April Fruit Tree To Do List

This month is all about harvesting nuts, preparing deciduous fruit trees for winter, caring for citrus and planning new fruit/shelter/ nut trees.

Citrus Care

Developing mandarin fruits are a good size and healthy Edible backyard NZ

Young developing fruits alert you to pay attention. The adult crop relies on actions taken now: good moisture, thinning, mulching and at this time of year – rat control too!

Moisture check

Young developing fruits need perfect soil moisture to turn into beaudacious adults. A worthy check in at this time of year when soil may be really dry. Check soil moisture, and if need be, give a lovely soak.

Liquid feed + mulch

After pruning the mandarin- lower growth pruned back for good airflow
Chunks of wood beneath citrus is an easy way to improve soil life.

Yellowing leaves may be nothing more mysterious than a sign that the soil is thirsty – nutrient exchange can’t occur in a dry environ. Feeding now isn’t a good idea, it’ll spur new growth to arrive in cold weather. Instead, once the moisture’s right, pour a lovely biological feed over the tree and soil beneath. This’ll get soil life hopping and coat the foliage in beneficial fungi/ bacteria.

Top up the mulch with whatever you can rustle up – a slightly rotted, mixed, woody mulch is the best bet. Failing that, make a mixture of whatever woody debris you have – soil loves a diverse brew!

Recycling bigger chunks of wood or larger pruning’s beneath citrus is a cool way to boost diversity. This is where I tuck any big knotty lumps of wood I don’t have the energy to split for firewood.

Remove fruits from new trees + Thin fruits on established trees

satsuma mandarins need a thin out
Way too many fruits here! Each fruit needs enough space to fully grow.

What a difference to young trees when you remove all the fruits! Raising babies requires huge amounts of energy, energy that new trees are better served using to build a strong frame and root system. Let years 1 + 2 be child free.

From year 3 onwards, thin excess fruits. Each fruit needs about 7 leaves to support it – let 7 be a fluid number, not a rule. Where canopy is strong and lush leave more fruits, where it’s not leave less, and don’t be shy to remove all fruits in year 3, if your tree is still tender and small. Less fruits is better than more at this early stage especially if you live somewhere cooler where growth is slower.

Rat protection

Oh how rats love citrus. Possums too. Get traps up and running now.

Deciduous Fruit Trees + Nuts

autumn leaves falling in the orchard at ediblebackyard

Falling leaves mark the end of one cycle of growth + the beginning of another, as the leaf donates its goodness back to earth.

An autumn biological spray

All those tiny openings left by detached leaves make it a prime time to get a biological spray on. My favourite mix of EM + slow brewed NZ seaweed or hydrolysed fish coats fruit trees and the surrounding ground in a crew of beneficial organisms that out-manoeuvre and out-compete detrimental fungi and bacteria. This life, also helps speed decomposition of infected leaf litter and fruit mummies and boosts ‘good’ fungi for balanced nutrition. Too good! 


Autumn is natures mulching season: the bigger trees coat the ground with mineral rich leaves, between that and the comfrey I don’t have any mulching to do.

  • If young trees are being outcompeted with weeds and grasses, slash or stomp the competition down, lay cardboard and spread a mixed woody/ arborist type mulch. All the better if the mulch is slightly broken down and beginning to infuse with fungal threads.
  • Established trees don’t need card and mulch, simply sprinkle your woodsy mulch around and about the dripline – all over really – about the comfrey/ herbal ley/ grass. I used to pile it on but now I know that all nature needs is a sprinkle. The goal isn’t to kill off the grass but rather to inoculate the ground with beneficial fungi.
  • Remove stakes and ties on 2 + 3 year old trees that are now strong enough to go it alone. Its important not to molly coddle them, they need to stand up for themselves and blow about a little in order to grow stronger roots.

Nut Harvest

Gather up walnuts and hazelnuts as they fall. Dry them in single layers in baskets or racks before storing away in onion bags in a dry rodent free place. Such a good value food crop!

Tree Research

tree canopy catches alot of rain

Yay! Tree planting season is upon us! In the excitement, be sure to choose ‘future proofed trees’ – ie: ones that grow to just the right height + wont overshadow your future life/ grow over the drive/ onto the road/ push the fence…. If I can save you the huge effort and expense of removal, I’ll be so very happy.

Read through my checklist, before you order or shop. What a difference when you take the time! If you need help working it all out, I’m here for you.

PS: Plant labels most often refer to the 10 year height, not the full grown one. Karaka for example, I’ve seen labelled as 6m at 10 years. Yes, tis true, but when grown in ideal conditions, she’ll easily grow another 6m, ending at 12m. Do your own research.


  1. kelvin davies says

    Thanks Kath, any comments on pruning a Persimmon tree which has a great crop.

    Many thanks and take care.

  2. I havent had any fruit on my orange tree for almost 3 years. When I brought it from the garden centre it had fruit. I’ve been feeding it, putting mulch around it but still nothing. It looks like it is in great condition otherwise. What am I doing wrong?

    • First things first Angela – did it flower?

      • I havent seen any flowers on it….

