Citrus, Strawberries and new Fruit Trees


Citrus trees are for sale in supermarkets and garden centres. I encourage you to think a little before buying in. Citrus love warmth (tiny wee baby ones more so) therefore it makes no sense to me to plant them out when we are coming into the coldest part of year. Late spring/ early summer is surely a far better option. Let them revel in warmth for the first 6 months of their lives and grow without struggle, let them spread their roots and increase their canopy and then, from this better prepared position – face the bitter chill. Exceptions would be the winter-less north, or trees bound for pots in sheltered nooks. Anyone with frost – forget it.

Established citrus need a feed this month. A sprinkle of Rok Solid, a dose of manure or seaweed and a layer of mulch.

Planning for Fruit Trees

Such excitement! Fruit tree planting time is coming soon, let the planning and dreaming begin! Fruit tree catalogues are some of the best reading I do all year, but beware – you will be seduced by those delicious sounding fruits (especially ones dating back to 1890). Relate to your catalogue like window shopping, not actual shopping … yet. Please pause for a moment. Cool your heels. Read my list.

  • Do you have shelter? If not then this is your project this winter – to plant shelter, not fruit trees.
  • Do you know where your fruit trees are going? A labelled stake banged into the ground is a wonderful way to figure it out. A stake won’t die if you move it 2 or 3 times, but a fruit tree will. Step the area out and be sure there is room. The size of the tree plus 1 metre around for access (your hair will thank me for this later).
  • Do your chosen spots match the needs of your trees? You need to be sure of this. Eg: an orange is going to need warmth, excellent wind shelter, to be frost free, have year-round sun, free drainage and yummy soil whereas a plum can handle some wind (a good breeze not a gale), heavy soil is fine, spring through autumn sun and be frost free. Do your homework.

Far from being a dream crusher (so says my teenage daughter), my wish is that your fruit tree growing ventures be a raving success.

Frost protection

It won’t be long till Jack frost visits. If frost happens at yours then young citrus, subtropicals and tamarillos need some protection to make it through. Let the magic that is liquid frost cloth come to your aide. I love this stuff – no more building plastic shelters for me! Actual frost cloth is another fabulous option. Be sure to secure it well to robust stakes. Your trees won’t appreciate cloth rubbing and scraping over them for 5 months. Not one bit.


May is the very best month to start your strawberries off, either by planting out runners or buying plants in. Planted now, they’ll be well-established come spring. The bigger the plant when flowering begins the longer she’ll fruit and the more fruit she’ll bear.  Rotten manure is their favourite stuff to grow in. Being shallow rooted they’re unable to reach out for goodness; so give ’em heaps close by.



  1. Sandy Shortt-Smith says:

    Kath….we live in Hamilton. All of my fruit trees are espaliered. 3 apple (heritage) from you guys -yum! 1 plum, 1 prune, 1 white nectarine, 1 red skinned nectarine, 1 red haven peach………we pruned down the plum after fruiting to a manageable height but….can we prune the rest NOW…or should we wait……till when? Should we spray with copper oxy or neem or conqueror oil now or wait? I have got the TIMING wrong in the past and would love to DO IT RIGHT…thanks SOOOO much.

    It was been a brilliant summer….some Tomatoes have grown up through the 4m high pitto hedge and were flowering OUT THE TOP ! marvellous magnificent Mother nature! reply IF you’d like a pickie of such?

    • Hi Sandy!

      You may be getting me mixed up with the lovely Sarah Frater from edible garden who sells fruit trees.

      Glad your season was a cracker.

      Ideally stone fruit are pruned after fruiting late summer. Spring is a good time to prune for height reduction. Winter not so great as the increased risk of silver leaf, but if your trees are fit and healthy and you choose a dry breezy day in winter then go or it. The thing with winter is the tree responds more with leafy growth – in the case of an exuberant stone fruit this may not help your cause!

      Pips – wait till they have lost all their leaves then prune.

      Whats with all the sprays? What problems do you have with your fruits trees?

      happy days, Kath