Winter is a very important time for fruit trees because they are in dormancy. Just as our bodies rebuild and recover from the day while we sleep, fruit trees need time to rest in order to get ready for a season of fruit production.
Dormancy is a key time in which to take steps to prevent disease, kill over-wintering insects and their eggs, and give your trees the necessary nutrients for the coming fruit season.
Thoroughly spray your tree with dormant spray once a month until the buds swell in spring. If you haven’t yet started, it’s not too late. Copper-based sprays, such as Montery Liqui-Cop and Bonide Copper Fungicide can be used throughout your garden on other deciduous plants such as roses. This dormant spray will help control and prevent future fungal diseases, like peach leaf curl or anthracnose.
Fungal sprays alone will not protect your trees from over-wintering insects. Use horticultural oils, like Bonide All Seasons Spray Oil, in a separate application to smother these insects and their eggs. This will help prevent insect damage to the first flush of growth in spring.
Debris Clean Up
Diseased leaves left around the tree will spread disease onto new growth and harbor insects, so it’s important to clean up around fruit trees while you do your pruning.
In February, give your fruit trees a dose of E.B. Stone Naturals Ultra Bloom 0-10-10.
It may seem odd to put out fertilizer while it looks like your plants are not actively growing, but this first feeding will give your trees an extra boost to set fruit without encouraging tender new growth. There is plenty of Phosphorus and Potassium in this fertilizer, which helps plants resist disease and cold weather damage and encourages stem sturdiness, better blooming and seed formation, winter hardiness, better rooting and improved fruit quality.
Make sure to scatter the fertilizer near the dripline and work it into the soil slightly, then water it in well.
Dormant Fruit Tree Pruning
Pruning differs by fruit tree species. Some trees will fruit on new wood, while others will set on older wood. This will help determine the frequency and severity of pruning, as well as the overall size of the tree. The most important part to fruit tree pruning is knowing where the tree produces fruit.
Backyard Orchard Culture
Pruning your trees at the right time of the year is part of a growing technique called “Backyard Orchard Culture.” Families today have less space for fruit trees and even less time to take care of them. Today’s family orchards should be planned and managed differently to suit our changing lifestyles.
“Backyard Orchard Culture” is not the same as commercial orchard culture, which promotes the maximum yield and requires ladders for pruning and harvesting. Most people do not need or expect commercial results from their fruit trees. “Backyard Orchard Culture” is about high density planting and maximizing the length of the fruit season. This can be achieved by planting several varieties of fruit that ripen at different times.
Healthy Backyard Planting
Because of limited space, homeowners can plant multiple trees in one hole, train espalier-style trees, or do hedgerow plantings. Close planting also restricts a tree’s vigor, promoting smaller trees.With the right care, your fruit trees will be happy and produce the best fruit you could ever eat. For more information about care or pruning of your fruit trees, ask one of our nursery professionals or attend one of our upcoming workshops.