Fruit Tree Time

There is a very good reason for deciduous trees to become available in winter because in the cold months, the trees are dormant and better to lift from their nursery plots and relocated to your gardens and containers.

The trees are normally bagged or held bare rooted in bins of wet sawdust to keep their roots moist. It can be fatal if one allows the roots of bare rooted trees and roses to dry out.

There are several good reasons to grow as many different types of fruit trees as possible; the fruit gained each year is virtually free (allow for initial outlay and care), grown without harmful chemical sprays and fertilisers in your garden means you are not eating contaminated fruit such as most of the non-organic fruit purchased.

Fruit trees grown with natural products such as animal manure, compost etc will be freer of disease and pests. Adding to the soil or growing medium minerals from Ocean Solids and Simalith as a yearly dressing, will ensure your fruit has the maximum amount of nutritional value and provide further protection against diseases for both the trees and the fortunate people who consume the fruit.

Often gardeners say to me that they would love to grow a few more fruit trees but do not have the room in the gardens for any more.
There is a very simple way around this problem and that is to grow your fruit trees in larger type containers. To prove this point I currently have 7 citrus trees, 1 apple, 1 dual plum, 2 avocados, 2 cherimoya, 1 feijoa, 2 grapes, 2 loquats, 1 passion fruit, 1 persimmon, 1 guava, 1 cranberry, 1 blueberry, 1 goji berry, 1 tornless raspberry, 1 pineapple and 1 tamarillo growing in 45 to 100 litre containers.

My section is small and if the above trees were not in containers I would likely need the old quarter acre to bring them to maturity. (I also have growing in the gardens 1 citrus, 2 stone fruit, 1 plum, 1 pear, 1 persimmon, 1 tamarillo, 1 grape and a feijoa.) These are all 5 to 10 times the size of my container specimens.

The big advantage with container grown fruit is you can move them around, take them with you if you move house and they do not get too big as the container restricts their root size.

The disadvantages are they take a bit longer to produce when compared to open grown specimens and you do need to root prune them every few years.

Plastic rubbish tins come in various sizes and these are ideal and reasonably priced; with a few drainage holes drilled in the sides just up from the base. Some of my potted fruit trees have 4cm holes drilled in the base so that some of their roots can venture into the soil or lawn that they are sitting on.

If you can find a place that has used 200 litre plastic drums for sale or free then these drums cut in half make excellent containers for growing fruit trees in. I use the same drums cut into two halves lengthways for growing vegetables in.

If you are going to grow fruit trees or other plants in containers then don’t use any kind of potting mix, instead make up a mix of compost with about 10% clean top soil or worm casts mixed through. The reason for this is you are bringing the soil life into the mix making for a more natural growing medium. I always add a few worms to the mix as they will keep the soil/compost more open and prevent it from compacting over time.

For additional food I use old fowl manure placed on the top of the mix along with a sprinkling of Fruit and Flower Power (the later applied once a month during the flowering to harvesting period)
A yearly application of Ocean Solids and Simalith Rock Dust for the extra minerals and a drench plus spray of Magic Botanic Liquid with Mycorrcin every so often.

If any of the trees get attacked from insect pests then a spray of Neem Tree Oil takes care of them safely. Liquid Copper is also another handy spray to control various disease problems such as citrus tree diseases, bladder plum and curly leaf. The same copper is also ideal for pear slug control.

The worst problem with fruit is the birds getting into a crop when the fruit is coming towards maturity. A few lengths of Bird Repeller Ribbon takes care of this at that crucial time.

Last winter I purchased another Unique Feijoa tree and placed it into a 45 litre container. During the ensuring months it grew quickly to about 3 times the original potted height and has produced over a dozen large fruit recently. That is excellent for the first year.
About the same time I had a tamarillo seedling so I potted it into a 45 litre container also and over the last 12 months it has quickly grown to just on 2 metres tall and by placing the container under the eaves along with a spray recently of Vaporgard Frost Protector, it should not be harmed this winter by frosts. The first fruit should happen this coming season.

