Brendon and Jane Pauley bought their orchard and home in Cromwell in 1994. At the time there were 1,000 apricot trees in situ and Jackson Orchard’s managed the orchard for them.
The fig trees began life as cuttings from a very old fig tree most likely from Bendigo station which in turn provided cuttings for trees around the original orchard which then provided cuttings that Jane and a friend sent off to Allanton Nursery to grow on. Three hundred took, they split them between the two of them. Jane’s prospered, the friends did not.
Jane really didn’t know a whole lot about growing figs but over the past 20 years both Brendon and Jane have learnt tons whereby they now have a wonderful fig grove of 130 trees producing 8 – 10,000 figs per season.
Figs like heat into the evening, can withstand some frost and do well in fertile soil. The Pauley’s orchard is situated on a very fertile area of river alluvium.
Several years ago they admitted defeat to the birds and put up nets. Birds still get inside the nets and will quickly make light work of ripe figs if left undetected.
The Pauleys use no spray at all. If the sooty mould is bad they will cut the affected areas off the tree. Brendon and Jane share the picking and prune the trees to ensure that the fruits are readily accessible with the trees not getting too high.
Fig trees live a long life. These trees are now producing good yields and will do so for many decades to come. Surpluses are dried and frozen. Fresh are wholesaled in Queenstown and retailed to restaurants and at markets.
While the season is relatively short the demand for the fresh figs is huge at the market. Customers make a bee line for the Pauley’s stall and they sell out readily.