and on reaching man’s estate he joined his father in gardening pursuits at the homestead, and worked in partnership with him till 1869, when he purchased the property opposite, which he worked until the land boom when he sold out, and bought the estate on which he now resides. When the agitation for the division of the West riding of the shire of Moorabbin was on, Mr. Stayner entered the council as a divisionist, but after having succeeded in obtaining the South and West ridings in place of the old West riding, he gave up municipal life and has tuck assiduously to his private commercial concerns ever since. In 1884 he entered his garden and orchard in the “Leader” Prize Competition, in connection with the Brighton Horticultural Society, and was awarded the premier place.

We visited Mr. Stayner’s orchard on Wednesday and he willingly acquiesced in our request to make a tour of inspection. Our attention was first drawn to three beds of asparagus, which would puzzle those uninitiated in the methods of the gardener. The beds consist of rows of banked up earth about 2ft. across and 2ft. 6in. in height with dividing trenches. The asparagus crop is continuously gathered for about four months, after which the plant is allowed to go to seed, and is all cleared off by the end of May when the ground is levelled and kept clean by harrowing. Mr. Stayner says asparagus growing furnishes the cleanest crops there is, and was very profitable until the depression. He has obtained as much as £206 off eleven-tenths of an acre; but now the price has receded one-third. He has an acre and a quarter under cultivation this year.

With regard to fruit trees he agrees with Cr. Penny’s remarks, reported in last issue, in reference to continuously changing and improving the sorts; and he points out that a kind of tree that will grow well and bear well in one class of soil may prove a complete failure in another description of soil. Moreover, he has proved that trees will do well for a number of years and them fall off in the matter of fruit and grow nothing but wood. This may be accounted for by the fact that each variety thrives best on its own congenial chemical properties in the soil, and when these are exhausted the tree deteriorates, and should be changed for another sort that could operate on a fresh and unexhausted supply congenial to its nature. This is further exemplified by the fact that an apple tree will not grow in ground that another apple tree has been dug out of, until the soil is given a few years rest so that it may recuperate. There are quite a. number of trees, Mr. Stayner says, that used to bear well in this  district but are now useless, although they might be good paying trees in another locality. The great aim of the orchardist should therefore be to keep on changing.

He has five dozen apple (Winter Mageton) which had become useless, and he had consequently grafted them with Emperor and Nonpareil. The Winter Mageton would do well in heavy land. He thinks such a great deal of Dimond’s Emperor that he means to go in for it extensively, and has grafted it on to a lot of other sorts. Stone Pippin he finds are a failure in deep moist ground, but on the shallower soil they bear real well, if given an abundance of water. The Rennedy Kennedy he also cultivates in considerable quantity. These trees bear well every second year, and he has two sets. One lot bear, say, this year and the other on the off year.

Six rows of French Crabs he has cut down as useless; three rows he has taken out altogether and the other three rows he has grafted with a splendid apple know as John Toon, and also with Alfriston (cooking apple.) His Stone Pippins were very heavy last year. In one row, however, one tree did not bear well. This year that tree is the only one in the row with a good crop. Five Crown Pippins put on to Cleopatras are just coming into bearing and look like a good crop this year. The Cleopatra used to spot badly and thus was virtually unmarketable. The Northern Spy is another apple he has rejected and has grafted Rennedy Kennedy on to the stocks. The Northern Spy is a good fruit, but useless in the Moorabbin soil. One Ripstone Pippin, Mr Stayner pointed out, on the junction of sand and gravel, bore more fruit than any tree in the garden. About two and a half dozen Summer Pearmain (apples) that have borne very every second year presented an ugly appearance, being covered with sap knots consequent on the wooly blight. Mr Stayner proposes to take the ’95 crop off them and then to dig out and burn them, and to replace the with clean blight proof sorts, probably with cherries. Williams’ Favorite he reckons is one of the best kinds in his orchard and he has grafted 60 or 60 trees with it.

The Maiden’s Blush is a very good clean apple and has no blight although quite close to the Pearmains. The Ripstone Pippin is a good apple, and is as payable to grow as any, and Cox’s Orange Pippin, of which he has 50 trees, he finds do excellently with water.

As regards pears he will have a very light crop this year, although he has many splendid trees in his orchard. We saw two trees with a water tap between them,  off which a crop of 30 bushels had been taken. The heaviest bearer this year will be Williams Voncrecian. Plums are also light.