Interestingly I received an email the other day saying that a new form of Tamarillo called Tango are becoming available from garden centres this spring. This form which was developed by Hort Research NZ has fruit that is sweet rather than the more acidic taste of the common tamarillo.

I will be obtaining a specimen to add to my collection and seeing how well they do in containers, that will be the way to grow one. You can put your name down at your local garden centre to obtain one when they become available.

Existing fruit trees can be pruned at this time but do not prune on a cool moist day as this can allow Silverleaf disease to enter the wounds. (Do not prune passion fruit vines in the winter, they should only be pruned when they are actively growing in the spring.)

A spray of Liquid Copper and Raingard over any of your fruiting trees or vines would not go astray at this time.

Deciduous trees do not need any feeding while dormant but when the buds start to swell in the spring a good layer of rich compost can be applied along with Fruit and Flower Power.

If you have existing container planted fruit trees that have been in their pots for 2 or more years, then winter is a good time to lift them and cut the bottom one third of the roots off with a cross saw.
Place fresh compost in the base of the pot to the depth of the amount of roots removed and simply pop the tree back into its pot.
This action should be taken about every two years but in some cases an annual root prune will help produce a bigger and better crop.

31 comments on “Fruit Tree Time

  1. I would like advise on when and what to spray my apples an pear trees with.

  2. Ruth Bristowe on said:

    Wally I am interested in fruit trees in pots or containers could you please advise who in the Tauranga area could help me with this?

  3. Tracey on said:

    Dear Wally,

    I have just recently moved into a house where there is a tree bearing yellow-coloured fruit shaped similar to a large tomatoe. Having taken a bite of it, it appears quite tough in texture and of a mild sweet flavour. Some have fallen on the ground and appear to resemble large red tomatoes, which are softer and sweeter in flavour. I cannot find any information on what this fruit might be and would appreciate any help you are able to offer. Thank you.

  4. Hi Tracey,
    The fruit you describe sound like Persimmon you can find more info and pictures of them here.

    If they are you can make Jelly, paste pickle and a raft of other things.

    food of the gods they recon.


    Tim Durrant

  5. Anna on said:

    Hi Wally,

    Could you please tell me when I should prune my Pum tree and my Fig tree?

    Many thanks,


  6. Kevin on said:

    Both the citrus trees on the property we have just purchased – 1 lemon and 1 Orange – have what appears to be a black mould on all the leaves and leaf is “dimpled” There are about 2 new shoots on each tree but no fruit at all. We have sprayed twice with Copper Oxychloride but it does not seemed to have any effect – are they past the point of no return?

  7. Wally Richards on said:

    Hi Kevin
    You need to spray with Neem tree Oil to kill the insects which are making the sooty mould.
    Do this a couple of times.
    Hi Anna
    Pruning is done about now.
    Hi Barry
    Spray with Liquid copper at this time.
    Hi Ruth
    Sorry I am in Palmerston North and do not know in Tauranga area
    Ask at your local garden centre.
    Wally Richards

  8. Hi,
    I am in Auckland, is it too late to Prune a plum tree
    I see you advised an earlier query in May.

  9. Hi Dee
    Now is a very good time to do so.
    Wally Richards

  10. Hi Wally I have just noticed some really nasty, deep looking splits in the main trunk of my plum tree. Is there anything that I can do? The tree has been in our garden in Whakatane for 3 years and is a black Doris. It’s pollinator Sultan looks fine. The tree is about3 meters high and has lots of buds on it. Thanks very much

  11. Hi there, I live in the far north of nz, and have several fruit trees some of the trees are being plagued by cream looking grubs or larvae with a small black head eating through the inside of the trunks and branches until they die, any idea what they are and how to get rid of them.
    Thank you.

