With a super-El Nino weather pattern forecast for NZ this summer, mulching for moisture retention and root cooling is essential for Eastern regions in particular. Use peastraw in a donut shape about 10cm thick around your fruit trees and berry plants, keeping the mulch away from directly contacting the trunk (it can burn the bark). It is best to apply the mulch after a good spell of rain or a deep watering. Mulch should be used for trees in the ground as well as those in pots.
With fruit trees growing rapidly with lush new foliage, along with a great crop of fruit, a boost of fertilizer is recommended. A balanced fertilizer should be used, that isn’t too high in Nitrogen, as this creates too much vegetative leafy growth rather than productive fruiting growth. We recommend Yates Dynamic Lifter Plus - Fruit Food for plants the ground and in pots, and Sulphate of Ammonia for blueberries (nitrate-sensitive roots). Citrus should be fed regularly (3-4 times) through Summer – use Yates Thrive Granular Citrus Food for citrus trees planted in the ground and Yates Thrive Citrus Liquid Plant Food for those in pots.
For almost all fruit trees, flowering, pollination and fruit set is well and truly completed. If your fruit trees have a heavy crop, take the time now to remove some of the fruit to a more appropriate crop load. You may pay for being too greedy this season with little or no fruit next season – this is biennial bearing and is more common in pears, plums and apricots. Thinning also reduces rubbing as the fruit grows, which can create blemishes and rots. A heavy crop of fruit can also result in branch breakages. Newly planted fruit trees (one or two years old) should have all fruitlets removed to allow the tree to put energy into growing a strong root system and branch framework.
In Nelson and Hawkes Bay, gangs of thinners are moving through the apple orchards, thinning the fruitlets to ensure a bumper crop of top quality fruit. Apples and pears can set up to five fruit in a bunch. These fruitlets should be thinned to leave just one or two fruit per bunch. Remove smaller fruitlets and anything that has blemishes or insect damage. Leaving larger fruitlets will mean larger fruit to harvest.
Weak branches and the top of the tree should have all fruitlets removed (or almost all) to prevent branches breaking under the weight of maturing fruit.
Have a look at these 'before' and 'after' thinning photos: