The end of summer and the start of autumn have been pleasant in the Sydney area. We have had occasional rain, but plenty of warm, sunny days to get out amongst our bonsai collections. During the heat of summer, it’s more difficult for many to work outdoors, particularly in the hot afternoons, myself included. For me, current seasonal tasks include a lot of pruning and weeding, as weeds in particular are a constant problem where I live.

While the weather remains warm in April, it’s a good time to repot many species; particularly evergreens like pyracantha, cotoneasters, olives and star jasmine etc. Be aware though, that recently repotted trees will need protection if the nights suddenly become cold within the first couple of weeks after repotting.

You should leave any recent growth on deciduous species for now, waiting until late winter or repotting time to prune back the branches. Deciduous trees remove nutrients from their leaves during autumn to store over the winter months and eventually use in spring for new growth, so it’s best to ‘leave them to it’ for now.

During this season you can tidy up conifers. Remove any dead or overly dense foliage on junipers and reduce the needles on species such as pines or cedars by cutting off any that are on the undersides of branches. Remove unwanted candles on pines as well , leaving no more than two at any junction. These practices will make your trees look tidier and allow winter sunshine to better penetrate the foliage.

It’s now too late to prune back figs, and they should be left until the warmer spring weather returns later in the year. It’s still OK though, to remove any large leaves that are spoiling the design. While the weather is still warm maximise the amount of sunlight they receive, but if the nights become cold move to a more sheltered spot, particularly for more tropical species. Sudden temperature changes can make some Ficus, such as F. benjamina, drop their foliage, which is not what you want to happen at all.

Keep fertilising to build up strength for your trees to handle the colder months ahead. Use low nitrogen food to prevent a rush of soft new growth as this may be damaged over winter. Feeding of deciduous species is particularly important to maintain health in the tree over the winter dormancy. Sunny days and cool dry nights will hopefully enable maples and liquidambars to show a lovely display of autumn colour before the leaves fall.

Autumn is a good time to do any wiring on trees, as the tree’s growth is generally slower over autumn/ winter and the wire can be safely left in place for longer. Over winter branch girth does not increase significantly in most species. Wiring done in spring, on the other hand, needs to be constantly checked, or unsightly cutting in can happen alarmingly quickly.

Watering can most likely be reduced at this time, as the heat of the sun has eased off somewhat, but be alert nonetheless, particularly if it suddenly becomes windy. I have actually lost a few trees in small pots in recent months, and I’m convinced that it’s because I got too busy with other things and allowed them to dry out. Using an open mix to grow your trees in is ideal for many reasons, but one of the drawbacks of good drainage can mean that the media is prone to drying out quickly on a windy day.