What a great opportunity this week to give those hard-working fruit trees a boost. Good, soaking spring rain is ideal for delivering balanced nutrition, helping along fruit size and flavour while improving trees’ resistance to pests and diseases.
While hail may have damaged some new growth and left blemishes on young fruit, most will hang in there. The trees will now really appreciate a good feed of matured compost and/or animal manure, complete organic fertiliser, fish and/or seaweed solution. Check specific fertiliser requirements for your selected fruit tree varieties.
With renewed warm weather following the rain, lush new growth will be taking off (especially on any trees that may have had too generous a serve of nitrogen-based fertilisers) and may be vulnerable to leaf curl (stone fruit trees) and attack by aphids and other pests. Inspect trees closely and where necessary apply organic pest sprays.
Warmer ground temperatures and good rain make it an ideal time to plant citrus trees. Take care, however, if planting into clay soils, to ensure that citrus don’t suffer from wet feet in future downpours. This can be overcome by the following steps:
- Wait until soil is no longer boggy before digging.
- Incorporate gypsum into the planting hole and the backfill soil if testing indicates that this will improve drainage.
- Use plenty of well-rotted organic matter to improve soil structure, both prior to planting and in the form of compost and mulch applied regularly over the soil surface.
- Plant the tree with its rootball only half-submerged below natural ground level. Mix the soil from the hole with compost and free-draining potting mix, and use this to backfill around the rootball and to mound up the surrounding soil to the level at which the tree was planted in the pot (i.e. covering all the roots). Firm down gently but thoroughly and water in well with diluted seaweed solution to promote strong root growth.
- Provide pathways or stepping stones around the tree to avoid compaction of soil over the roots.
- Ensure trees receive a regular, deep watering and maintain good mulch cover to preserve adequate soil moisture and protect roots.
- Check the day after heavy rainfall events to ensure that water is draining away from citrus trees (moist at finger depth but not soggy and squishy). If soil remains waterlogged after a day or two, citrus trees may be better off in raised garden beds or large planter tubs (varieties grafted onto dwarf rootstock are best suited to container growing).