Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fruit Tree Care

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club ( sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called Fruit Tree Care (I have added a few comments in italics) and here it is:

"It is spring and now time to get outside and begin to work on the fruit trees. Start by cleaning them of any broken branches due to the snow and ice. Make a nice clean cut with pruners or a sharp saw. When removing branches from the tree, be sure to make the cuts at a slight angle so water will roll off the branch and not sit on it, causing rot. If you are removing a branch attached to the main trunk, cut the branch about a foot from the trunk first. That way if the branch should break it will not tear the bark of the tree. Once you remove the branch from the tree, use a sharp saw and cut the spur that remains as close as possible to the main trunk. The tree will heal itself much faster that way.

If you leave a spur 2 to 6 inches long on the trunk, it will rot and the decay will move into the main trunk, causing you problems later. When you make a flush cut on the trunk or branch, the tree can cover it over with a ring of callus in just a year or two. At this time of the year, the branches are full of flower buds so cut the tip branches 2 to 3 feet long and place them in a vase of water and they will flower in your home.

Remove any branches at the base of the tree, as these branches are "suckers," stealing energy from the tree. Look for any branches that crisscross and rub together. Remove the less important branch, or where they rub together the bark will wear off and create an entry point for insects or disease to enter the plant. Remove any branches that grow straight up without side shoots on them. These are "water sprouts" and will not produce fruit. A great book for the beginner or seasoned gardener is The Back Yard Orchardist by Stella Otto. All your questions on fruit tree care will be answered in this book.

The tree is cleaned and ready to grow, so let us work on insect and disease problems. At this time of the year, you can eliminate many disease problems if you can spray the trees with a copper fungicide spray or lime sulfate fungicide. When applied at this time of the year, these products will kill disease spores before they have a chance to get active--"preventive medicine."To control Insects before the eggs hatch use a horticultural oil or "all season oil." You can combine both of these products in the same sprayer and apply at the same time. Apply when temperatures are going to be above 40 degrees that day and there is no rain in the forecast. This spraying must be done before the flower buds open and the buds are still tightly closed.

Now you need an indicator on the tree to tell you when the bugs arrive so you can begin your bi-weekly spraying program. When I was in college at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, my Orchard Care class was chosen to help our professor with his idea that helped earned him his doctorate. Knowing when to start spraying the trees to control insects will make your spray program more effective and you will not have to waste pesticides applied too early.

This is what we did and you can do the same. Buy a 3 to 4 inch red plastic apple with a stem on it. Tie a piece of string 12 inches long to the stem of the apple and the other end to a branch at eye level on your tree. Coat the apple with a bit of Vaseline evenly on the surface. When the bugs arrive, they will stick to the apple and you can begin to spray the trees before they lay eggs all over the tree. Look for Bonide, Orchard Spray or Organic Labs, Organocide Fruit Tree Spray to control both disease and insects at the same time. Spray until 2 weeks before harvest. Fertilize with  Espoma Tree-Tone  twice yearly. When the fruit tree is in bloom, be sure not to spray!"

Thanks Paul!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 8, 2012

1 comment:

Tree Removal Brooklyn said...

I usually do my pruning with a long blade, if not a simple pair of pair-bladed pliers.

-Samudaworth Tree Service