Garden Newsletters


April in the Home Orchard

April is a very important month in the orchard and garden as we are well into autumn and with April comes shorter hours, cooler nights and hopefully cooler days and contrasting colours in our fruit trees.

Most nurseries will soon start to carry new season citrus stock, so look out into your backyard orchard where you may have a citrus tree, especially a lemon tree that is under -performing, so it is time to give it the last rites, sharpen your axe and cut it out. If the lemon is a lemon and it won't flower or fruit, then cut it out.

Why waste time, fertilising, giving it loving care and water and then the dam thing will not flower or fruit? So get to your local nursery and replace it. Your cost is less than $30 and in a couple of years you will be rewarded with fruit. It is also important that you do not place a new tree in the same hole. Move to one side and plant because your soil could be carrying a disease.

I would receive an email or a question most days about the proverbial non-performing lemon tree growing in someone's back garden, where some gardeners believe it will just grow without feeding, watering or checking for diseases.

April is the best time to plant garlic in your garden as a companion plant in a circle around most fruit trees, or just plant your garlic in rows in the vegetable patch. It is important that when you break open your garlic bulbs that you plant the garlic within 48 hours for best germination.

Remember it was the Egyptians who fed their workers with great quantities of garlic while building the Pyramids, and it is still very effective in human health and as an additive for organic insect sprays that actually work. I plant out up to 250 garlic cloves each year and use them mostly in my cooking, or sprays. You can either crush or turn the cloves into a paste or leave the cloves hanging in the shed for later.

I believe April is a great time to plant out your citrus trees, however some fruit specialists say September or early spring when the soil is warm. So my advice is to plant now in April, making sure you have a solid support to hold your tree during the early winter storms and make sure you dig your hole twice the size of your roots and don't plant deeper than where it was planted in the pot. If your soil gets very soggy, it is better to plant citrus on a raised mound, to improve drainage.

Place compost in the hole with blue metal dust and straw on the top with dolomite and blood and bone and water the tree in well. Place straw around the tree to prevent the soil from drying out.

Lemon varieties

Myer: The tree itself originated from China and is a natural hybrid from a lemon and possibly an orange. However this tree grows smaller than the Eureka, and is a moderately vigorous tree, has orange to yellow-coloured fruit, with smooth skin and is very juicy. This a great tree in any garden.

Lisbon: This lemon is more cold tolerant than others with thin-skinned fruit and is quite thorny, but the fruit is excellent.

Eureka: Most home gardener's favourite lemon tree will virtually grow anywhere and has mobs of fruit for most of the year.

Lemonade: I like the lemonade lemon variety because it is a low-acid lemon-like fruit and actually comes from unknown parentage. The tree can produce fruit all year round if you prune the tree to produce more fruiting terminals with a strong compact frame. This tree is suitable for small gardens and can be grown in garden pots with success. The flesh is sweet, and can be used as a refreshing drink with ice and some of you would probably add a dash of whisky to it for a far better drink.

Keep your watering up to all your citrus as the fruit on lemons and oranges will soon be ripe and ready for picking while early varieties of mandarin are now ready in early April. I also like to add citrus fertiliser to my citrus trees in April and half a handful of dolomite.

Root stocks

Rootstocks are vital to the success of your citrus trees because the correct choice of rootstock that is best suited to your garden site will be the difference between success and failure in your orchard. Most nurseries in Western Australia will have the right rootstock for you to purchase your trees. Trifoliata is perhaps the best rootstock for the Perth area but you must have your fertility right for Trifoliata to grow well.

Trifoliata produces excellent quality fruit on a smaller tree and has some tolerance to frost, root fungi and nematodes. So when purchasing your next citrus ask for advice about the right rootstock.

The following information was provided from an article by the Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food.

