June’s Fruit Tree To-Do List

autumn leaves falling in the orchard at ediblebackyard

As the leaves begin to fall from our deciduous fruit trees, a few timely jobs rise to the surface.

Time to Mulch

Nature shows us its time to mulch! Leave the leaves where they lay, topping them up with a lovely woody mixture – both will excite beneficial fungi, key players in balanced nutrition.

You really don’t need to put your back out (and disturb the soil kingdom) by digging the grass out. Just lay cardboard or newspaper around the base of the tree and cover with mulch. Should your tree roots be beneath a living mulch of comfrey you can skip this job – the comfrey’s got it covered.

A Biological Super Spray

Prune for a balanced shape ediblebackyard nz

Spray your trees with a living-biological-brew when about half to all the leaves have fallen – all those little openings make this a prime moment. An especially good idea if fungal disease has been an issue. Make a biological brew and spray generously – bark, limbs, ground beneath, the lot.

You’re building  (as in “Rome wasn’t built in a day” type building), an army here. A crew of beneficial organisms to out-manoeuvre and out-compete detrimental fungi and bacteria, and speed decomposition so that leaf litter and fruit mummies disappear by spring.

Read my healthy fruit tree game plan for an overview on how to build a strong hearty orchard without spraying fungicides (copper and lime sulfur).

Plant new trees

take the label off

Yippee do – deciduous fruit tree/ cane and vine planting time is upon us. I hope in all the excitement of new trees, you have the basics covered – made a harvest calendar, matched up pollinators, matched the tree to the right environment and located your tree/s with enough space in mind.

Working out fruit tree spacings is all about finding the goldilocks moment.

  • Give more space to cool/ wet/ still environments than hot/ dry/ breezy ones.
  • Plant trees as close as possible to make the most of your land, but don’t get too close that tree health suffers or access is blocked. Fruit trees need light and airflow and the gardener needs comfortable working room.
  • Rootstock is the final part of the puzzle.

As for those crazy vines/ canes – how are you going to support them? Well is my hope.

Plant companions

Fennel is an awesome tap root companion in the orchard, enticing many beneficial insects with its sweet nectar.

Divide and plant out orchard companions to keep building diversity. Make up your own personalised guild by choosing your favourite + most useful plants.

  • Deep rooting companions like comfrey, chicory, horseradish, fennel, parsnip, parsley, globe artichoke, borage or dandelion to recycle nutrients, open clay and hold sand – they’re value is enormous.
  • Plenty of herbs and flowers to discourage pests, to feed beneficial insects and bring below ground diversity for a larger pool of biological life
  • Nitrogen fixers provide an ongoing nutrient exchange for free! You dont need loads, just dotted about. Grow clovers and or legumes on your orchard floor or nitrogen fixing shrubs/ trees throughout or on the border.

Prune deciduous fruit trees

Spend some time in your orchard doing a pre-prune ponder. Imagine the handsome look of your trees after pruning – nicely spaced branches that allow light to penetrate + air to flow, and a shape that’s balanced and strong enough to hold a crop in the blast of a gale.

Achieving this doesn’t take lots of wood removal – less really is more! Hard pruning creates stress and induces disease. Rather than go hard, be targeted.

Knowing what you’re creating before you cut results in a far better prune than head down, start chopping. Please banish that dreadful word ‘hack’ from your vocabulary. Imagine a hairdresser saying “I’ll just have a hack at it”. You’d run a mile.


  1. You are a source of such excellent advice — yay Kath! Your comments about copper are so helpful.

    • Happy to help!

    • Helen King says

      Hi Kath,

      I inherited a plum/peach graft on our new property that has very severe leaf curl. It is a fairly mature tree, and I may need to copper spray it; issue being, my gorgeous chickens are in the same area, and I am worried abiut the copper, which I believe can be toxic to them, hurting them.
      Any thoughts? Is well pruned and I get rid of the fallen leaves, and of course the girls do their jobs eating the bugs.

