Care of plants before planting

Plant trees as soon as possible after purchase. If this is not possible place trees in a position that has direct sunlight for at least half the day and protection from strong wind. Water thoroughly once a day (or twice a day in hot weather). Just wetting leaves is not sufficient.

Site preparation
If possible, site preparation should begin 6 months prior to planting. The following points should be considered:

1. Fencing off the proposed Orchard is advised to protect from cattle or other tree-loving animals. For some reason cattle, goats and wallabies are particularly keen to sample newly-planted trees.

2. If soil drainage is poor (i.e. less than 1 metre of top soil and not of a sandy nature) Soil Improvement is strongly advised. Talk to the professionals in your area for advice.

Diversion Drains around top of orchard site are recommended to divert run off water around site.

3. If soil is too shallow, mounding of tree rows with a plough will improve drainage as well as increase depth of top soil.

4. Planting a Green Manure Crop (e. g. oats and lupins in winter or lab lab and maize in summer) will improve the organic matter content of the soil. This should be ploughed in about one month before planting.

If a tractor and machinery is not available to perform these operations, consider asking someone with the machinery to do it. The cost will be refunded generously in the future with healthier trees.

5. Wind Protection is very important and consideration for planting wind breaks is best given before planting of trees. In this area, the most damaging winds are dry westerly winds in late winter, hot dry north westerly winds in late spring, south easterly gales in summer/autumn and storms from the south in summer. In other words they can be from most directions. Wind breaks should be planted along south, west and east sides of orchard, leaving the north side open. There are a large number of different species that can be grown to provide wind protection. A selection of at least two different species is best, for example one tall-growing and the other low-growing to provide shelter low to the ground. To overcome competition with fruit trees, you may consider mechanically ripping between windbreak and first fruit tree row once a year to stop invading roots.

Planting the trees
In our subtropical climate, trees can be planted out at most times of the year provided the following points are followed:

1. If soil is not well-drained, it is advised to make a circular mound 1.5 metres across and 20-30cm high. This can be achieved by bringing outside loamy soil to the planting site or alternatively, simply mound existing soil.

Do not plant trees in holes in heavy clay soils. The hole will act like a sump and the tree's roots will become water-logged.

2. The trees should be watered thoroughly several hours before planting so that the entire root ball is moist.

Planting trees out with the root ball dry or partially dry will result in root damage and poor establishment. The planting site should also be thoroughly watered the day before planting, if not already moist.

3. Make a hole in the soil or mound twice the width of the pot and the same depth as the pot. Remove the tree from the pot or bag by inverting pot or cutting the bag. Place tree in hole and lightly tease the roots down the side of the root ball and loosen any matted roots at base of root balls. Fill in soil around roots, making sure not to plant root ball any more than 2cm lower than it was in the container. Trees will suffer if planted too deep. Soil should be firmed down well after planting. At least 20 litres of water should be applied to each tree to settle in soil around roots. A saucer-shaped depression 50cm in diameter will help hold water when watering in.

4. Applying a Slow Release Fertilizer at planting will help the young trees get off to a good start. This can be applied by scratching into the surface around the young tree. One of the following or a mixture can be applied. And remember to follow the manufacturer's instructions; an overdose of fertilizer will burn.

Blood and Bone, Dynamic Lifter, Compost, Osmocote, Nutricote or Nitrophoska
If mixture is applied, reduce quantities of each proportionally. If soil is acid, also apply dolomite or lime.

5. Staking - trees are better off not staked, but if needed, two tomato stakes on each side of tree (30cm from tree) will support tree, using old pantyhose or similar material.

6. Mulching the trees with aged/composted straw, hay etc, will stop soil from drying out, heating up, stops weeds from germinating and also adds valuable organic matter.

Do not apply mulch against trunk of tree as Collar Rots may occur.

Trees that are susceptible to frost damage are better off without mulch during the winter months, the reason being that bare soil, kept moist, will absorb heat during the day and radiate this heat at night, reducing severity of frost.

7. Grow Bags placed over young trees will give protection during the winter months and allow an early growth start in spring. Grow Bags are simply a clear plastic tube placed over 3 tomato stakes. They can prove very effective with young trees during winter and also protect trees from wildlife.

