Fruit Salad Trees | Winter Care

June 06, 2019 1 Comment

Fruit Salad Trees | Winter Care

Winter is here which means that your Stone Fruit Salad Trees and Apple Fruit Salad Trees will start to shed their leaves. Don't stress, this is a normal process which happens every year. Here's a guide to caring for your fruit trees during these Winter months.

Spray your Stone fruit trees

During Winter, Stone Fruit trees need to be sprayed to combat diseases which will harm your tree. If you have not applied the clean up spray of Lime Sulphur, then the new leaves of your Stone Fruit tree in Spring may appear with buckled or twisted or have 'blister' type deformities on them. If you see this, then your tree has been affected by "Leaf Curl", a very common disease with Stone Fruits, especially affecting Peaches and Nectarines.  You can only treat for Leaf Curl during Winter, at leaf fall/during dormancy. 
  • Lime Sulphur

Note: First spray application at leaf fall. Make sure you do this by mid-June for every climate. 

Be sure to spray Lime Sulphur on your Stone Fruit trees twice, waiting a week in between. Spray to the point of run off for thorough coverage. See the inside back cover of your Care Instructions for further details. Lime Sulphur is not a dangerous chemical (it is a bit smelly!) and you can purchase it anywhere where garden products are sold. 

Tip: It's harder to get a good coverage of the spray onto the wood of the branches if leaves are still on the tree. So, apply the spray after the leaves have fallen. If leaves have not fallen off, see above in Deciduous Trees section and take them off yourself.

  • Copper

Note: Second Spray Application at Bud Swell (Winter onward, depending on your climate)

If you miss spraying with the Lime Sulphur at leaf fall and you find that the buds on your tree begin to swell, getting a little bit "fluffy", it means it's getting ready to burst out with flowers (and fruits) and wake from dormancy. It is now time to spray with Copper. The timing of Spraying with Copper is critical because if flowers burst out on the tree before you spray with the copper, then it's too late for the protection spray to be effective. if you miss it, be sure to spray it the next year!

Tip: If you only wish to apply one of the sprays, we would recommend the Lime Sulphur application as the timing of the spraying is less critical.

Consequences of Missing Spray Applications
If you have not sprayed the tree for prevention of Leaf Curl this season then the tree will be set back a little now and every year that the tree suffers from Leaf Curl, it will be weakened. There's nothing you can do about it once you see Leaf Curl. Just remove those ugly curly leaves and new growth will follow with normal leaves. Make sure you apply the two spray procedures next year. We'll also be reminding you!

Spray Stone Fruit and Apples for Aphids
Have a look for a tiny black/brown/green insects on the new leaves emerging after dormancy, these are not your friendly neighbourhood bugs, they are Aphids and can be active around July / August, attacking young new growth. We use a spray called Pyrethrum to eradicate them, usually, just one application will do the job, but check it in a few days and spray again if they are still moving. You can tell when they are dead because when you shake the leaf, they fall off. This spray is not harmful to the tree or the fruit and very user-friendly. You may not have this problem in your area and so may not have to spray.

Fertilise your trees

All fruit trees need fairly regular feeding. Ideally, feed three to four times a year, late Winter for early Spring growth, then early Summer and early Autumn.
Make sure you vary your trees diet, slow release fertiliser is good (Osmocote with added trace elements), animal manure e.g. cow, sheep, horse, chicken (Chicken is a stronger manure so put it on top of the mulch rather than underneath) etc.  Other excellent fertilisers are compost, trace elements, blood and bone, and Citrus all round fertiliser. From time to time you can add kitchen scraps under the mulch to attract earthworms.

Tip: When using fertilisers, keep it away from direct contact with the trunk of the tree. If you live in a frost prone area, then it is best not to fertilise in late Autumn because this can encourage new growth that can be burnt off with frost, wait for Spring.

Top up the mulch surrounding your tree

top up mulch around your fruit trees in winter

Top up mulch on all Stone, Citrus and Apple trees when required. The best mulches are pea straw, sugar cane, or even a mixture of things like old grass clippings (not fresh as it heats up and can burn the roots of a tree, let it dry out before raking), dried leaves are also very good. The thicker the better, it breaks down further over time, so it will need topping up every 4-6 months at least. It's very good for keeping the moisture level constant underground. Pea and sugar cane mulches can break down to add valuable nitrogen to the soil.


Prune your Citrus trees

Citrus are ever-green so balancing and pruning your tree applies all throughout the year. After fruiting, cut back just a little and thin out branching for sunlight penetration. Heavy pruning is not required. Stone Fruits and Multi-Apples require balancing during their growing season. 

Apart from the continual pruning for balancing and for shape, apply additional pruning during late May/early June. A guide for this is to prune 1/3 (young tree) to 1/2 (mature tree) of last season's growth. You can tell how much the tree grew last season by the different colours of the bark. Cut just above an outward pointing bud, not a bud on the inside of the branch because you don't need growth going in towards the middle of the tree. All growth needs to point away from the centre. Keep the middle fairly clear so sunlight can penetrate through the tree. Cut out any dead wood as well.

The ideal shape of a tree is a V shape coming out from the centre and upwards. All growth needs to be encouraged in a direction away from the centre of the tree. Sunlight needs to be filtering to all branches and fruits, so keep the centre of the tree reasonably open, some light branch work in the centre is ok. Prune out many inward growing branches and those growing in the wrong direction. This will not harm the tree but redirects energy to the outward growing branches.

Tip: Always cut above an outward pointing bud or leaf and thin out the laterals (side branches) to make a strong framework.