Soil type suitability and phytophthora resistance
of common citrus rootstocks in Western Australia

RootstockSalinity toleranceCalcium (alkalinity) ToleranceSuitability for sandy soils Suitability for loamy soilsSuitability for poorly drained soilsPhytophthora Resistance
Troyer citrangeMediumLowGoodGoodAverage to GoodMedium to High
Rough lemon LowMedium GoodAveragePoorLow
Volkameriana LowMedium GoodAveragePoorLow
Sweet orangeMediumHighAverageAveragePoorVery Low
Cleopatra mandarinHighHighAverage GoodAverageMedium
Swingle citrumeloMediumLowAverage Good AverageLow

For the Homesteader: What are some of the forgotten fruits in the Old Farm orchard?

Our grandparents 100 years ago grew some old fashioned varieties of fruit in their orchards, most of these fruit trees are now back in vogue, or to some growers they have always grown these fruit trees and will not change to newer varieties.


Pomegranates were planted by early pioneers and out there in the bush are many old trees, hanging in just, with the dry and drought years we have at the moment. Looking recently at two old trees in Carnamah and Mundijong it was hard to say what variety they are as the fruit had split because of a lack of watering. So the pomegranate is a very hardy tree. Maybe these were a variety from the US called Wonderful, at a guess. Maybe a Mediterranean variety from Turkey. Who knows, but they are drought tolerant.


Quince trees were planted by original settlers in country Western Australia and travelling about the bush I have seen some very old trees, most of these have no varietal names but by the colour and fruit shape are more than likely to be Smyrna. The quince is a relative of the pear, and originated in central to south western Asia. Don't confuse it with the other type of quince which is the Chaenomeles species which is thorny and shrubby in plant type. They do have beaut red flowers. They are sometimes called the Chinese or Japanese quince.

Quinces need a warm place in your orchard, well drained and love a good well balanced soil. If you come across an old quince tree it is very important to prune it as branches from a neglected specimen grow all over the place. I like to winter prune my quinces and begin to remove the crowded canopy to improve light and air circulation. Remove only about a quarter of the old branches by cutting them right back to their base.

Old citrus varieties

Some old homesteads have very old fruit varieties growing in their orchard, and recently at a meeting in Pinjarra I came across an old orchard with pomegranates, oranges and quince trees growing. On talking to the owners, these trees could be 100+ years old. Varieties are sadly unknown. His cousin stated his trees were older than the trees that I was looking at. So maybe through the local Community Garden I can do a spot of propagating these citrus trees to see how they grow and what the fruit actually tastes like.

What to do in your Home Orchard in April.

April is the time to use Eco oil on all citrus scale which prevents sooty mould developing during winter. Some varieties of fruit are still on the tree, such as the guavas; the Hawaiian and Indian guava is very susceptible to Fruit fly. Med fly or Ceratitis capitata is around and will infect most of your autumn fruit trees. It will also affect citrus, figs, persimmons, quinces, can sting passion fruit and feijoas.
I have recently been told that avocado varieties, Rincon and Fuerte can be casualties as well. I think all growers should have fruit fly traps hanging in their orchard at all times, and remember to keep topping these traps up with whatever bait you are using. Do not be a grower who allows the Med fly to breed in your back yard. Fertilise your citrus trees with a good citrus fertiliser and add chicken manure or baa poo to the outer area. Clean around your backyard and pull out early growing weeds that have germinated from the early Easter rains we were lucky to receive this week. Check again for signs of Med fly and go to your local nursery for advice on what to use. Mulch all your fruit trees with straw to prevent winter weeds from germinating robbing your tree of nutrients.

Bird-attracting plants.

Here are some bird-attracting indigenous trees and shrubs to plant in your garden for birds and bees as pollinators.
The Kings Park bottle brush is a great choice to attract bees and honey eaters into your garden. It is an attractive bush growing to 5 metres and produces superb flowers which hang on for many weeks. The Illyarrie gum or red helmeted gum is a eucalypt growing along the coast north of Jurien Bay and is flowering at the moment with excellent yellow flowers and has mobs of bees in the blossom. This tree grows to about 5 metres.