He is going in extensively for tomatoes. He tried staking last year and it answered admirably, with plenty of water. He had good tomatoes till June and was picking for five months. He is staking 2500 plants this season. We were shown eight rows of tomatoes, 45ft. in length, that had given 10 bushels of splendid fruit at one picking. The staking process greatly improves the fruit, and it is saleable when that grown on the ground is unsaleable. A little more trouble is entailed at first, but the time is eventually saved in the picking; he grows the young plants in pots.

In an enclosure on the other side of the house Mr. Stayner grows cherry plants, strawberries, French beans, rock melons, lettuce, and cucumbers. He also has a spacious dam, tanks, and windmill here. The dam is 132 ft. in length, 30 ft. in width, and 20ft. deep. About 200 yards of earth was excavated from it. its capacity is 300,000 gallons. There are six tanks erected at a level of about 35 ft., with a total capacity of 25,000 gallons. The windmill is self-acting, and when the tanks are full an apparatus lifts to the surface, and throws the machinery out of gear, to prevent further pumping until the water goes down. The dam is filled, in the ordinary course of events, by surplus rain water, but in event of a drought it can be filled up by pipes leading into it form the Yan Yean mains. Mr. Stayner is a great believer in irrigation, and runs rows of taps through-out his orchard. He has two mains, one from the Yan Yean and one from his tanks, and can use either as occasion demands. In the summer, when the Yan Yean pressure is low, he falls backs on the tanks. The effect water has on trees and plants he says is simply marvellous. With irrigation three times the quantity of more superior fruit can be grown. He has made a hole, 4ft. by 4ft. adjacent to a Black Diamond plum tree, and kept it full of water. The tree bore magnificently. He had known pears to double their weight in 24 hours by the application of water. It has been argued that irrigation-frown fruit will not keep, but Mr Stayner is not of this opinion. He reckons it keeps better, because it grows with a continual gentle moisture. On the other hand, if the rain is solely depended on, the fruit may be parched until the autumn rains, when it will expand with the moisture suddenly. It keeps far better by continuous moisture than by water bestowed in fits and starts. He ran a stream of water the full length of his paddock between cucumbers, and obtained 100 dozen per week from two rows. He has planted four rows this season, and will try one row of rock melons. He never saw anything grow equal to his irrigated French beans, although they were not profitable on account of the low prices. He finds strawberries do well with water and anticipates a good crop. Lettuce too, thrived wonderfully, and were so big in February last that 20 dozen filled a corn sack.

In what is known as the “old orchard” there are cherry trees that were planted in 1872 – they are about played out. He planted rhubarb extensively here until it became unpayable, owing to falling prices. He gave the ground a spell, but has commenced again this year. This used to be one of his main crops. It is doing well now, and is coming back to its best. He took £95 one year from two-thirds of an acre. The Stone Pippins did not thrive well in this orchard. What is known as the “Ripstone Pippin” square comprises 7 dozen trees that all do exceedingly well, and produced 700 cases last year. This is one of the best pieces of black sand soil south of the Yarra, but the fruit would grow better in gravelly land with water, than here without it. He sold on man £25 worth of this fruit three years ago just to thin the crop. He also has one of the best squares of William’s pears in the district, with John Toons, Jonathans, and Fillbaskets interspersed. He has three William’s Pears in the front of the house, with gigantic roots that stray all over the place gathering nutriments. He got £6 worth of fruit from these last year. He thinks figs are good paying and has two dozen large trees. He has some very big turnips, and 20 or 30 rods of late cucumbers in moist naturally soaked ground.

Mr Stayner says he has taken £1000 per year for 5 years from 19 acres with fruit and vegetables, and one good year 1885-86, took £1200. His expenses were £700, leaving the credit balance of £500.

He considers there is a big future before fruit growers, but one of the greatest drawbacks is the insect pests. He considers this could be easily stamped out if Parliament passed some compulsory legislation for its eradication. The insect is ever ready to take cover, and can be easily captured on the trees in traps. Mr. Stayner is taking every means to destroy the pests in his orchards. He has a small “boiling down” establishment to kill them. The codlin moth takes to bandages, and he has all his trees bandaged. The apple moth and brow winged pest like wood, and he has constructed wood traps to be placed on the trees. All these traps are taken away and boiled at intervals. The pruning of trees are burned and unhealthy trees are boiled. If the Legislature passed a law making the destruction of the pest compulsory, and also for the destruction of harbors and abandoned orchards, the nuisance would soon be at an end.

“THE GARDENS OF BRIGHTON AND MOORABBIN.” Oakleigh Leader (North Brighton, Vic.) 3 November 1894: 5.  <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66217988>.