Plant Citrus, Prune Tamarillos + Feed Fruit Trees

Young lime tree with pallet fence on the southside for protection Edible Backyard NZ

Citrus and Subtropical Planting Time is Here!

Years ago, I read an article by Russel Fransham from Subtropica that advocated delaying planting of citrus and subtropicals until after risk of frost had passed. This made so much sense to me. Citrus hate the cold. Especially in that vulnerable new plant phase. It’s better they flourish in the warmth for their first season and get a bit more growth on them before having to face it.

For those of us that languish in frost and beanies through winter, this is an important trick to have up our sleeve. Wait to plant till its warmer, it makes all the difference.

So for those of you in cooler growing zones – once risk of frost has passed – this month or next, get onto your avocado, tamarillo, passionfruit and citrus planting.

How to Prune Tamarillos


Such floppy, breaky trees! Strengthen your Tamarillo with a good spring prune once risk of frost is passed.

  • New Tams can be pruned back to a bud at 1metre (or there abouts), to start the branching at a low height.
  • Create an open shape on established trees by completely removing branches that clutter the tree. Head back (trim back) remaining branches if they are lanky, by as much as half in order to match (ish) the length of the shortest ones. This makes for a balanced, strong shape and will promote fruiting wood. If its too tall and lanky prune it back to 1m – ish as per a new one, feed it up and watch it go!

Feed + mulch your deciduous trees

plum trees coming into blossom

Feed thoughtfully. What we seek is fruit, not foliage so cruise it people, don’t go for nitrogen – I know how you love your sheep pellets :). Here’s my thoughts on how to feed and mulch your fruit trees.

Prevent Pests

shield bugs in berries

When spring fungi and pests start brewing, so do I. I do a Fish, Neem and EM prevention spray to cover the berries, citrus and fruit trees this month.

Excellent air flow is an important part of this prevention plan. Slash long grass and weeds and use on your vegie beds (gorgeous mulch this), and double check your pruning now that the leaves are coming in to see whether or not you need to thin a few more shoots or branches for light + air.

Common sense, sensible stuff.

october orchard


  1. I used to live in Kerikeri,citrus everywhere. I lost a lemon to frost here. Still setting up my garden here,learning new lessons.

  2. Hi Kath, I have a cover crop of oats, mustard and lupins starting to flower but the oats have rust on them. Can this still be used as mulch or do I need to chuck the lot? Thanks so much for your valuable knowledge, I look forward to the beginning of each month to read your posts.

    • Such a shame isn’t it? My rusty wheat crop was for mulch too, and now I’m really on the mulch scrounge without it. Sad as it is – I wouldn’t use the oats Brenda, rust spreads like nobodies business. I’d be whipping them out as soon as poss. best Kath

  3. john stevenson says

    Hi Kath and fellow growers. We are busy eating (rather than planting) citrus at the moment, up to our armpits in the stuff. I have read not to put citrus into the compost, is that true ? If not good for the compost, what else to use all the citrus remains after juicing, preserving, marmalade etc ?

    • How delicious! Just temper the citrus with other stuff ok so its not a massive blob of skins … they are of course organic matter just like everything grown in nature so will go through all the same processes. The concern is a motherload in a wormfarm and people being too complicated/ precious about such things. Mix it up with a bunch of other stuff and then add it to your compost.

  4. Hi Kath. You mentioned you do a fungi spray that includes Fish, Neem and EM, can you please supply your recipe? Thanks.

    • Just use each ingredient as per dilution rate on the bottle and mix together in the watering can/ backpack and pour on! Too easy ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi Kath. I recently bought your pruning and garden book which are amazing! I have some trees -2 apples, 2 pear, a nectarine, peach and plum to plant still. All have blossom/leaves on them (other than one apple which was an unbranched rod), should I still prune them when I plant them or hold off till later. I’m in the South Island if this makes a difference. Thank you

  5. I planted tamarillos about a year ago and after a year of spectacular growth I decided to prune them back to 1.5m high about a month ago. They have shown no sign of life since; and I’m wondering if I have killed them.. If I haven’t how much longer do you think before they bud?

  6. Maria Carter says

    Hi Kath
    I bought your ‘Pruning Fruit Trees A Beginners Guide’ book and attempted to tame a pear tree that was heading for the stars. I cut the middle out of it and tied down several supple branches as suggested in the book. I did this in June. Now there are hundreds of new shoots coming off vertically. What should I do now?