Care of trees after planting

1. Weed Control. This is most important if trees are to grow quickly. No weeds (this includes any plants) should be allowed to grow within one metre of the tree for the first year.

After first year, keep weed-free out to the drip line (ie. width of foliage). Mulch will control most weeds, but weeds like kikuyu and nut grass will still be troublesome. The herbicide glyphosate is very effective in the control of these grasses.

2. Fertilizing - Trees will respond to feeding. How often and how much fertilizer to apply to trees will depend on soil type and which trees you are growing (refer to Dept. of Agriculture 'Ag Facts' for specific requirements). If you do not want to use chemical fertilizers, the application of organic fertilisers (e.g. poultry manure, rock phosphate, blood and bone etc), will be excellent, or a combination of both.

3. The use of Organic Mulch is very important for healthy trees. Any organic material can be used, e.g. Lawn clippings, weeds, straw etc. Hay, especially lucerne or soybean stubble is excellent and is very easy to apply. As the mulches break down, they will feed the tree with valuable nutrients. Make sure that weed-free mulches are used, otherwise you may find yourself with a secondary weed problem.

4. Watering - Setting up a permanent under-tree sprinkler irrigation system is well worth considering. Frequency and amount of watering will depend on a number of factors, but a good watering once a week is a good guideline.

5. Grafted trees - Remove any shoots coming from below graft on grafted trees. While trees are young, grafted trees may send up growth below the graft-union. If this is not removed, the rootstock will grow instead of the grafted variety.

6. Pruning - Fruit trees need pruning to produce good crops of fruit as well as keep trees to a manageable size. Most deciduous fruit trees in particular need annual pruning.

Pruning also invigorates the tree and encourages new fruiting wood for the following year.

Organic Care of FruitTrees

There is nothing quite like biting into fresh juicy fruit picked from your own fruit trees. The rewards of growing fruit trees are many, yet controlling the pests and diseases can be daunting for many home orchardists. Growing fruit trees can seem especially challenging for the beginner, but it is possible, the rewards are many but you have a very powerful adversary in Nature itself. Many home orchardists both organic and conventional use the same growing methods including composting, mulching, the addition of earthworms and/or castings and natural fertilisers.

These methods result in a much healthier tree, trees that reach their full potential quickly and reward the grower with very high quality fruit.

To grow fruit organically, gardeners simply don't use synthetic fertilisers or pesticides on their plants, and anyway, to prevent all insect and disease damage, you'd have to use an arsenal of toxic sprays!

Organic gardeners do need to tolerate some degree of pest and disease damage, however they can take comfort in the fact that they have contributed no detrimental impact on the earth.

By combining preventive measures with the least toxic controls, you can have a healthier orchard and still enjoy delicious and nutritious fruit from your trees. This type of gardening is very rewarding.

Diseases are potentially more damaging to your fruit trees than insects because they are more difficult to control.

In a home orchard, once a disease is present, there's little you can do to eradicate it. The key is prevention. You can go a long way toward preventing disease problems by selecting disease-resistant varieties of trees. Planting resistant varieties will greatly reduce, if not eliminate the need to spray for many diseases, although it will not guarantee disease-free trees.

Another important key to prevention is to choose plants that are suited to the site. Plants adapted to your climate and conditions are better able to grow without a lot of attention.

On the other hand, if you try to grow a plant that is not right for your site, you will probably have to boost its natural defenses to keep it healthy and productive.

Locating Your Orchard
Susceptibility to disease can be greatly reduced by carefully choosing the location of your orchard. Fruit trees have very specific site requirements. They do not like wet feet and they require good air circulation so the leaves will dry quickly, minimizing the spread of disease. Frost can damage plants or flower buds so avoid locating your orchard in a frost pocket. As cold air flows downhill, an orchard located at the bottom of a hill will be especially vulnerable.

Whether your land is sloped or flat, it's a good idea to plant a windbreak at the same time you plant your orchard for protection from high winds. If you plant your orchard on a slope, avoid planting near the top where the winds are most severe. Mid-slope is the best location.

