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How do I look after my fruit trees?

I bought and planted 8 fruit trees in February — never had fruit trees. I have 2 plums, 3 apples, 2 figs. I was not able to plant them straight away. I did water them but forgot on those very few hot days to water a bit more and the leaves started to fall off, so I watered every night. Now I read on one of the fruit trees it says when planted, water once and not to water until in full leaf. What is full leaf? I was told by a friend that it would cause rust on the fruit with too much watering. Can you put me straight and put me on to a simple written book for beginner fruit tree parents?


I asked Jim Antill, one of our Landscaping lecturers, what he thought about your question.

In summer, the soil around the roots needs to be moist — not too wet, not too dry. When the trees are still in their bags, they get dry very quickly, so will need to be watered every day in summer (not so often in winter or they will be too wet).

After they are planted in the ground, it is easier to keep them moist because they get water from deeper in the ground. In hot, dry weather you may need to water them once a week. To check, poke your finger into the soil near the tree. Below the surface it should be damp. Your friend is right, in a way: over-watering can cause problems by increasing the risk of disease. Also, roots need air just as much as they need water. If you flood the roots, they will drown and the tree will die.

Some trees (plums, apples, etc, but not citrus) lose all their leaves in winter. At that time they do not need watering. When the leaves come out in spring, they lose water through transpiration so the tree needs watering more, to make up for the lost moisture. The hotter and drier the weather and the more leaves the tree has, the more water it will need. In late spring, when all the leaves have reached full size, we say the tree is in "full leaf".

Any general gardening book that gives tree advice is OK: fruit trees are no different to other trees, except that good pruning can increase the amount of fruit or quality of fruit you get.

UnitecAdvice by Dr Dan Blanchon from Unitec's Diploma in Sustainable Horticulture and Bachelor of Resource Management.

Reproduced with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
from the previous website of  TVNZ News

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