      • Hi Helen
        Sorry to say I don’t know about copper and chickens. I’d ask your local chook farmer or poultry breeder.
        If the leaf curl is really bad you’d benefit from a lime sulphur spray while the tree is dormant (hold your nose – it’s eggy!). EM (from EMNZ) is fab too in the spring as an allover tree and the ground beneath spray. Seaweed is another option if you are beach side – hang it in the tree and pile it beneath.
        So fabulously useful – chooks in the winter orchard!
        I cant help wonder – are they there year round? Don’t they gobble up the fruit?!
        best Kath

      • Hi Kath
        I am an ‘apprentice’ home gardener and love your work that provides great direction for sustainable practice.
        I have been using EM, neem and just a standard seaweed liquid over summer (will be buying some of the seaweed liquid you recommend shortly).
        In terms of the fish liquid is this Moana Natural and/or Moana Extra? And would you use this in addition to the EM, neem and seaweed mix? Or an alternative to seaweed?
        Trying to get the foliar and ground mixes sorted in my head :).

  2. Hi Kath,
    What kind of sprayer do you use? I have tried some smaller once from the shops but they just end up dribbling and then not working at all. I know, you get what you pay for… Any tips?
    Thanks heaps

    • Hi Maren

      A sprayer is one of those things that you need to spend some bucks on, the dribbling is so disheartening!!

      I love solo backpacks. Have had mine for 10 years and still it goes :). I use it atleast once a month year round and in the height of summer every week. Do unscrew the spray nozzle and clean it with boiling water every now and then and especially if you are using Neem.

      best Kath

  3. Donna Eldridge says

    Hi Kath.
    Just spent an hour of my life trying to get Apple Pay to recognise my delivery address to no avail. It would appear that Foxton is a figment of my imagination. Do you have any at your house? And can I come and pick one up?
    Please text me on 0274425358
    Cheers Donna Eldridge (formally of Waikanae)

  4. Donna Eldridge says

    I am talking about the fruit pruning book. Just realised the comment didn’t follow the page I was reading at the time. :0)

  5. Hey Kath great info as always – I note the q above about chooks and copper, but my q is about chooks and the bio sprays you mentioned – EM etc. Are these all ok to use with chooks in the same area?

  6. Robina Broughton says

    Hi Kath – I love your blogs and I’m trying to do the best by my orchard with varying success. My problem is that I can’t seem to find the info when I need it. Ever thought of writing a sort of Orchard /vege patch Calendar that has a chronology of all the tasks needed for your orchard/vege patch?
    Kind regards

    • Thanks Robina … and yes I agree it would be super helpful! I haven’t chosen it as a topic for a book because, putting my business hat on, sales of a regional diary aren’t promising. What do you think about the option to buy into a monthly or weekly email? Although there’s nothing more comforting or easy to manage than a book aye.
      nga mihi

  7. I’d be into buying a monthly or weekly sub that covers fruit and veg to dos by the region. LOVE the idea- I’m with Robina – trying my best but miss lots of windows as I stumble across things a bit late etc so a regional tailored to do would be 👌 especially timing of biological spraying of fruit tree etc! Not that your blog isn’t already a fabulous source of info Kath!!!!

  8. Love this – thank you!

  9. Hi Kath, love your blog and have bought your fantastic book. I wish I’d had it a year ago when I planted my apple trees! I didn’t prune and now have what appear to be 3 strong leaders… I’m thinking it’s probably not a case of “the more the merrier”? Should I take off the outside 2, and if so, right back to the central one or not?

    I was also wondering if you could use the liquid in the bokashi bucket as a foliar spray instead of EM? Perhaps mixed with seaweed and Neem? My Nelson garden is so wet in winter that I find it hard to use the liquid up.

    And finally, how often can I sprinkle the wood ash from my fire around the fruit trees? Are there any plants which don’t like ash?

    Many thanks for your help.