  12. Hi
    Likely there is rotting wood and that is what they are going for.
    You could cut away the effect areas to clean wood killing the grubs as you go.
    Spray the exposed wood with a film of copper and look out for future damage
    Wally Richards

  13. Sep 12
    Hi Wally, Have I left it too late to prune my feijoa tree? Ive never pruned it since I moved here 9 years ago and its getting big and sprawly. I’m in Auckland.

    Also I planted a small kowhai tree here several months ago and most of it leaves have been eaten by something…. do you know what it could be?


  14. Hi Wally,

    I have a miniture peach tree that was exposed to the frost. The buds have turned black and it has no leaves. Is the tree salvageable

  15. Hi Wally,

    I live in Southland and want to start an orchard just wondering if you know what types of fruit and varieties would grow down here. I was thinking of getting a plum, I quite like the Black Doris ones, also a pear. Not sure if peach and apricot would grow down here. Can you give me some advice please?

  16. Your fruit tree post reminded me to refresh my knowledge on Neem oil for pests.

    We just added a bunch of fruit trees at our new residential lot over the past year, and I don’t want to use stuff like Malathion. Although, my applications in the past were limited to pretty much one time at half rate. Never neeed fungicides really, and never had fungus problems.


  17. Hi
    We have on orange tree currently in flower. Underside of its leaves are covered with what looks like a black soot or mould and white aphids. I sprayed with pyretherium I think it is for the aphids. Would I treat the leaves with Neem Tree oil or a fungicideand can either of these be used whilst the tree is in flower?
    Chhers Allan

  18. Hi there

    I have a small lemon tree and all of its new growth, and some mature leaves, get eaten. Each stalk which should have new growth at the end, instead is raw – like something has just nibbled the tip off.

    I would appreciate any suggestions on this.


  19. We have one peach tree grafted with black boy and gold queen. The poor thing is mainly leaf curl. We did one spray with copper during winter and compared to last year it is worse. Could you give me advice on a programme that would help get it under control and I might get a peach.

  20. I’ve been growing an avocado tree on a 60cm in diameter pot and the tree is doing ok. It’s now almost 2m high. The problem I see is that it has no branches.

    Also I’d like to grow sugar cane on a pot (60cm in diameter – biggest one i’ve found.)

    I’d love to grow some other tropical fruits protected from frost in my garage. My question is whether they’ll do ok during the winter given that they might not see a lot of sun…

  21. We have a Tamarillo tree, the fruit is fine but the leaves are mottled black on the back, what spray should I use. Thank you.

  22. Hi there,

    I have a number of citrus trees in pots, the buds of which are being attacked by tiny moths. eggs layed turn into larvae which hole into the flower buds, destroying the crop. could you give some advice as to how to treat this little pest.
    Thank you

  23. Adrian on said:

    Hi Wally

    I have a nectarine tree which is full of fruit for the first, unfortunately the fruit is dry i.e lacks liquid. I water this tree regularly, this too does seem to help, although leaf growth is very good. I have a lemon tree approximately 10 metres away which is full of juicy fruit ready to be eaten.

  24. i have a lemon tree which has a lot of thorny growth and no lemons – what to do please.
    many thanks gaye

  25. I have an unhappy quince tree that has been in the ground for nearly four years. I’ve found a new spot where a quince would be happier (more sun, away from chamomile). Do quince take kindly to being moved? Any tips?

  26. Athol on said:


    We have a Taranaki Plum tree that is getting to tall amd wide, how hard can I cut it back without doing it damage.


  27. We planted a quince tree in Palmerston North 4 years ago and have never had more than 1 or 2 fruits from it. In fact last year we had none at all. It looks promising at the begining of the season but then goes onto drop all its fruit once they have set after flowering.

    Does anyone have any ideas how to address the problem?

  28. Hi Kate,

    Try the information on this page



  29. i am in waikato nz. Is it too late to put a plum tree in the ground now. Are u aware of any self pollinating variety of plum available in waikato region please?

  30. You will be fine to plant now. Go to your local garden centre and discuss the best species if you are just buying one.



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