You look forward all year to the time when you can finally reach for that fruit tree and come away with a juicy peach, crisp apple, or tart lemon. But that moment doesn't come without a lot of time and effort throughout the year. Fruit trees in particularly must be protected and cared for during all seasons if you want the delicious payoff come spring. Read on for a list of tips you can use during the spring, summer, fall, and winter to ensure this next year is your best harvest yet.
With the emergence of spring comes warmer weather, but that welcome warmth can also encourage disease and pests, making spring the perfect time to sanitize and spray.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension suggests collecting all dead leaves and fruit from the tree that stayed on through the winter and burning or discarding them. This will kill any disease that survived the cold weather and keep it from spreading to other plants. Gathering any old leaves, branches, or other plant matter from around the tree will likewise protect it from dormant diseases.
This is also a good time to set out insect traps and spray the appropriate pesticide or fungicide to protect against bugs and bacteria. Dormant oil should be applied before buds appear on apple and pear trees, while lime-sulphur can be used on apricot, cherry, peach, and plum trees.
A simple way to attract and entrap early season insects that could harm your fruit trees is to paint a large ball red and slather it with petroleum jelly. The color will lure insects to the ball, and the sticky substance should trap them before they lay eggs.
Once summer hits, your fruit trees are in full-growth mode, and your fruit is starting to appear. The following precautions can help ensure you get the most out of your fruit trees:
- Inspect your tree—bark, branches, trunk, leaves, etc.—regularly for any signs of pests or disease, so you can fight back as soon as possible.
- Water a lot, but less frequently. This forces your trees to establish a deep root system. The National Gardening Association recommends watering every one to two weeks if your soil is sandy and watering every two or three weeks in clay soil.
- Use mulch to suppress weeds around the tree trunk, keep the soil moist longer, and discourage mowing or weed whacking too close to the trunk.
- Apply fertilizer or compost in early summer to promote new growth before it's too late in the season.
- Thin fruit early on to ensure the tree branches will be able to support the weight of all the mature fruit. You may mourn the loss early on, but you'll be grateful later when it keeps an entire branch from breaking off.
Autumn is the time of year to harvest your fruit and prepare the tree to weather the winter.
When harvesting, be careful not to break off the branch spurs, the short twigs that hold the fruit, as those twigs produce the fruit the following year.
Raking fallen leaves out from your fruit tree's base can prevent mice and other pests from making their home near your trees' roots and trunk. It also helps your tree avoid picking up any sickness from diseased leaves. For similar reasons, remove any overripe or rotting fruit from the tree and surrounding ground.
If you do notice any damage to your trees from mice, rabbits, deer, or other animals, consider installing a tree guard around the base.
Once winter sets in, continue to monitor your trees to make sure they don't sustain any damages from bad weather or pests. Insulating with mulch can also protect against frozen roots, which almost certainly mean death for a fruit tree. A few inches deep of compost, wood chips, straw, or pine needles can protect your tree and also add nutrients to the soil as they break down.
For further help, contact a professional tree maintenance company, such as Tidwell's Tree Service.