    • Hiya Julie
      Yes definately get rid of two so there is but one! Keep the best placed one ok and remove the others – get them right off! And yes bokachi juice is kin to EM – just use it instead for sure. As for woodash love that you’re using you’re valuing your ‘waste’ and reusing it. Just sprinkle around on the grass in your orchard as you clean your fire place out and no there is no one that’ll object they’ll all appreciate it 🙂
      happy gardening

  10. Nicola Gray says

    Hi Kath,
    We have three peach trees, Blackboy, Golden Queen and a white peach. Am a learner re pruning and last year pruned away happily, pruning away several whippy little branches only to have peaches on the lower branches and each tree sprang up a zillion whippy branches. So many it was hard to part the foliage and spot the peaches. My question, what did I do wrong and what do I do to or with all those hundreds of little branches??? Many thanks.

    • Forever learning about pruning Nicola 🙂 Dont relate to it as wrong ok – its all very valuable learning. Perhaps you pruned too hard or perhaps you did alot of heading back rather than thinning – its pretty tricky to say without looking. Consider too how you fed your tree. Feeding has a big impact too so am wondering if you got all enthusiastic with something like blood and bone or manure? Feel free to do little and often seceteur size pruning all through the growing season. This is a great way to manage all the extra shoots that clutter the place up. Or prune after harvest while the leaves are still on for a realistic look at letting light in. For now get thinning! Remove entire branches to open the tree up rather than heading back or shortening them. Hope this helps, Kath

      • Nicola Gray says

        Thanks Kath. Actually I did prune to open the tree up and removed any clutter from the centre. There were heaps of the Twiggy little branches in the centre and growing off larger branches. I gritted my teeth and took them all off. That’s what I wondered, having done that they grew back with a vengeance. No I didn’t go mad with fertiliser but it is growing in soil which is heavily mulched and next to our septic tank. I noticed your comment about manure and wondered.🤔.

  11. Graeme Siddle says

    Hello Kath

    You mention a spray for the fruit trees made with EM, Neem and Fish/Seaweed solution. What proportions of each do you use please? 1:1:1 or something else.

    Thanks for your help.

    • Hi Graeme, Just the ratio for each as per instructions on the bottle ok. Treat them as individuals in your spray pack even though you are putting them together. Eg: 1ml per litre for NEEM, 1ml per litre for EM, 10ml per litre for seaweed (or whatever the instructions for your particular seaweed is) Hope this helps. Kind regards Kath

      • Graeme Siddle says

        Thanks Kath that’s really helpful. My EM is being couriered to Palmerston North as I write.

  12. Joanne Saunders says

    Hi Kath hope all is well. Just a question about a lovely old apple tree which i think probably should get pruned i don’t know what sort of apple it is. It is a great cooker and eater and has yellow flesh. You probably know the tree anyway. Should I prune the whole thing back or should i do it in stages over a couple of years. I’ve been here 3 years and not touched it. It is prolific cropper so would hate to stop it from cropping if you get my drift.
    Also could i buy your book and either pick it up or get you to drop it in my letterbox. I can do paypal but if i can save the postage that would be great.

    Cheers Jo

    • Hiya Jo,
      Trees are wonderfully forgiving – you wont kill it! Rather you’ll inspire fresh shoots for new fruits in a few years. My way is to steadily prune back old trees rather than a dramatic chop. Pruning elicits a response from the tree – the harder the prune the harder the shooting next year = curly problems for the pruner! Keep things steady with a gentle prune over a few years. Older trees usually require a few big branches off initially. Choose the most out of balance or tallest branch to completely remove. Balance the tree out by cutting back longer branches to meet shorter branches. Remove wood to let light shine into as many nooks and crannys as possible – flowering and fruiting is all about the light. Grab my book from Bernie at paperplus Levin ok or flick me an email through my website and we can arrange something. Hope this helps 🙂

  13. Great thanks for the advise i shall attemot and not be daunted by it. I’ll check out paperplus as well.
    cheers Jo

  14. Thanks for the great info. Just to let you know, the new and improved name for Blackboy peach is “Sanguine” per Tree Crops.

  15. Yvonne Collin says

    Hello Kath
    Is there anywhere in central Hawke’s bay that sells your pruning book?
    Or would I be able to purchase it from Sarah Frater when I pick up my new fruit trees??

