It’s Time To Feed Your Fruit Trees

The orchard is waking up. Hurrah! blossom will soon be here. The trees sleep is over, and so is the gardeners. Its time to get on the job.

One of the best things you can do as fruit tree caretaker is to make sure you wander your trees regularly. Get to know them through every stage: from bud break to blossom to pollination to fruit development to harvest to leaf fall. Notice too how they respond to your pruning cuts – such helpful stuff my pruning students!

plum blossom the beginning

When those buds fatten up and show their first glimmer of pink/ white/ green it’s your sign to feed them!

If mulch is thick, pull it back and replace it afterwards. If mulch is broken down just go on top.

  • A fine layer of compost
  • A dose of gypsum
  • If your soil is on either end of the spectrum (sandy or heavy clay), or if your trees are new give a dose of full spectrum mineral fertiliser of your choosing
  • A woodsy mulch. Unless, of course, comfrey is in the house.


Get something grunty around your strawberries to get the soil jamming, and create a moisture retentive fabric for their shallow roots. I like rotten manure for this job. Compost would be my next go to.

Citrus and passionfruit

Pull back the mulch, spread a fine layer of compost and some generous dollops of rotten manure or seaweed if you are still building worm populations. Replace the mulch.


  1. Shirley Hampton says

    Kath hi, I live in Wellington and we haven’t been able to buy straw for a year or so because of the pea blight that affected the Wairarapa I think it was. The ban on selling it is for 2 years so a year to go. My compost is mainly vege scraps and soil so not as good for using as a mulch. What else could I use as a mulch around fruit trees and strawberries.
    Thanks very much

    • Hi Shirley
      Nice to hear from you!
      Yes – good not to use compost as mulch… it needs to be kept moist in order for the goodness to be usable.
      I like to make my own mulch mix up from whats I’ve got around. Its also a great idea to alternate mulches from year to year.. prevent disease build up from one particular thing, also the variety is way better for your soil life (the main reason we mulch in the first place)
      Fruit trees do well with something woody in the mulch mix. These are the things I use – well rotted sawdust (excellent for strawberries), wood shavings (not nuggets), leaves, bracken, pineneedles, trimmings off woody herbs like rosemary, lavendar or rotted hay. My preference is to mix a few together. This mix makes for the very best mulch! This article may help you
      Also if it suits your place comfrey is the ultimate fruit tree “living mulch”
      You can also use a physical barrier around your strawbs – black plastic, weedmat, hessian – whatever tickles your fancy. Peg it down with tent pegs. Helps keep the fruit clean and the slaters and slugs not so keen!
      Hope this helps Kath

      • Shirley Hampton says

        Kath hi, that’s great thank you. Lots of tips to keep me going thanks. I have plenty of woody things I’ve cut up and left by the hedge so will use those.

  2. julian Batchelor says

    What’s ‘rotten manure’…manure is already rotten is it?

  3. Suze Kenington says

    Hi Kath, thanks for your videos – really helpful. I’ve been trimming citrus today and was following the ‘vase’ shape but I see your lemon on this blog is busy and boisterous – should I just let my citrus do stay shrub like or try and maximise light get onto the branches? Thx! Suze ps. tied down my first peach today – looks like a weeping cherry now – looking forward to seeing how it respond. Only broke one branch by being too enthusiastic about it’s bendiness, casualties of learning…

    • Citrus need thinning only – they fruit on new seasons wood. Also they need air and light, so just get in and thin the clutter by pruning right back to the trunk or another branch. Aim to kind of see through to the other side Remove lower branches so the fruits dont end up on the ground and to create go airflow and remove any spiky shoots coming from the rootstock.
      Love the peach story – yip have broken many branches in my time – the worst idea ever was tying off to bottles filled with water that moved in a storm and broke 4 perfectly placed branches on my Tydemans Late which now is a totally funky shape!!

  4. Suze Kenington says

    HI Kath, I was trying to find a blog on how you make your hay into seed-free mulch – sorry if you have made one and I missed it. I was wondering the following:
    -On grass so the seed never make it into the garden? Or on bare ground?
    -Do you cover it with a water permeable layer? eg fadge
    -Piled up or thin layer?
    =How long for and do you leave it to rest for?
    I saw a image on another blog of hay piled up outside about a metre high so I’m guessing piling is the go. Also I heard you say on an interview that you let sprout – can it do this on all layers when it’s piled up?

    Is baleage a good alternative since the seed should have been rendered inactive by being cooked in the wrap?

    Thanks very much!

    • The way with hay or baleage is to think of it like firewood and get it in ahead of time, leave it out in the weather to sprout then cover it to kill the sprouts. If times are desperate and you need to use it – be prepared at the first sign of green fuzz to flip it over. Fresh hay makes more work down the track so avoid using it if you can!

Speak Your Mind