Good Nutrition
A healthy tree will be more productive and better able to withstand insect and disease damage. After planting your trees, apply compost, a good all-round organic fertilizer or a composted manure in a circular band around each fruit tree, beginning under the branches and extending about a foot beyond the ends of the branches.

Apply mulch liberally as its benefits are numerous, as any organic gardener will have shared with you. Mulches conserve soil moisture by blocking evaporation. They also keep the soil cooler and reduce weed growth. We have had excellent results using lucerne hay as mulch. It is very high in nutrients and made a substantial difference in the plants' resistance to disease.

The Virtues of Beneficial Insects
It is estimated that 95% of the insects and mites found in the orchard will not harm your fruit crop. And some will help it! The ladybug is invaluable when it comes to combating aphids. There are many other beneficial insects that act as allies in the garden if you can attract them. Plant attractant plants close to your fruit trees, to encourage beneficials to stay around and reduce parasites.

Herbs such as Goldenrod have been found to attract up to 75 species of beneficials. Plant annuals early in the season so that the beneficials will be in adequate numbers when the pests arrive.

Before deciding whether to implement a control measure, you need to determine the extent of the problem. There are three basic ways you can monitor the pest populations on your trees: observation, visual traps, and pheromone traps.

Observation of your trees is one way to detect insects and diseases. To do this well, you need to become intimately familiar with your trees. Become accustomed to the appearance of the trees, the bark, the leaves and growth patterns throughout the seasons. Visual observation will detect pests such as borers that leave small holes with sawdust below. Terminal shoots house aphids, and leaves house leaf miners and spider mites. You will get to know when to look for each pest and the best time for control.

Visual traps are used for monitoring flying insects that are difficult to detect by the observation of your trees. They rely on the insects seeing the trap and mistaking it for leaves or fruit. In smaller orchards, some of these traps can also serve as controls by capturing enough insects to reduce the damage.

The correct placement of visual traps is very important and can make the difference between insects honing in on them quickly and never finding them.

Pheromone Traps are more appropriately called 'lures' because they use synthetic chemicals that mimic the scents that are emitted by female insects to attract males. The chemical is placed on a sticky surface inside the trap.

These strong attractants draw insects from long distances, even outside your orchard, so use these traps with caution in a small orchard. They attract only the males, who do not damage the foliage or the fruit, so they are primarily useful for determining the number of insects in the area.

Natural Controls
Natural insecticides are less toxic than synthetic chemicals, and they do less ecological damage in the long term. They break down rapidly when exposed to heat, light, or water, so they are less likely to contaminate soil and groundwater. They don't accumulate in animal tissues, and insects don't readily develop a resistance to them. Because they don't leave a toxic residue on crops they are far safer to eat.

Be aware that natural insecticides can upset the natural balance of the garden as they kill some beneficial insects and bees. When using any insecticide, follow the label directions and take the relevant safety precautions.

Organic Links
These mail order companies are highly recommended by us. They offer an abundance of excellent information regarding all facets of organic gardening.

Eden Seeds - A mail order seed company that distributes Old Traditional open-pollinated varieties of vegetables seed, preferably old Australian varieties and organically or bio-dynamically grown where possible. An excellent mail catalogue available with information and photographs.

Green Harvest - is a one-stop gardening shop. They offer open-pollinated Seeds and Plants, Books and Tools, and a huge range of products related to Natural Pest Management. Lots of exciting organic control strategies and information. Seasonal newsletter and lots more ...

Australian Correspondence Schools - offer Short courses, Certificates and Diplomas in over 280 courses many of which are Horticulture, Organic Growing and gardening courses. The school is widely recognized both nationally and internationally by industry and accreditation bodies.

Moeco Liquid Fertilisers - Moeco produces a standard range of organic liquid products containing Neem and citronella oil. Their product NEEM­TECH INSECTICIDAL NEEM POTASSIUM SOAP is an excellent product and is being used on a much larger scale throughout commercial nurseries in preference to chemical control. For more information contact

Daley's Fruit Tree Nursery

DATE: August 2002

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