Fruit Trees in Winter in Melbourne: Pruning, Planting and Care. 8

Winter in Melbourne is the time to attend to our fruit trees. It is important to invest time and effort into fruit trees during winter, to ensure that we have successful fruit crops in summer. Some fruit tree related tasks for winter include:

  • Winter pruning of fruit trees
  • Planting bare rooted fruit trees.
  • Setting up and maintaining espaliers
  • Controlling citrus gall wasp
  • Controlling curly leaf

Winter pruning of fruit trees

Fruit tree pruningNeglecting to prune your fruit trees won’t stop production of fruit. However, we recommend you prune annually, to improve the quality of fruit, and to establish a strong framework of branches to support heavy fruit loads. Winter pruning is used to train a tree to a particular shape, or to encourage substantial growth. Winter pruning is recommended for newly planted trees until the tree has achieved the desired height and shape. Ideally, established fruit trees are pruned in late summer. If your established tree missed out on its annual summer prune this year, then it is best to give it a prune during this winter. Are you unsure of your trees pruning requirements? Give us a call and we’ll help you to encourage your tree to reach its full fruiting potential.

Planting bare-rooted fruit trees

Bare root fruit tree

Buying bare rooted fruit trees are a great way to save money

Fruit trees are dormant in winter. That means that it is the ideal time to plant out bare-rooted fruit trees. Bare rooted fruit trees have been grown in large propagating beds. The plants are lifted when they are dormant and sold all the soil is washed off the root system. The plants are then often kept in sawdust until they are sold. The savings in not using potting mix, a pot and reduced labour costs are passed onto the consumer in the form of cheaper fruit trees.

Bare rooted fruit tree

Bare rooted fruit trees are a common sight at this time of the year.

You’ll find them for sale at your local nursery. Before you buy any new fruit trees, it’s important that you understand the importance of buying fruit trees grafted onto the appropriate rootstock. As a general rule, we advise against buying fruit trees from the large hardware chains. They’re usually on rootstocks that are less than ideal and will mean that you’ll become a slave to their rampant growth habits. We can’t express how important it is to buy your fruit trees on the appropriate rootstocks.

Some great suppliers of fruit trees, that we recommend are:

Other than rootstock selection, the second most important aspect of planting your bare rooted fruit tree is the hole in which you plant it. Make sure you dig the hole at least twice the size of the root ball. Add plenty of organic matter, such as compost to the hole. Avoid using fresh manure as this can burn the tree roots.

If you pour water into the hole and it takes longer than 15 minutes to drain away, then the drainage needs improving. This is particularly important for citrus trees. In heavy, clay soils, consider planting the tree on top of the soil and building soil up around it.

Plant the tree to the same soil depth that it was originally growing at and water in well. You will need to trim the tree back to compensate for the damage that the root system received when being dug out of the ground at the tree farm.

Mulch the trees with straw to prevent water loss. This mulch will also help prevent weeds and grass from competing with the fruit tree for nutrients.

If you’re unsure of what sort of fruit trees to plant, or where or how to plant them, we offer edible garden design and planting services.


Use espalier along drvieway to grow fruit trees

Espalier can make great use of small spaces to grow fruit

Don’t think that you have enough room to grow a fruit tree? Why not try an espalier or two?

“Espalier” refers to special practices for training fruiting trees onto trellises. Espaliers save space and are beautiful works of art. There are many styles and designs of espalier that can be grown against a wall, a building or on an existing fence or wires. Espalier can also be used as a screen in the garden, to create rooms or to hide unsightly areas.

Espalier Fruit tree used as a screen

Espalier can be used as a screen

Espaliers can use space along the drive that would be too small for a full tree. They provide interest in all seasons: stunning form in winter, flowers in spring, fruit in summer and autumn’s foliage. Most importantly, they provide healthy, home-grown fruit for your family.

Winter is a great time for planting, setting-up, pruning and maintaining espaliers. Established, potted, espalier trees are very expensive to buy. What’s more, they are often grown on the wrong rootstocks. This means that they’ll be a lot of work to maintain their established espalier shape. We can help you select and plant bare-rooted fruit trees on the correct rootstock and espalier them into stunning art forms. We can also help with re-working and restoring existing espaliers that have been neglected.

Citrus Gall Wasp

The presence of large swellings or bulges on the branches of citrus trees is quite common in Melbourne. These swellings indicate that Citrus Gall Wasp has infected the tree.

This tiny native Australian wasp lives for 3 to 4 days and lays its eggs in the branches of the citrus tree. It is the tree’s ‘reaction’ to this egg-laying which produces the next year’s Gall Wasp.

