How to care for citrus trees, and boost broccoli plants

Pruning and care of citrus trees
  • Prune your citrus tree once the fruit is all removed (but never during the summer months).
  • You’ll need a pair of loppers for bigger branches, and a pair of secateurs for the smaller ones.
  • Invest in a small sharpening stone and sharpen your tools before pruning. On the sloping blade, hold the sharpening stone on a 45 degree angle and move it in a circular motion; on the flat blade hold the stone at a 5 degree angle.
  • Remember to dip your tools in methylated spirits for a few seconds to sterilise them.
  • Prune an evergreen tree by no more than a third (unlike a deciduous fruit tree which you can cut back by half).
  • Start by opening up the centre of the tree with loppers to allow light and air to circulate. Then with secateurs start thinning out the smaller branches. If a branch has 5 shoots, reduce it to 3. Cut away spindly shoots, leaving the stronger ones.
  • Look out for lemon borer attacking your citrus tree. If part of your tree is growing poorly or branches die or you find holes in branches and sawdust, this indicates the presence of borer. Cut the branch back until you no longer see the hole, then you’ll need to find the borer. We managed to cut the borer in half but if you don’t find it, push some wire down the hole and skewer the borer.
  • Sooty mould is often found on citrus. It grows in the honeydew or secretion of many common plant pests, such as aphids or scale. The pests cover the leaves in honeydew and the sooty mould spore lands on the honeydew and begins to reproduce. The way to control sooty mould is to spray your citrus with a Winter oil spray or Neem oil. That will get rid of the insect and in turn get rid of the mould. Make sure you spray late afternoon or early evening so the sun doesn’t burn the wet leaves.
  • After pruning, give your citrus tree a good feed. Apply fertiliser like sheep pellets, chook poo and volcanic rock dust around the dripline of the tree. This is where citrus take up the nutrients.
  • Yellowing of leaves usually indicates magnesium deficiency. We suggest you mix up a handful of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) in a bucket of water and spray over the entire tree (twice yearly – in spring and autumn). The magnesium is more readily absorbed by applying it to the leaves.
Brassica maintenance
  • Even if your broccoli plants look as if they’re doing well, they will need a feed while they’re growing. Rob applies sheep pellets, chicken manure and volcanic rock dust. Then he covers it all with a good quality organic compost. This should be watered in.
  • If your broccoli has holes in its leaves that’s a sign the white butterfly is around. The butterfly lays its eggs on the underside of leaves. The larvae or caterpillars hatch from the eggs and then feed on the leaves.
  • Rob uses an organic caterpillar spray. The active ingredient in this product is Btk (Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki) which is a naturally occurring soil bacterium. When ingested by the larvae or caterpillars it produces a toxin that’s lethal. In the acid guts of other animals it’s destroyed and is therefore totally harmless. Btk also has no withholding period on crops. Add ¼ teaspoon to a litre of water.
  • It’s also worth applying neem pellets or granules round the base of broccoli. Neem conditions the soil and is taken up by the plants systemically, repelling the insects and butterflies that affect brassicas.


Camera: Jarod Murray
Editor: Thomas Asche
Production equipment and post-production services provided by The Black Forest Breathes