    Kind regards

  16. Hi Kath I’m a novice gardener and have been learning so much from your book. We live on coastal hill country on the west coast of the north island which is rugged and beautiful but can be wild at times! I’m in the process of buying Naturally Neem, EM1 and seaweed for a biological spray. Just wondered about the Oceans Organics – would I be best getting the soil concentrate or the foliar concentrate to add to my spray? Thanks Donna

    • kia ora Donna, I have only ever used the foliar. Be interesting to see what the difference is – am sure Oceans organics will be super helpful for you here. And I bet both would be great. Enjoy!

  17. Jen Cooke says

    Kath, what do you use to spray out EM/ Neem / seaweed mix? I thought putting EM through high pressure ruined it?

  18. Hi Kath this year I’m starting my little orchard in Evergrow bags so I can get them underway at our rental property and take them with us when we finally buy somewhere. I’ve never done fruit trees before and have a couple of questions please:
    1) Do I attempt to do any staking or companion planting or just leave them solo in the bags?
    2) Should I do any initial pruning on the non-deciduous trees (feijoas, citrus, blueberries) – eg taking off all the branches below hip height in the trees that are tall enough – or any pruning in the first year of their lives?
    3) Would you just do everything else as if they were planted in the ground?
    Hope your travels are going well!
    Thanks heaps as always

    • Hi Alana, Don’t worry about staking the trees unless they are in a windy spot and vulnerable to blowing over in which case the best way is a stake in the ground beside the bag, not in the bag itself. A companion or two at the base is worth it I reckon, though stick to smaller growing, groundcover types in bags. Yes, it can be helpful to create a clear trunk at the base of the tree by removing the lower growths on the citrus and blueberries and feijoas. Also remove any out of balance growths – eg overly long ones – head them back in line with the rest for balance, or where there is cluster of growths perhaps thin the excess out. A light prune to create balance – and only if needed.
      Otherwise yes, follow along as per in ground.
      K x

  19. Graeme Siddle says

    Dear Kath
    My daughter in Glen Eden (Auckland) has a feijoa which was damaged in the storm earlier this year. She has bound the split and the tree did fruit this year, But what would you recommend now? Cut the trunk below the split or leave as is? We have pruned it so the canopy is less than it was to reduce weight and growth.
    I have photos if they would be helpful.

    • Dear Graeme, I did reply – I hope you get my answer this time around.
      Bind and prune is perfect Graeme! The tree is showing you already its powers of regeneration. Tell her to keep her eyes on it, and trim away any overly long or out of balance growths as they reveal themselves. Thin off as many fruits as possible, as she can bear! – the less energy it puts into the fruits right now, the more energy it has for repair.
      All she need do is keep the tree well mulched – don’t go feeding it up at this time of year.
      Biological sprays (find the details on the site) will do the world of good, but really, Feijoas are hardy and will shoot away! Just watch and see!

  20. Hi Kath!

    We’ve been clearing off a slope below our new house to be our future orchard – it’s been a wild tangle of blackberry, honeysuckle, old man’s beard, etc. I’m not going to spray so am wondering what my strategy should be . We’ve hacked most of it away / chopped as close down to the ground as possible, pulling out roots where possible. The old blackberry canes are too big and deeply rooted (and too many) to pull them out/dig them all out and get all the roots out. Do you think I could just chop to the ground and sow a whole lot of green manure over the top and just pull out the baby canes when they resprout? Or is this a recipe for future disaster?

    Thanks heaps! Let me know if you think a garden consultation would be a better forum for this question 🙂

    • Wow what an awesome collection of weeds you got there Alana!
      I love your commitment – I wouldn’t spray either but I would in all likelihood use cut n paste which yes is a glyphosate but without the spray drift, and in situations like this big guns are required. Checkout the cut n paste website for more info gathering – NZ designed weed management.
      The only other feasible option I know of is to use goats – which is an excellent option until you want to plant the fruit trees 🙂
      A dude or dudette with a small digger to dig out/ scrape off as much as poss can be fab depending on access and terrain followed by ongoing management with either cut n paste or goats
      The green manure wont be near enough to hold back gutsy established blackberry/ old mans and honey suckle. Big weeds like this take a plan of action and digging in for the long haul.
      Hope this helps. If you need more you know where to find me!

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