The best and most effective control of Citrus Gall Wasp is cutting off the swollen branches. The wasp emerges from the gall from August to November, so you need to prune out as much of the gall prior to August to destroy the Gall Wasp cycle. Do not put the pruning into the compost or green-waste bin. Instead put it in a plastic bag and put it in the garbage bin. Spraying to control the wasps are ineffective.

Curly leaf

Curly leaf Peach Almond Nectarine Tree

Easy to prevent but difficult to treat. Leaf curl is quite common on peach trees

Do you have stone fruit trees, such as peaches, nectarines or apricots? If so, it’s a good idea to treat them in winter for leaf curl.

Leaf curl is a fungus that loves cold and wet conditions and infects peach, almond, apricot and nectarine trees. As the fruit tree buds swell, the fungus gets to work infecting the leaf cells. This stimulates the leaves to grow larger than normal and often with a reddish tinge. Usually infected leaves fall from the tree, leaving it weakened and less able to produce fruit.

The good news is, that leaf curl is easily preventable with one or two well-timed applications of a fungicide spray such as copper sulphate or Bordeaux spray. Spray the trees in winter while they are still dormant and just as the buds begin to swell. Consider a follow-up spray again when the flowers open. You need to spray enough to cover all the bare branches of the tree so that it’s dripping

There are many commercially available fungicide sprays available at your local nursery or hardware store. If you’d like to have a go at making your own, try this recipe for Bordeaux spray

Leaf curl treatments burn leaves, which is why they must be applied during winter dormancy before flower buds or leaves open.

Need some help?

If you would like further information on fruit trees, then please get in touch with us. We can work with you to design and plan your outdoor space into an edible oasis. We can help with selecting the most suitable fruit trees for the space and purpose. We can also take care of the planting, pruning and ongoing maintenance for you. That way you can be sure that you’ll be giving your fruit trees the best chance of providing your family with an abundance of delicious, healthy and organic fruit.

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8 thoughts on “Fruit Trees in Winter in Melbourne: Pruning, Planting and Care.

  • Marg

    Hi I was given a dwarf nectarine tree for Christmas last year. I have it in a large pot. After loosing all its leaves it is now flowering and getting buds. What do I need to do to it now that Spring is here??? I live in Melbourne.
    Hoping you can help me care for my baby!!!!!
    cheers Marg

    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi Marg,
      you don’t need to do much in terms of care for your tree in spring. Just make sure that it is regularly watered. If it is particularly laden with fruit then you might want to thin it in a month or so. Ultimately you want to end up with one fruit on every 10cm branch. If you haven’t already done so, why not sign up to our newsletter? That way you’ll receive plenty of seasonal hints and tips each month.
      Good Luck and Happy Gardening!

  • Anna Coulson - Get Green (Aus)

    I cannot understand the punning part, you note that it has to be done annually, but both in summer and winter. Can you please elaborate?

    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi Anna,

      Sorry for the confusion. You can prune your tree at most time of the year. Even multiple times of the year!

      Winter pruning is generally done for the first few years of the tree’s life. This is to promote vigorous vegetative growth and establish the framework. Once the tree has an established framework, you want to switch to summer pruning. This promotes fruit rather than excessive vegetation.

      That being said…. with many of the dwarfing rootstocks these days, you don’t need to do much pruning at all (if any). A tree that is left unpruned will generally be more resilient, disease free, longer lasting and more productive in the long run. The only problem is that not many nurseries stock fruit trees grafted on to suitable rootstocks for us to forget about pruning. We have listed a few different nurseries that we recommend within the article above.

      Hope this clears everything up for you. If you’d like me to go through this in person, in more detail then I’m happy to organise one of our site visits.

      Kind Regards


  • Mike Ingram

    Hi Duncan,
    I have a Nellie Kelly passionfruit that I planted 18months ago. It faces North, I fed it per the book, it is now 10.5M wide and 2.7M tall and produced 583 passionfruit this year!!! How much should I prune this monster and when should I do it? I am concerned as to how big it will grow and what to do.
    Regards Mike

    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi Mike,

      What a productive monster you’ve grown. We get a lot of queries from people whose passionfruit keep dying, so it’s nice to have someone asking advice about the opposite for a change! Passionfruit vines don’t need any pruning for fruit production etc. However, they can be cut back to a manageable size. This is best done in spring when the plants begin to start actively growing again. However, you can prune them at any time of the year with little impact.

      Good Luck and Happy Gardening!