Eucalyptus torquata is a red coral gum, can be cut back and controlled and insects, birds and bees have a field day on this tree. Anzac bottle brush is now flowering, a small shrub to 3 metres and is an excellent tree to grow in small spaces and attracts birds and bees.

Fire damage to a home orchard.

Having been lucky to escape the January, February and March fires by 10 kilometres, some friends of mine were not so lucky and after looking at various properties it shows immense amount of damage was done from these fires. Roses, grapes, olives and citrus at homesteads in the area were possibly the most affected by the intense heat, and really, nothing could save the plants and trees from this heat.

Some roses around properties are slowly coming back with leaves and possibly buds in the next few weeks, but looking at small scale citrus, olives and grapes in the homestead orchards, sadly there is very little to do other than to remove dead and burnt branches and water these trees well.
Some trees are showing signs of growth below and around the graft and my call is to remove these trees, and replant the orchard. This time remove larger non-fruit trees, grass and rubbish near the fruit trees which could save your trees next time.

In the bushland, grass trees, zamia palms and some eucalypts are coming back to life. Small indigenous shrubs are also starting to send up small shoots, so there is some life there.

I have enclosed two pics of my new olive grove which was planted on 14-10-2015 at Birchmont south west of Pinjarra on the banks of the estuary.
This variety is Mission and the trees have fruited this year and we have nearly 20kgs of fruit from 10 Mission and 8 Manzanillo varieties. As can be seen, the soil is white beach sand with a pH of 3.6 and is a very acidic soil, and I needed to do soil amendments when planting out my olive grove. Planting holes were dug down to 1 metre, the bottom filled with clay or kitty litter, newspaper, a bucket of blue metal dust, a small bag of sheep poo, four handfuls of dolomite, same of blood and bone, and mushroom compost, The olive tree was placed on top and filled in with compost. On top, I have spread four handfuls of phosphate, copper, zinc, molybdenum, potash, urea mix and straw around the tree. Plus calcium and magnesium in my dolomite. I think they like my mix. Other varieties planted in the grove of 30 trees are Verdale, Kalamata, Sevillano and Barouni.

One-year-old olive tree One-year-old olive tree with fruit Spacer
Left: One-year-planted Mission olive tree, 1.8 metres high.
 Right: Fruit on a one-year-planted Mission olive tree.
I normally pull off the olives but my trees have been in pots for two years and the tree has produced a small amount of fruit. Now it's pickling time.

Bugs and Diseases in the Orchard

Citrus scab
I have seen a few orchards affected by Citrus Scab recently and have included a picture of a fruit and a leaf below. Citrus scab is a fungal disease and has symptoms on leaves, twigs and fruit. The most noticeable of these are normally found on the fruit.
The interior of the fruit is undamaged, so it is important to control this fungal disease before the twigs are affected, as the disease can affect the structure of the tree and eventually cause it to be unproductive.

Citrus scab on a fruit Citrus scab symptoms on a leaf Spacer
Left: Citrus scab on a fruit. Right: Symptoms of Citrus Scab on a leaf.

The first signs of infection on a leaf are small rounded areas, raised on one leaf surface and indented on the other. Brownish, greyish or pinkish scabs develop on the protuberances and the leaf can be distorted if many scabs occur together.

Wind-driven rain and insects spread the spores and scabs are produced. Also cool damp weather after a hot dry spell will also cause disease development of spores. Fruit is susceptible only up to about ten weeks after half-petal fall. All varieties of lemons can be affected, the Rangpur lime, calamondins, some varieties of tangelo and a few varieties of mandarins can also be affected. Sweet oranges are normally very safe from Citrus scab.

Control methods

Organic control:
Prune off infected twigs and leaves, and you must destroy all the plant material.

Chemical control:
Start in spring when about half the petals have fallen from the flowers. Use copper oxychloride and add 6 mls of white oil per litre of water. A second spray should be applied at the beginning of February at half-petal fall and use zineb.

Remember a good mulch improves your soil and nurtures your plants, and also remember you need to know how to make the right mulch choices for your orchard and garden.


John Bodycoat

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