September Fruit Tree To-do List

plum trees coming into blossom

Manage height

Spring is an excellent time to tame the height of deciduous fruit trees because trees respond with gentle growth. They’ve already used a chunk of energy up making blossoms and new shoots which means – joy oh joy, there’s less fuel in the tank. Use this to your advantage, and prune back trees that are exuberantly vigorous or just plain out of reach.

This isnt an excuse to go hard out! As always, take your time, stand back and check after each cut to reasses. You will, I promise make all the perfect cuts this way and prune them back to the goldilocks point of not too much and not too little.

pre prune ponder

Plums grow strongly at my place in my rich clay and high rainfall. I steady their growth by doing the main prune in summer right after fruiting and then head back the tops in spring.

Head them back to an outward or downward facing bud – this is the direction the new shoots will grow in and down is so much easier than up.

Tie Branches Down

tie a branch down

Tying new branches down is a simple job that makes an enormous difference to the end shape and productivity of your decidous fruit trees.

The more horizontal a branch is, the more fruitful it is and the less inclined it is to lush unproductive growth. Its just how trees hormones roll. All the fruitful energy in a vertical branch happens at its tip. Tie that branch down and the energy shifts. Laterals pop up out of the branch and where there was one, there are now many fruitful tips.

Young branches are flexible in spring as sap begins to rise making this the perfect time to tie them down. By time autumn rolls around the wood has thickened and the years new growth ring has locked the wood into place. Remove the tie and marvel at the once upright shoot now turned horizontal.

As well as inspiring loads more fruitful wood, tying branches down opens trees for light, allowing sun to penetrate and allowing airflow for best health.

Read all about how to in this post here.

A Daily Walk

apple blossom

The easiest and most pleasurable job of all – wander your trees regularly and watch the blossom unfurl. See the bees in action (if they aren’t there wont be fruit) and watch the young fruits form. Keep an eye out too for disease. Its so very helpful for diagnostics to understand the progression.

Watch the journey and notice the weather when the flowers are out. If it rains during flowering the bees wont be out and cant transfer the pollen or if its windy and your trees aren’t sheltered and all the blossom is lost you wont be scoring the usual motherload of fruit.

This sets the scene for the harvest and if you’ve watched the process you’ll know where any problems are along the way rather than getting to summer and realising how few plums you have and wondering why not and what the heck went wrong, its old news and you’re all about the solution.


orchard spring

In my little world, spraying is biological. Its about coating the trees in beneficial fungi and bacteria in order to promote immunity and diversity and all round strength. Promoting life is the way forward in all our gardening endeavours because life begets life my friends, and the more life the stronger your garden.

As for copper, check in whether or not you need it before automatically spraying it on. Sometimes the answers yes. Especially when you inherit poorly managed trees or spring is wet and cool and fungal infection high. Trees that always suffer fungal infections either need to be replaced with a variety more suited to your place or you need to up the anti in your fruit tree care and create more resilience with less feeding, a more diverse environment or better mineral balance.

Copper is a powerful fungicide and excellent at its job if sprayed in a timely manner which is at leaf fall in autumn and again just as buds begin to break in spring. Its a death sentence to bees, so please dont be coppering on blossoms.

Find out how and why to use fungicides as well as how to tread the path to longterm holistic tree health with my healthy fruit tree game plan, which you can read here.


  1. Hey Kath,
    I missed the boat on my peach tree pruning this year and now that I have read a bit more I see a centre branch that needs to come out to promote air and light. It is pretty close to bud break .. …what happens if I do the chop now? I was just wondering if it would be good timing after reading about been ablte to tame the height of deciduous fruit trees in spring,
    Cheers Kath, looking forward to the arrival of your book =)

  2. Anna Caithness says

    Kia ora Kath, thanks so much for all your info! We have bought your pruning book which is great. We have a Luisa plum tree that we pruned for the first time about a month ago – it’s central leader had broken off so we cut that out, plus some other branches (using your advice of observing, and no more than a third). Since then there are a gazillion watershoots! Some of them have blossoms on them, and some don’t. The tree is blossoming now (prolifically) and just starting to get leaves. Is it best to thin every third watershoot now, or wait until after it’s fruited? And is it better to prune the tree in summer, rather than end of winter? We are in Whatawhata, just out of Hamilton.
    Nga mihi nui
    Anna 🙂

    • Pull down any watershoots that you can to fill gaps and yes thin a few out now is sweet as. Ideally prune after fruiting, check out the pruning diary in my book 🙂 Enjoy!