Spring Maintenance for Fruit Trees

Spring apple tree maintenance-pruned, well expanded and mulched, sprayed and watered.

Speaking of fruit trees, let’s talk about what else we should do besides pruning before the end of winter or at the beginning of spring.

-SPRAY DORMANT OR HORTICULTURAL OIL ON YOUR TREES NOWDid you ever notice the leaves curling up on some of the apricots or peach trees in the summer? This could be one of two things that cause it. The first one is peach leaf curl disease. It usually comes in wet springs-no problem here with that! We rarely have wet springs here in Santa Fe. The second one is aphid damage which is more likely here. This appears on the trees as curling or shriveling of the leaves in the summer. Aphids lay their eggs on the trunk and limbs and the eggs will hatch when it gets warmer this summer.  To kill the eggs, spray horticultural or dormant oil on the trunk, branches and buds (especially in the crooks where the branches join the trunk BEFORE the blossoms bloom). That basically means now. Spraying will also work on a multitude of other pests that overwinter on the trees. The oil works by smothering the eggs and is organic.

-CLEAN UP THE MULCH IN YOUR WELLSI usually pull aside the mulch that I put on the previous year but don’t get rid of it because you are going to…

-DIG YOUR WELLS OUT TO THE DRIP LINE.I know your tree is getting bigger but until it is full grown, it will really help when you water the well to get it out to the roots where it needs it

-INSPECT YOUR DRIP LINES TO TREESDrip lines are great for the trees for awhile especially while they are small. So turn on the drip line on a warm day and test it. Replace emitters that are clogged. Then add more emitters if your tree has grown during the past year.

Don’t cover the base of the trunk. Trunks of trees don’t like to be buried so put the mulch up to it.

Fill it up a few times each time you water. If we don’t get any substantial water this spring be sure you water more especially with our spring winds. Your trees will thank you.

Do this before the trees leaf out because fruit blossoms will follow (probably in March-just watch your trees).

Time to Trim Fruit Trees Now in February

If you haven’t trimmed your fruit trees yet you’re not alone. I haven’t done mine but plan on doing them by this weekend. You should trim soon before the buds swell or you’ll miss your opportunity this spring. Below is picture illustrating where to prune an apple tree.

Picture courtesy of http://www.weekendgardener.net

Last year I trimmed the fruit trees heavily so I shouldn’t have to trim too much this year. I just have to take off the water sprouts and small branches that have crossed and are touching in the interior. I didn’t get ANY fruit last year, not even an apple (and I always get those) because of the bitter cold winter we had.

Different winter this year-much warmer with little bits of snow. Not enough snow to quit watering once a month but certainly enough to help. Hell, any moisture helps out here. One more thing to check off my to-do list.

Fruit Tree Pruning

Unpruned apricot tree with lots of little branches everywhere

It’s just a little orchard I keep telling myself!  I know I’m a little late for pruning but need to prune my fruit trees before they leaf out (which luckily they haven’t yet).  Since I didn’t do them last year I feel compelled to do it this year. Trying to use my ‘how to prune a fruit tree’ skills.  I don’t want them to get out of control!

Pruned apricot tree

Here are pictures of an semi-dwarf apricot tree before and after I pruned it. It desperately needed pruning. Apricots are notorious for putting out lots of tiny branches everywhere so it is best to keep up on them.  Notice how many branches I cleaned out but still kept the basic shape. I also cut the suckers growing at the base of the tree. When pruning fruit trees, we need to consider what type of fruit tree we are pruning. Most fruit trees like apricots, peaches, pears and plums do better with an open vase shape where sunlight can enter into the center of the tree except for apple trees that do best with a central leader.

Prune at an outward growing branch

One thing for sure is don’t top off the tree limbs. That will encourage rampant growth on top. Instead look at where you are pruning the limb and clip the branch where a new branch will grow outward away from the center not into the center of the tree. It took me awhile to see where the proper place is to trim and I’ve not always done well in years past. Some mistakes I can’t rectify like one of my apple trees that I pruned years ago into the vase shape. Still it seems to produce well. Perhaps nature is more forgiving than we think..