Written By Emma Swan 12th April 2024

2 minute read 

 

Winter means many different things for Aussie gardeners depending on where they live. For tropical and subtropical gardeners, the gardening season has just begun; for most others, activity tends to fade gradually with the temperature. Whilst deciduous fruit trees and ornamentals allow for relaxation as they enter dormancy, there are a few key jobs that you should think about before putting your feet up in front of the fireplace.

Prepare winter plantings

 

If you’re planning to increase your backyard orchard or looking at starting a food forest or community garden, you should consider buying fruit trees in winter. They’re generally cheaper bareroot and there is much less transplant shock – i.e. they establish better.

Late autumn is the perfect time to start preparing for any bareroot plantings. Preparing your garden involves, generally, the addition of organic materials to improve the soil within the planting site. Most soils respond well to this treatment, as organic matter can increase the water and nutrient capacity of sandy soils, and conversely open and aerate clay soils.

Remove grass and weeds from the area, then dig organic matter through the soil. You can use soil improvers, compost, manure, or fresh store-bought garden soil. In soils with some clay, add gypsum or another clay breaker to improve drainage over time.

In extreme sandy or clay soils, a mound or raised garden bed may be necessary to ensure success. In sandy soils, nutrients and water leach quickly; in clay soils, there is little aeration and when wet can easily waterlog fruit trees. If you dig a hole in clay soil, plant, and backfill with free draining garden soil, you will create a pool in the hole where water can’t escape quickly – an almost sure way to kill a tree. The alternative to a mound or raised garden bed is to use a pot.

Dormant deciduous trees being collected after digging.

Disease prevention

 

As soon as your fruit tree drops its’ last leaf, it’s time to get stuck into disease prevention. Many Common Diseases of Fruit Trees can only be prevented in winter with a simple spray cycle using an organic Bordeaux mix.

 

Bordeaux 1% solution recipe:

  1. Dissolve 100 grams of copper sulphate in 5 litres of warm water
  2. Dissolve 100 grams of hydrated lime in 5 litres of warm water (in a separate bucket)
  3. While stirring, add the lime mixture into the copper mixture.
  4. Pour the Bordeux mixture into a sprayer through a cloth to strain out larger particles which may block the spray nozzle.
  5. Use the mixture within 24 hours.

Visit the Heritage Fruit Trees site for a fantastic article on this mixture, including photos.

 

Using the mixture, spray all stone fruit, apples, pears, and pomegranates. You can also spray ornamental stone fruit with this mixture. Repeat this process twice at the end of winter prior to bud burst once you see the first signs of bud swell. If you don’t want to make a Bordeaux mix, you can also use copper sulphate and lime products which you can buy at any garden centre. Follow the packet instructions. Following this guide you can prevent:

  • Peach leaf curl
  • Pomegranate black heart
  • Black spot
  • Apple & pear scab
  • Brown rot
  • Peach rust
  • Shot hole fungus

And many more diseases!

Peach Leaf Curl.

Pruning jobs

 

We recommend that most dwarf deciduous fruit trees should be pruned in late winter. There are always exceptions to this – the main one being Apricots. Many people prefer to prune apricots in autumn, the main reason being to avoid wet winters which can facilitate diseases such as gummosis. The importance of this depends on where you’re located, but it’s a great idea to consider it if you live in an area with winter dominant rainfall.

Whilst thinking about this, you should also start looking into shaping your new and younger deciduous fruit trees. If you’re after an open vase shaped tree, these trees need to be headed in winter and main branches selected in spring. Young trees destined for espalier shaping also need to be headed in winter, and older espaliered trees can have some attention to their shaping. Start exploring pruning styles and shapes now so that you have a game plan in late winter. For more specific advice on pruning, check out our growing guides in our Plant Care page.

Open vase pruning diagram. Original Source

You can see that most tasks aren’t too arduous when it comes to deciduous tree care going into winter. In fact, there’s so little to do that you can mark it on your calendar to remind yourself when to do your different jobs! However, whilst the jobs are few, the importance is huge. Failure to do or plan any of these factors can result in poor tree health and general poor performance from your trees. With that said, crack your calendar out, and keep an eye out for that last leaf to drop!

 

Visit our Plant Care Page for More

For more information to get the best out of your deciduous fruit trees, head to our Plant Care page for complete growing guides, fertiliser trials, and more!