Fruit Tree Care

Fruit Tree Care for Gardens, Orchards, Farms

There is nothing better than walking into your yard and harvesting fresh, organically grown fruit. With careful planning and diligent pest control measures you can produce the same excellent quality of fruit you find at farmer's markets. Though it is impossible for us to cover every variety of fruit tree and berry bramble, the basics of fruit care are the same.

The growing season begins with concentrated pruning once the trees have gone dormant in late fall or winter. First remove all diseased, damaged and crossing branches. Second you will prune for fruit. If you're not sure how to prune, a good arborist can be very helpful and there are many excellent books that can guide you. Any diseased or insect infested parts should be completely removed from your property or burned.

To manage over-wintering pests, follow pruning with a thorough spray of Horticultural Oil that is labelled for use on dormant trees. After taking these steps, you are ready to take a break and monitor through the winter. While you are resting, the fruit trees (excluding citrus trees) are using the cold temperatures to regulate their growth. Without enough chill hours, deciduous fruit trees will not flower or fruit properly.

Fruit trees need Pollinators and other beneficial insects to produce the best crop yields. Be sure you have a habitat that welcomes Beneficial Insects with annual and perennial flowers, food sources, and pheromone attractants. If you find that you have not planned ahead for this, simply leave some portion of the area un-tended for future planting. If you allow this location to overwinter without pruning back (dead-heading), you can cultivate a habitat for beneficials to overwinter.

In early spring, spray all above ground parts of the tree with horticultural oil before bud break and again at bud break (this is when the little leaves and flowers are just swelling open). Horticultural oil kills the eggs of many overwintering pests and also prevents disease. These oils should only be applied once temperatures are above freezing and are not above 88°-90°F. Neem Oil can be applied for a similar purpose, but possesses additional insecticidal properties.

Beneficial Nematodes should be applied in the spring to kill the soil-dwelling stages of pests, such as beetle grubs and borers. Certain pests, however, can migrate in from long distances, so you may want to trap and monitor these pests.

Ensure pollination with bee attractants or by introducing Bumblebee Hives. Many cities and towns have a shortage of good pollinators; without pollinators you will have no fruit!

Many fruit trees are prone to bacterial infections and fungal disease in certain climates. Preemptive applications of Fungicides (Copper Fungicide, Sulfur Fungicide, Bacillus subtilis) help minimize the risk of your trees being infected. Fungicides are best applied before bud break and flowering.

Fertilize at recommended times for the tree varieties you are cultivating. A good soil test will indicate which nutrients you need to supplement for the fruits you are growing. Soil testing is a cost-effective method of identifying the plants' or medium's needs prior to feeding. We recommend a well-balanced fertilizer like Down To Earth All-Purpose Mix, 4-6-2 for general use. Follow labelled feeding recommendations for the specific fertilizer you choose. For specific fertilizing schedules, contact your Local County Cooperative Extension Office.

If you are just switching to organic or are taking over a new backyard, you will need to amend the soil and apply lots of organic matter - add Compost, Worm Castings, Kelp Meal, Alfalfa Meal, Neem Cake to increase the biological and nutrient profile of your soil. Even if you have been building great soil for years – the addition of these materials will contribute to the vitality and production of your trees.

Summer is a glorious time for fruit trees - have a picnic under your lush orchard canopy and plan for a little summer thinning to ensure good air circulation and even ripening. As your fruit ripens, harvest and enjoy!

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