Quietest Month

July in the Organic Food Garden

By Kath Irvine

July is the quietest month of them all! Use this colder weather to be inside by the fire planning the coming years crop rotation. Once you have your crop rotation planned you can order your seed for the year. Browsing seed catalogues is one of my favourite things!  Don’t forget to order in enough greencrop seed to keep you going for the year.

Use the wet weather to observe where the wet, poorly drained areas are in your garden. Make a plan to remedy them once things dry out sometime in spring.

Planting out

  • globe artichokes, asparagus crowns, horseradish roots
  • gooseberries, currants, berries, rhubarb

Other tasks

  • prune roses
  • prune pipfruit
  • keep an eye on your stores for spoilt fruits
  • keep collecting organic matter, and adding to your mulch piles
  • prepare your seedhouse
  • put your feet up and have a rest!


More on Pruning your Fruit Trees

There is only one more month available to get your pipfruit trees pruned! Pruning is an artform – the best way to learn pruning is to attend a pruning workshop, or employ a professional and watch and learn.

Here are some pruning basics:

  • Make sure your tools are sharp and clean. Wipe your tools with a vinegar soaked rag between trees so you don’t pass on disease.
  • Your aim is a balanced shape of practical height with good space between branches
  • An open shape allows light to get to the ripening fruit, bees to reach the flowers and good airflow for the reduction of fungal diseases.
  • You need a good supply of horizontal branches – this is where they fruit best.
  • The only vertical branches should be your main leaders.
  • Keep your tree at a practical height. A reachable height makes it easier to prune, harvest, foliar spray and birdnet.


When pruning branches take care where and how you cut:

  • Always cut back to a growth point – this means either flush with the trunk, or back to a bud or back to an intersection with another branch.
  • If you are cutting a large branch remove the bulk of the branch first before cutting it off at the desired point, otherwise when the heavy branch begins to fall it may leave an ugly tear.
  • Make cuts that slant gently away from the bud.
  • When cutting the end of a branch cut to a bud that is facing in the direction you want the tree to take. A blunt cut at the end of a branch will create a forked branch.
  • If in doubt – don’t, you cannot put it back!

My favourite pruning book is a very simple little paperback now called “How to Prune Fruit Trees” by R Sanford Martin.  His straightforward language and simple sketches make it a most useful tool for the home fruit grower. Available from touchwood books (www.touchwoodbooks.co.nz)

Pruning new Fruit Trees (bare rooted):

This is the thing people find hardest to do – cutting into a brand new tree, yet it is the most important pruning cut you will ever make.

If your first tier of branches is at about your waist height, your mid tier will be at shoulder height and your top tier will be just above your head – perfect!

This sketch is for a bare rooted tree only (this is the best way to buy a fruit tree – not in a bag).