Care For Your Fruit Trees While They Sleep!
Whilst we bemoan the cold and wet days that are winter and miss the abundance of fresh summer vegetables and fruits, there is an upside to Winter….we can clean up our fruit trees! Taking off dead wood and bringing them back down to size so we can reach most of the fruit!
Of course, winter is the time for pruning and shaping our trees whilst they are young (and asleep). Use sharp secateurs or saw to make a ‘clean’ cut. Once they are shaped and pruned over the first three years, the branches should be strong enough to start holding the weight from abundance of fruit that it will produce. Never be afraid of reducing the tree load by restricting the amount of fruit allowed to set during the first couple of years. This will set you up for many years of a fruitful tree.
Always make your pruning cuts close to an outward facing bud to allow the tree to grow.
When pruning remember the 3 D’s: take out the diseased, damaged, and dead wood first. Shaping to a traditional ‘vase’ shape will allow the air to circulate through the tree.
Hot tip: Apricots and Almonds respond better to summer pruning (late season) to prevent excessive new shoots when waking up from hibernation.
Stone fruit such as peaches, nectarines, apricots, and almonds may suffer from curly leaf, a fungal disease. Winter is the perfect time to spray your tree with a lime & sulphur mix before buds swell.
Sulphur / Lime Organic Mixture Recipe
This mixture is best done outside due to sulphur smelling like ‘rotten eggs’!!
- Ingredient ratio – 2kgs Sulphur : 1 kg Lime/brickies lime : 10 litres water
- Boil the water
- Make a paste from the sulphur by adding a little water
- When water is boiling add sulphur paste, then lime
- Cook for 1-2 hours until mixture becomes cherry red/ brown
- Allow to cool overnight
- Strain mixture when cool into airtight container and label/date
- Mix 1 litre of mixture to 10 litres water to use as a spray
An alternative to the Sulphur & Lime spray is a popular mix known as Bordeaux Spray.
You will need to combine Hydrated Lime (builders’ lime) and Copper Sulphate in the following way:
- 100gms hydrated lime in 5 litres water – stir well
- In another container mix 100gms copper sulphate in 5 litres water – stir well
- Combine both mixes into a minimum 10 litre spray bottle
- Shake and mix during spraying process
- Wash all parts when done to prevent spray blocking in nozzle
Lime Sulphur burns leaves. Please use with caution around evergreen trees and always use precautions when spraying.
Do not spray on windy days. The best days are sunny with a light wind forecast, and usually in the morning. Just be sure to wait for any dew to dry on the surface before spraying. Cover all surfaces of the tree.
When spraying ensure you have adequate personal protective clothing & equipment in use to protect yourself from harm.
Clean around the base of the tree(s) and remove any residual leaves that may contain spores. Bin these leaves in green waste or add to a HOT compost. The last thing you want is to re-infect your trees with spores from the cold compost bin!
If you have chooks, why not let them have a scratch around to remove grubs/ codling moth larvae. Do not leave them for a long period if there is a risk of damage to superficial roots from the tree.
Last job to do…. place a frame over/around tree so that you can slip a net over after fruit has set to protect your fruit from birds/animals/rodents. Remember… they will take it whilst it’s still green, so keep an eye on your prize!