Summer tips

Midsummer is a time of prolific growth for all manner of plants, insects and animals. Pests, diseases and plant growth can all get away from you while you are sunning yourself on the beach over the holiday period, and, like any holiday excesses, you will pay for it later! So, before you relax for the season, here’s a must-do list:

  1. Get the last spray on for citrus whitefly, potato psyllid and passionvine hoppers. I use a combination of neem oil and soap spray, but other insecticides such as pyrethrum or summer oil are also very effective. Spray underneath the leaves for best effect.
  2. Finish mulching all the subtropical fruit trees, such as avocados, citrus, tamarillo, passionfruit cherimoya and guava. All of these crops are surface feeders with fragile root systems that need protection over summer.
  3. Thin off excess pipfruit and citrus (stonefruit are probably already too big to bother) best done while the fruit are still small to reduce the load on the trees. This is a job I like to do when I’m taking a break from more strenuous work – it’s actually quite therapeautic!
  4. Prune back the excess growth on grapevines each fruiting lateral can be cut back to 3-4 leaves past the fruit. This greatly reduces the time and effort needed during winter pruning.
  5. Spray apples and pears with Yates Success Naturalyte 2-3 weeks after petal fall to help reduce codling moth and pear slug. Dusting with diatomaceous earth is also effective for both pests at this time of year.
  6. Cherries, brambles and blueberries should already have their bird nets on, but start thinking about netting the fig tree and grapevines as these will be next on the menu. If the birds get the taste of the first fruit, they become very persistent raiders.
  7. Cut back to nearly ground level any raspberry shoots that have already fruited. This is easiest done now, as the difference is very obvious between the older shoots and the new shoots.
  8. Sprinkle some extra fertiliser around any trees that look to be carrying a heavier crop than normal. This will help size the fruit up and encourage new growth for next year’s crop. This is particularly important for citrus and avocados, as these have strong biennial bearing tendencies and need a decent boost if they have a heavy crop.
  9. This year seems to be a very heavy flowering one for feijoas, so it looks like a bumper crop coming on. Although I don’t normally feed these, I will this summer to get a decent crop in the following year.
  10. Give any potted trees a decent sprinkling of sheep pellets. The pellets will swell when watered, forming a fertile, weed-suppressing and water-retaining mulch that also helps improve the organic matter in the potting mix.