Autumn is here which means that your Stone Fruit and Apple trees will start to shed their leaves. Don't stress, this is a normal process which happens every year. Here's a detailed guide on how to care for your trees in the Autumn months.
It's a great time to check whether your tree needs balancing (pruning). It is also a great time to remove any rootstock growth. Potted plants may need their potting mix replenished, if it has been more than 12 months.
Run a soil pH test: Apples should be between 6.0 and 7.0, Citrus between 6.0 and 7.0 and stone 6.5 and 7.5.
If your tree is flowering out of season during these three months, don't be alarmed, it will probably shed the flowers again as it prepares to go dormant. Early flowering may be caused by local temperature variations and/or unusual changes in the climate.
Stone Fruit Salad Trees and Apple Fruit Salad Trees are deciduous
During Autumn your Stone or Apple Fruit Salad Tree leaves may be looking a little tatty. They may be changing colour or dropping from the tree. This is because they are deciduous, meaning it’s natural for this to be happening. Once they have lost all their leaves they are in dormancy, or a rest period, until late Winter-Mid Spring.
Sometimes your tree will not lose all its’ leaves by the end of Autumn, this is due to variations in climate. If this is the case, give the tree assistance by running your hand along the branches and they should easily fall off.
It is important to remember NOT to fertilise your stone fruit trees until mid - late Winter
Now is a great time to add fertiliser to your Citrus Fruit Salad Tree as it prepares for it's Autumn flush, which is a fast growth period.
Place the fertiliser and/or compost around the rootzone of the tree. Add mulch to the top, to help with moisture retention and to minimise weeds.When adding composts, manures and fertilisers, be sure to leave at least a 10-15cm gap from the trunk of the tree.
Make sure to vary your tree's diet. Slow release fertiliser is great (Osmocote with added trace elements), animal manure (cow, sheep, horse chicken). Note that Chicken and horse manure are hot manures, which can burn the roots of your tree, so place it on top of the mulch rather than underneath.
If you like to recycle your food straps, you can add them to the soil, this will attract earthworms.
If you live in a frost prone area, don't fertilise in late Autumn because this can encourage new growth that can be burnt off with frost. Wait for Spring instead.
You can use Pea Straw, Sugar Cane, Lucerne or whichever mulch takes your fancy. You can even make it yourself with a mixture of old grass clippings (not fresh), dried leaves and straw. Place it thickly around the tree, it will break-down over time. Top up every 6 months, to keep the moisture levels consistent, control weeds and promote good microbes in the soil..
Establish a well 'balanced' tree by cutting back the more vigorous growing grafts anytime during the growing season, approximately once 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 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.
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(Liquid Paper) on them. 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.
The ideal shape of a tree is a red wine glass, curving 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 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 (branches) to make a strong framework.
During mid to late Autumn and Winter, Stone Fruit Salad Trees need to be sprayed to combat diseases which may harm your tree.
Make sure you spray Lime Sulphur by the end of May or by mid June in any Australian climate, before budswell, which means before the blossoms start to come out. Do it 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.
This spray application is to combat the disease called Leaf Curl, which if not treated, is apparent when the tree wakes up from dormancy. Lime Sulphur is not a dangerous chemical (bit smelly!) and you can purchase it anywhere where garden products are sold.
If your Stone Fruit Salad Tree leaves are already curling, use a copper spray with a few drops of dishwashing liquid before budswell (when the buds are beginning to get plumper). Don't apply after the buds have burst or it will burn the leaves.
It can be 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, take them off yourself.
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 (Oxychloride, Hydroxide or Cuprous Oxide). Spraying with Copper has critical timing because if flowers burst out on the tree before you spray with the copper, then it's too late for the protection. Be sure to spray it the next year.
If you entirely miss the two applications above, you may find the leaves that come out after the flowers (which come first), will be "buckled" or "twisted" or have what looks like "blisters" on the leaves. This condition is the Leaf Curl and you can simply remove those leaves (they look awful) and new growth will come. The new growth will have normal leaves. Each season you don't apply either of the clean up sprays, it will weaken the tree and one year, it just won't wake up out of dormancy.
We ship our Fruit Salad Trees to you when they are 55cm - 80cm. Trees are grown so that the fruiting branches begin from approximately 10cms above soil level, keeping the height to a minimum, which allows easy harvesting, eliminating the need for ladders.
The Stone Fruit tree grown in the ground will grow approximately 3 metres (10ft) high x 2 metres (6ft) wide. In the best conditions (e.g. warm coastal climate, plenty of fertilizer, water etc.) these trees grow approximately 1 metre per year or more. Stone Fruit Salad Trees take approximately 3 years to reach maturity, when grown in the ground optimal conditions.
The Citrus grafts are grown on dwarf rootstock which means the tree grown in the ground will only grow approximately 2.5 metres (6ft) high x 2.5 metres (6ft) wide. In the best conditions (e.g. warm coastal climate, plenty of fertiliser, water etc.), these trees grow approximately a bit less than half a metre per year, less if in a cold climate.
Citrus Fruit Salad Trees take approximately 5 years to reach maturity, when grown in the ground in optimal conditions.
Apple Fruit Salad Trees grown in the ground will grow to approximately 2-3 metres (6-9ft) high x 2 metres (6ft) wide. In the best conditions (e.g. warm coastal climate, plenty of fertiliser, water etc.), these trees grow approximately a bit less than 1 metre per year, less if in a cold climate. We strongly recommend to espalier the "fan" shape by tying to support the branches.
If you want the trees to be shorter than the above measurements, you will have to regularly prune them to grow them in pots or, grow them sideways (espalier method).
Espalier shape growing
You can espalier any of our trees. You just need to tie the branches into position when they are green in their bark and easily moveable. Keep each graft growing in its own area, so you can watch the growth habit of each and keep them growing evenly and balanced.
Apple Fruit Salad Trees are particularly suited to be grown by the espalier method, because their branches get laden with fruits and this way they can be well supported.
Citrus is ever-green so balancing and pruning your tree is important 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.
You can grow your Fruit Salad Tree in a pot, which is perfect for fruit lovers in urban areas. Read more about growing different fruit on the same tree in a pot here.
Here at Fruit Salad Trees, we stock a wide range of fruit trees, which all boast different fruit on the same tree. Each fruit variety retains its own flavour, appearance and ripening time. We graft citrus, stone fruit and multi-apple trees.