        • Ok so this here is your first problem! Without flowers, there be no fruits.
          Ideally young fruit trees aren’t allowed to grow fruits – ie the grower plucks of all fruits until the 3rd year when the canopy and structure is developed. Fruiting too young wears them out and can take a few years to recover. Give it another year ok.
          At the same time consider how you are feeding it. Too much richness will stimulate foliage at the expense of fruit. This is hard to assess online – but hopefully my citrus posts will help you through this.
          All the best

          • I did think it was abit young to have fruit on it when I first purchased it.
            Thank you for your help

  3. Anna saunders says

    Hi Kath
    I have an orchard beginning and want to move two Tamarillos into it
    When is best to do this and shall I build a shelter .
    Thanks Anna

    • Hiya Anna, depends on where you live first up. I dont recommend planting subtropicals or citrus now as we move into our coldest time of year – they love the heat! If you get frosts and live somewhere cold then I’d shelter then in your usual way over winter and move them mid to late spring once night and soil temps are rising.

  4. I only have three lemon trees … two are quite young and have never been pruned and an older one which I have very ignorantly attacked …. it is a Lisbon, I think – has beautiful juicy lemons …. but I definitely need instruction …. are lemon trees included in your pruning book ?
    I need info on disease and feeding / mulching care.
    I live in Kaitaia …. no good frosts to kill bugs 😞 …
    Thank you,

  5. Paul Heath says

    Hi. April 3 here on the border of Kapiti and Horowhenua. My mature mandarin and orange trees are full of green fruit, not going orange. What’s happening here? Thanks. Paul.

    • Hey Paul, give them time ok. Be sure to thin the crop so as each fruit has its own space and await! Mandarin and orange season is a wee ways off yet. Look up the varieties and find out when they’ll likely be ready – this will ease your wait 🙂

  6. Andrea Giblin says

    We have just planted a couple of 2 metre tall apple trees. One stalk, but assuming they will produce new branches next year. However something has taken the tops off (they are now only 1.5 metres tall) and also something is stripping the leaves. Any ideas?
    Also do you plant comfrey under the trees or just add the leaves to the soil under them? We are just establishing our orchard so lots to learn. Thanks

    • Possum? You need more clues Andrea – make like a detective and investigate the bites and any other damage around. Can stock get to them?
      1.5 is fine, tidy the cut up and figure out who’s doing the eating with a bit of research into what possum damage looks like et all.
      I plant it beneath my fruit trees – wondrous stuff. Use the search bar on my website and look under the fruit tree tab – loads of info for you on my site! 🙂

  7. Beepityborp says

    This is awesome. I’m going to try out the EM + seaweed mix to protect my fruit trees. I was wondering is there somewhere I can find more info about the ratios? And I’m assuming you use the foliar seaweed mix? Thankyou so much. There is a neighbors tree that hangs over the fence that got brown rot terribly badly this year and apparently the spores can persist so I’m worried about my little fruit trees that have only been in the garden 1 year.

    • Hi Rachel – dont worry about the spores – even if the tree wasnt close by those teeny tiny spores fill the air – we’re swimming in them! So no worries, just put all your focus on building a strong system. Just use each ingredient as per the rations on the bottle ok did you click on the link through to the biological feed article? https://www.ediblebackyard.co.nz/my-2-ingredient-biological-liquid-feed/ that gives you all the details. Check out the posts under the fruit trees tab for loads of info. Enjoy, Kath

  8. Ruth Elizabeth Harrison says

    Hi Kath,
    I now realise that I have scale and sooty mold, and of course ants, on my young lemon and in particular, my young lime tree. They both have some yellowing, eaten leaves too, so aren’t doing too well. I ‘ve been reading all your great info and have bought EM, seaweed, and Neem and have recently started to spray my citrus with it. However I’m quite worried about the lime tree, as it has a lot of sooty mold and hardened scale on the branches. Do you think I should just continue with a weekly spray of Neem (and EM and seaweed) ? (I have also been reading all your great info on pruning and ordered your book today, can’t wait to get it, as I now realise there is so much I wasn’t aware of! I now know, that my lime is too close to the ground and will need pruning ). Many thanks, Ruth

    • Hi Ruth, yes just keep a weekly spray up and especially of importance – look under the trees – how is the soil? Artificial fertilisers, too much nitrogen (manure/ grass clippings) will facilitate lots of sucking insects. Read this article here https://www.ediblebackyard.co.nz/how-to-feed-citrus/ to help you cultivate the right kind of balance. Now is not the time to feed but you could spread a lovely woody mulch beneath to get the ball rolling. Give it all time Ruth. Dont panic ok. All is well, and good on you for looking to natural solutions – takes time to respond but then in the long term everything is better for it. cheers K

  9. Hi there
    Not too sure I am allowed to post an off topic question here, I think I am having a mid life crisis so planted 8 fruit trees I have never done anything like this before, I would love someone’s advice please , I have Avos, lemon tree, couple of apple trees , Satsuma tree,feijoa tree ummm and another couple all very recently planted other than the Avocados which where planted a couple of years ago, I do have a ton of questions but the burning one, is it necessary to whitewash the trunks and branches in spring in NewZealand, I have watched you tube videos but always from America, thank you

  10. Should I prune new growth on avo before frost I live in Tirau

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