Taking Care Of Fruit Trees – When gardeners think about caring for fruit trees in winter, they often think of chemical sprays. But many fruit tree diseases — including peach leaf curl, apricot spot, brown rot — are easier to prevent and less expensive to treat. Just a few well-timed and well-chosen sprays can go a long way in controlling fruit tree problems. Read on for information on how to care for fruit trees in winter and how to overwinter fruit trees.
If you want to know how to care for fruit trees in winter, consider prevention. Many problems can be avoided if you buy varieties of fruit trees that are resistant to the worst types of diseases. It is also important to give your tree proper attention and care.
Taking Care Of Fruit Trees
One good step to prevent diseases and infestations on your fruit trees in the winter is to do a good fall garden cleanup. As part of your winter fruit tree care, remove any fallen, rotting fruit, as well as any remaining fruit on the tree. Also rake fallen leaves because it can be a haven for insects.
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Fruit tree diseases can also be prevented or limited by proper winter pruning. You must sterilize the scissors before use with denatured alcohol.
Most fruit trees are deciduous and shed their leaves in winter. These trees are best pruned when they are dormant, after the leaves have fallen, usually between December and early February. However, members of the apricot family should be pruned in August to prevent Eutypa infection.
When pruning, your first step is to remove dead, dying or diseased branches. Also, cut straight growing branches and root shoots. If you notice a disease in the tree, make sure to prune the tree enough to eradicate the disease.
With fruit trees, the risk is not to cause new infections by pruning, but by failing to remove all diseased wood. Look for the lowest edge of the visible infection on the tree branch, trace the branch back to where it is attached, then cut it at the junction of the next branch down. This removes both the infected branch and the branch attached to it.
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After winter pruning, you continue the winter care of fruit trees by spraying to control pests and diseases. Dormant oil sprays are not toxic to humans or pets, but can be used on apple, plum and pear trees that have leaf curl caused by aphids. Dormant spray brings insects to life in the tree. You can also use dormant oil sprays to combat scale insects on fruit trees.
For orange trees infested with aphids, scales or mealybugs, use summer oil instead, because dormant oil can damage orange leaves. You should use a copper fungicide to spray peach and nectarine trees that had leaf curl disease the previous summer. Sign up for our monthly newsletter and we’ll send you the e-book, “Growing Successful Fruit Trees.” You can unsubscribe at any time.
Painting the trunks of your fruit trees with thinned white latex paint will help protect them from sun damage during sunny winters. Photo credit:
As the weather gets colder, fruit growers start preparing their fruit trees for winter. This is because unprotected fruit trees are susceptible to frost damage. And frost damage can affect the health of your tree in the long run.
Care For Your Own Tree
Some people plant our fruit trees directly in the ground. Others plant them in raised beds or in permanent outdoor containers. In any case, you need to take steps to prepare your fruit trees for winter and we will talk about this in this article.
One of our main challenges in preparing fruit trees for the season is to protect the roots of fruit trees from being damaged by winter frost.
So what if the roots of your fruit tree freeze during the winter? If the roots freeze, they will die. And when the roots die, your tree no longer has access to stored nutrients. This will cause your tree to become malnourished and eventually die.
Winter cold can also cause cracks in trunks and broken branches, all of which can become entry points for pests and diseases. Therefore, preparing our fruit trees for the season is incredibly important. How are we going to do it? Read on to find out.
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One of the ways to prepare fruit trees for winter is mulching the trees with straw or wood chips. This extra layer of organic matter helps insulate the roots of your fruit trees, protecting them from freezing during winter. Frozen roots die and can no longer provide the tree with water and nutrients.
If fruit trees “in the ground” can be sensitive to winter damage, fruit trees in pots are even more sensitive! Trees in the country are partially isolated on the ground. We only keep the roots on top of a few centimeters of soil because they are more exposed to the cold.
But fruit trees in pots are popular in landscape design today and these trees require additional help in terms of winter insulation. Here’s how you can protect them.
Potted fruit trees left outside in cold climates should be insulated to protect their roots from low winter temperatures. The first step is to surround the pot with chicken wire. Then you will fill that frame with straw. Photo credit:
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So what is the solution? During a recent class on Preparing your fruit trees for winter at Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto, we insulated and overwintered fruit trees in pots in three steps. Here are the tools we need:
Susan Poizner (kneeling from left) and volunteers from Evergreen Brickworks, posing with their newly insulated potted trees.
In the spring, when the weather starts to warm, you will remove the straw and chicken wire. Spread straw in your vegetable garden or around fruit trees and shrubs that are planted in the ground. Now it will act as a nutrient mulch that helps retain moisture in your soil and slowly decomposes, releasing valuable nutrients into the soil. Save the chicken wire to use to insulate your potted tree next year.
Interested in learning more about how to successfully grow organic fruit trees? Check out my premium online course on Learning..
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Susan Poizner is an urban fruit gardener in Toronto, Canada and the author of Growing Fruit Trees Fast and Growing an Urban Garden. Susan trains new growers around the world through the award-winning fruit tree care training program. Susan is also the host of The Urban Forestry radio show and podcast and an ISA certified arborist. When choosing where to start your home garden, it is important to consider three factors – sunlight, soil and distance.
Sunshine made John Denver happy. It will also make your fruit trees happy. Plant your tree in a location that gets at least half a day of sun. Sunlight helps trees produce fruitful fruit. Do not plant your tree in full shade areas.
Fruit trees like fertile and fertile soil. Most soil drains well enough to keep your tree happy. But if you have a high clay content, add 1/3 peat to the soil when planting. This will help improve drainage for your tree. Full clay soils and poorly drained sites should be avoided. Fruit trees will not thrive in wet, poorly drained, low spots in your yard. If your soil is very heavy and poorly drained, you can build mounds or berms with topsoil delivered by truck to plant your tree or trees.
All our trees are dwarf or semi-dwarf trees, selected to optimize the use of space and produce good fruit. Trees should be planted about 12-14′ apart. If planting more than one row, the rows should be separated between 18-20′. This will allow the tree enough space to develop. This space gives the sun a chance to shine on the tree. It also provides good air ventilation, which helps reduce disease in your tree.
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Another consideration; Be sure to think about your future plans when setting up your hamlet. Leave room to add more trees. Once you start growing fruit at home, you will want to add new fruits to increase the variety of your harvest.
Fruit is produced by pollination of flowers. Some trees can produce a lot of plants with their own pollen, so they are called self-pollinating. Other trees require different types of pollen. This cross-pollination is usually done by bees. Some settlements have enough fruit trees to ensure plenty of cross-pollination, but you have to plant your own “pollination partner” to be safe. If the variety is not self-pollinating, two trees of the same variety will not pollinate each other.
In general, most apples, pears, plums and cherries need pollinators, although there are several self-pollinating varieties of each of these fruit species. Peaches, nectarines, tart cherries and apricots are almost always self-fertile.
See below different types of fruit for detailed instructions on suitable pollinators for your apples, pears, plums and cherries. And remember, apples can’t pollinate pears, and pears can’t pollinate plums. Pollinator should be from
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