Boost Your Fruit Trees This Autumn

autumn leaves falling in the orchard at ediblebackyard

Leaves are turning gold and starting to fall, marking the end of a cycle of growth and the beginning of another as the leaf donates its goodness back to earth. All those tiny openings left by detached leaves makes it a prime time to get a biological (or copper if fungal infections persist), spray on.

Keep your trees hearty + strong.

2 options.

  1. Biological sprays are the cats pajamas. Nothing beats them for strong, robust, productive trees. My favourite mix of EM and 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. It also helps speed decomposition so infected leaf litter and fruit mummies disappear by spring before they spread their germs, and boosts ‘good’ fungi for balanced nutrition. Too good! Neem can be added in the same mixture as an extra layer to smother/ prevent hibernating pests.
  2. Copper is what we have traditionally reached for, and is a good call if fungal disease is rife at your place.

These sprays aren’t mutually exclusive, they can tag team. You can for instance, use copper in autumn at leaf fall and again late winter. Take up with monthly biological sprays spring through autumn.

Biological sprays are for building resilience long term. Those of you that connect with a whole systems approach will resonate. A small amount of fungal disease in your fruit trees can be managed this way. Make the time to spray monthly. To reap results, you need to be whole hearted about it and regular.

Copper is powerful and smashes fungus – good and bad. So use it only when you really need it as a short term thing to clean up over whelming populations of fungal spores. Serious fungal issues mean you need to look at your whole orchard system and chip away at improving all the layers.

As you build strength, fungal issues will abate and you’ll be able to leave the copper behind and stay the biological route.


A happy customer

I’ve been working with Sue up Otaki Gorge for the past few years, helping her bring her orchard to good health + production. I love working with someone who’s in boots and all, and the results speak for themselves. It’s only taken her 2 years to turn her orchard around. Monthly biological sprays, pruning, building herbal ley and mulching have rewarded her with less blackspot, less leaf curl and heaps more fruit. Not a copper spray in sight. How that orchard glows with good health and vigour now!

orchard spring

Read up on my healthy fruit tree game plan here and dive into the difference between the two approaches, see my calendar of when to spray, the ins and out of each and how to create a naturally healthy orchard system.

A Few More Good Reads


  1. Alyson Aislabie says

    New subscriber here, thanks for your great site!!
    Re spaying my fruit trees…
    Do I wait till all the leaves have dropped off before I spray or can I spray while leaves are still there?
    Many thanks

    • Biological sprays can go on at any time Alison – I’d wait until atleast about half the leaves were off before spraying to reap a goodly benefit. If you are using copper wait until all the leaves are gone ok.

  2. Hi Kath
    Are biological sprays OK for chooks? My orchard contains the cooks.

    • Great question and safe as houses Annabelle! Both the EM and the seaweed could go in their drinking water as a tonic … thats how good these tonics are!

      • Anita Tumai says

        Hi Cath/Belle I have chooks in my orchard too and every time I mulch they just disperse it all over the place – any tips/ ideas on keeping it around the trees with chooks?

        • You can put surrounds around your trees Anita but they are awful to manage! My preference is for rotational runs so that the chooks are not permanently in the orchard. Use them when needed to clean up fallen fruit and release weeds beneath trees then remove them when feeding and mulching comes around.

  3. hi great site

    I saw you had comfrey picture somewhere the other day. is it time to plant comfrey now around apple trees, lemon tree, plum and feijoa tree now? these fruit trees are by the driveway. are the comfrey taking over all the land soil under the fruit trees in future (if I only plant the comfrey bocking 14 type)? thanks

  4. Jen Cooke says

    Kath last year was the first year I did copper spraying… and it was the worst year for fungus disease yet.. I do wonder if I wiped out all the good with the bad (or din’t follow the application frequencey properly). . Think I’ll try building up the goodies this year.

  5. Ron Blair says

    A newby to fruit trees and lost all my golden queens to brown rot !! Please help . Cheers Ron.

    • Even experienced growers lost their peaches to rot this year Ron – the cool wet spring to blame. Do a copper spray at leaf fall and again at bud movement and follow along all the other ways in my healthy fruit tree game plan. Variety plays a part so if brown rot continues to plague you consider changing varieties – talking with local gardeners is a big help here.

  6. Liz Gooch says

    Hi Cath. My citrus have scab and are a bit misshapen. I cut back some branches for better air flow and cut off the infected fruit. I want to use a copper spray, but as they don’t lose their leaves, I’m always a little nervous about when to spray. Is now the best time

    • Hiya Liz. Verrucosis is a bit ugly to look at but trees can jog along with it, though zest is compromised the insides are often sweet as! Its helpful to regard it this way rather than trying to eliminate it. You are doing the right things pruning and thinning fruit for airflow. Before copper I’d want to check my lemon was in the best spot poss – ie free draining, yummy soil, protected from the wind, full sun and wasn’t drying out. If its well looked after wont get too bad. Full spectrum mineral fertiliser and monthly biological sprays are a given here as this is a fungal disease and the stronger the beneficial fungi the less detrimental fungi – though this takes time to build. Once all these things are taken care of, if you still feel you’d like to copper spray, remove all the ripe fruit first then spray now is fine as long as the soil isn’t dry. Copper is a fungicide though and will knock back the benficial guys – I say this not to tie you in knots but just so you know. Either way is sweet – do the one that feels best 🙂

  7. Hi Kath

    Love your idea of herbs as mulch for citrus. Is that true for citrus in pots – we have a small garden so lots of citrus in pots. Also, watched your pruning videos – great. Is there an ideal shape for citrus? Open vase or leader – or does it depend? Really appreciate your advice and wisdom.

    • Yip mulch is as awesome for citrus in pots as it is for in ground trees. An ideal shape for citrus is neither of those rather a nice open balanced shrub shape so that you can kind of see through to the other side and the shape is evenly balanced. Thinning cuts that remove shoots or branches in their entirety are the way to go here to keep an open vibe for air and light. Trimming around the outside is a no no – the branches fork when trimmed making an ever denser shrub.

  8. Just wondering the best way to convert my magic seaweed brew into something spreadable as it’s quite bitsy.

    • I’m thinking you mean theres floaty bits in the liquid seaweed jamming up the rose in the watering can? If you pop the seaweed into a sack and hang it in the water like a giant tea bag = no more floaty bits in your brew.

  9. Ketana Saxon says

    Hi Kath
    Followed all your “first do this” suggestions for getting
    an answer to my question about autumn fruit trees
    but no joy

    My question is my 2 apple trees ( four year old, one is dwarf ) have started blossoming with already several flowers ( May 10 2021 today)
    Why would this happen, should I remove the blossoms/flowers?
    and if so will that mean there will be less or no fruit in Spring

    Many thanks

    • Hi Ketana – yes this happens when the weather has tricked our trees. Possibly a thing thatll happen more and more. I would knock the flowers off myself. The longer you let them develop the more reserves the tree uses. Fingers crossed it gets cold where you are very soon to put your tree to sleep, and gather reserves before coming away in spring.