Grab your camera as your Stone trees may start flowering

stone fruits flowering in winter early

When your tree flowers, these flowers will eventually set into fruits. Exciting right?! On the Stone Fruit tree, the pink flowers are the peaches and nectarines, even lighter pink flowers are the peachcots, the lighter pink with darker pink surrounds are the apricots and the plums. Feel free to use the #myfruitsaladtree hashtag to share your tree's progress with us!

Important note: Plums "wake up" last, 2-3 weeks later than other Stone Fruits, with white flowers. Don't think your Plum is dead, it's just "sleeping in"!

Protect your trees from frost

protect your fruit trees from frost

Maintain adequate soil moisture in dry-winter years to help prevent water stress on the trees; stressed trees are more likely to be damaged by frost. Cover the trees with a ‘frost cloth’ or even a hessian bag when frost/extreme cold weather is predicted. If a protective frost cover is used at night, make sure that it is removed each morning to allow bee pollination.

Feed liquid seaweed at a rate of 10ml/watering can, plus liquid potassium (20ml/watering can) to strengthen cell walls and give the plants a few extra degrees worth of protection.

If your tree requires additional nutritional elements, add a mix of dolomite, lime and gypsum, which will increase nutrition and improve leaf appearance without stimulating a flush.

Special care requirements

It is really important that you follow the two Special Care Requirements in order to keep your tree balanced. If you do not continually follow them, you will eventually end up losing at least some of the grafts. One fruit's branch work (graft) will end up dominating and taking over the tree at the expense of the other grafts; this then obviously defeats the purpose of having a Fruit Salad tree. If you have not been following the two Care Requirements, the best thing to do is start now! 

1. Maintain equal growth of your grafts

Establish a well 'balanced' tree by cutting back the more vigorous growing grafts anytime during the growing season, approximately once or twice a month. This is especially important while the tree is young and developing. Thin out the branching of each graft as needed, to equalise growth vigour otherwise the more vigorous growers will become bigger/stronger and dominate at the expense of the slower growers.

Do not just look at how long branches are and compare, also look at how many branches each graft has. If one graft has 6 branches and the others less, then cut back some of the branching of the bigger one because more energy is being stored in the bigger graft. The thickness of the branch coming from the main central stem of the tree is an indicator of how much energy it's consuming. 

Hint: Keep each graft confined to grow in its own area of the tree; this will assist in recognising the faster and slower growers.

2. Remove rootstock growth

All new shoots emerging from the main central stem of the tree or from ground level must be removed. This is the growth of the rootstock tree. The only purpose of the rootstock is to nourish the grafts attached to it.

Hint: Identify the different grafts growing from the main central stem e.g. put a dub of paint on them (this has been done for you when you first get the tree from us). These are the anchor points of each graft. Check and remove all other growth from the main central stem (rootstock).

Note: Citrus rootstock has long thorns and a small 3 pronged leaf so is easier to identify.

Remove the first fruits on your Citrus trees

remove first fruits on your citrus trees

First fruits will appear in approximately 6-18 months. The reason being, when we graft a tree, we use pieces of wood from mature trees so there's not much waiting time for fruit to appear. However, because the tree is young, it hasn't had much time to develop and grow the framework that is needed to hold the fruit it's trying to produce. It's best to take off these first fruits when they are the size of a tiny pea and allow the framework (branches) of all the grafts to develop first. This is especially important whilst the tree is young, especially the first year because the branches need to become thick and strong to be able to hold the fruit. You don't want the tree getting "bogged down" producing fruits. Leave just a couple of pieces of each and choose those pieces closest to the thicker part of the branch, not at the very end of the branch where it's thinner. Keep growth of branches ahead of the fruit production.

As the tree grows, thin out the amount of fruit to set, always promoting branch growth as well. Again, the framework needs to be ahead of fruit production.

More fruit may be allowed to set on any faster-growing grafts, as that will slow down the growth of branches. However, always reduce fruits on any slower growing grafts as this allows more energy to go into the growth of the branches, don't slow it down further by allowing fruit production.
Be patient and keep each of the grafts growing at a similar rate, this is most important.

Once the tree has reached its full height and the branches are strong, you will no longer need to remove fruit. You'll probably have to watch that each graft is strong enough to hold all the fruit it produces. Often some thinning out of fruit is advisable so the weight of the fruit doesn't break branching. Every season allow the increase in fruit production.


More Fruit Salad Tree growing tips

Remember with younger trees to thin the first fruit that will appear. Dane shows how to prune and balance your young tree here.

You may like to train your grafts to grow in a certain fashion. Read more about training your tree with stakes here.

Did you know that you can also espalier any Fruit Salad Tree? Espalier your fruit tree by attaching the branches to wires or along a lattice framework, creating a fan shape which results in faster growth. Read more about espaliering your Fruit Salad Tree here.

We love seeing your Fruit Salad Tree grow. Feel free to share your growing pics with us by using #myfruitsaladtree on facebook on instagram if you have a  public profile. Otherwise direct message us your photos. You can also ask us more detailed questions and our nursery staff can give you advice. Follow us on facebook and instagram today for more tips, tricks and specials.

Our fast fruiting trees can be grown in the ground, or in pots on your balcony. For more information on growing your tree in a pot, read our detailed guide here. For information on planting your Fruit Salad Tree read our step by step guide here, and for planting your tree in clay soil, watch Sue's informative video in our article on planting in clay soil here.

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Fruit Salad Trees make perfectly different gifts! Our gift cards are emailed instantly. You can also shop our wide range of trees now and check out our current specials here!


1 Response

Ted Nicholls
Ted Nicholls

August 27, 2019

Thanks so much to the team for the wealth of advice that you provide in an easy to follow style and layout. No excuse for not getting a good result from our new leafy pets.

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