Deciduous Fruit Tree Care

Fruit Tree Care for Gardens, Orchards, Farms

There is no better day in the garden than when walk into your yard and harvest fresh, organically grown fruit. With careful planning and diligent integrated 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 deciduous fruit tree care are the same.

The growing season begins with concentrated pruning once the trees have gone dormant in late fall or winter.

  • Remove all diseased, damaged and crossing branches. Any diseased or insect infested parts should be completely removed from your property. Never mulch or compost them.
  • Prune for fruit. This requires an understanding of what is fruiting wood on the tree. For apples, peaches, nectarines and apricots it's year old wood that flowers and fruits. For figs, which bear two crops per season, the first crop grows on year old wood and the second on new wood. For pomegranates the flowers and fruit grow on new wood.
If you're not sure how to prune, a knowledgeable, certified arborist can be very helpful. There are many excellent books that can guide you.

To manage over-wintering pests, follow pruning with a thorough spray of Horticultural Oil that is labelled for use on dormant trees. The horticultural oil should be sprayed to cover all of the tree and make sure to get into the nooks and crannies where the pests are protecting themselves. This lightweight oil is used to smother any pests or their eggs. Horticultural oils should only be applied when temperatures are above freezing and below 88°-90°F. Neem Oil can be applied for a similar purpose, but it possesses additional bactericidal and fungicidal properties.

After taking these steps, you are ready to take a break and monitor through the winter. While you are resting, deciduous fruit trees (excludes citrus trees) use 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. Plan ahead by planting wildflowers or native perennial flowering plants near your fruit trees.

Apply beneficial Nematodes in the spring to kill the soil-dwelling stages of many 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.

  • Apple growers need to trap for codling moths.
  • Peach and other pit fruit growers need to trap and monitor for peach borers.

Complete pollination is critical for fruit quality and production numbers. If you have had issues with pollination or your area does not have enough pollinators, use our bee attractants or introduce Bumblebee Hives into the orchard. Increasingly, 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. Preemptive applications of Fungicides (Copper Fungicide, Sulfur Fungicide, Bacillus subtilis) help minimize the risk of your trees being infected. Fungicides are best applied during dormancy or after fruit has set. Always follow label instructions.

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 converting to organic growing methods or are just getting started with some fruit trees, you will need to amend the soil and apply 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. Remember to keep a 2" circle around the trunk clear of any amendments.

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

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