Photo by Jessica Walliser
Late fall isn’t too late to give your orchard some love—doing so will give you a jumpstart on a healthy, productive 2014.
The biggest autumn chore in a home orchard is a good cleanup, no matter what types of fruit you are growing, be it apples, pears, stone fruit or nuts. Although it might not seem to be that big of a deal, picking up all the fallen fruit and leaves is a very important step in fruit-tree management. Any of the fruit now sitting on the ground beneath the tree might be harboring insect pests, and the leaves are a haven for many different fungal diseases.
Also, pluck off any gray, shriveled fruit still clinging to the branches (they’re called mummies), as this moldy fruit holds millions of fungal spores. All this debris should be burned or tossed in the garbage. Most home compost piles don’t get hot enough to kill the spores.
Don’t prune fruit trees now, as this chore is best done in late winter. Proper pruning is truly an art best learned from the pros, not from a book, so, contact a local orchard now and find out if and when they’ll be hosting a hands-on pruning workshop. Sign up for it as soon as you can because this tends to be a hot topic among gardeners.
You won’t need to begin an organic spray regimen until early March, when the trees should be sprayed with a dormant oil. This product smothers insect pests and their eggs and can help reduce fungal issues, as well. You’ll also want to purchase a few other products for your organic arsenal.
- Kaolin clay products, such as Surround, coat the developing fruit with a white clay dusting that discourages pests.
- Lime-sulfur and/or Bacillus subtilis products are useful to help prevent fungal diseases.
- Red, sticky, sphere traps will help cut down on apple maggots.
- Pheremone lures are also useful to monitor coddling moths.
All these products are most functional when applied according to an appropriate schedule. And, of course, be sure to follow all label instructions when using any product, organic or otherwise.
Stone fruits, such as peaches, apricots and plums, should be examined each autumn for signs of peach tree borer: tiny holes in the trunk with bits of sawdust-like frass and sap coming out. Carefully examine your trees for these signs then use a straightened paperclip inserted into the hole to crush the borer inside.