Home orchards will benefit from spring maintenance
Spring will soon be here! We have much to look
forward to wildflowers along the roadsides, flowers in our
gardens, and fruit in our orchards. Spring and early summer are
important for our home orchards. Good practices now will benefit
the trees all year.
Citrus is really on our minds right now. When the danger of a
major freeze has passed, it will finally be safe to prune them
back to live wood. If you are not sure where to make your
pruning cuts, wait until they leaf out.
Your trees may look worse than they really are. We have seen
some trees that will require cutting back to just above the
graft. If the rootball was protected, these trees should put on
five to six feet of growth by the end of the year.
Fertilize citrus every four to six weeks through August with a
balanced organic fertilizer such as Microlife. Specialty citrus
fertilizers are available such as Nelson's Citrus-Avocado
fertilizer if you prefer. Always apply fertilizers in accordance
with the package directions. Too much fertilizer can do more
harm than none at all.
Leaf miners will lay their eggs on citrus leaves when they are
about the size of a mouse's ear. Leaf miner damage is mostly
cosmetic, but if it bothers you it can be treated naturally by
spraying spinosad or neem oil during the active growing season.
Spray every two week, alternate the products, and be sure to
follow all package directions for mixing, application and
disposal of any unused mix.
If you see any signs of
scale, treat with an
mixed at one teaspoon per gallon of water. You have to catch
them in their crawling stage, so apply the spray at 7 to 10 days
intervals for several treatments.
fruit trees such as peaches, plums, pears and apples
should have had their major pruning done already. The next task
will be to thin the fruit. Thinning should be done when the
fruits are about the size of a small marble. Use the width of
your hand across the knuckles as a guide. Remove all but one
fruit in each cluster and thin until there is a hand's width
between the fruits down each limb. Thinning reduces the number
of fruits, but increases the size and quality of individual
fruits. Thinning is difficult for gardeners that are new to
fruit culture, but the results will convince you that it is
All citrus and fruits should be mulched with a good quality
Mulch moderates soil temperature and preserves
moisture as well as reducing competition from turf and weeds.
You can add one to two inches of compost before you mulch, then
top the compost with the mulch. Mulch all the way past the drip
line of the trees, but do not apply more than three to four
inches total thickness of compost and mulch.
As the temperatures begin to warm up, we will need to increase
watering. Fruit trees do not like to be drought stressed,
especially when maturing a load of fruit. They will drop their
fruit to protect themselves and will generally not perform well.
A deep soaking once a week is more beneficial than frequent
shallow watering. During the hottest part of the summer you may
need to soak them more than once. If you are in doubt, use an
inexpensive moisture meter available at your local nursery or
Fertilizing fruits depends on the family or group. A complete
calendar for fertilizing and maintaining fruits and citrus can
be printed for free from the virtual fruit gardening classroom
www.thegardenacademy.com. Some fruits should never be
fertilized, such as figs. Figs do well with compost and mulch
only. They do not compete well with turf and should be mulched
for their entire dripline.
After the harvest, you will need to be diligent about cleaning
up any fallen fruit at the base of the tree. This fruit can
harbor pests and removing it will help break or reduce the
cycle. You can move the fruit to a bird feeder elsewhere in the
garden. Many species of butterflies and beneficial insects will
enjoy feeding on the rotting fruits.
Home orchard culture can become a very gratifying hobby. Putting
in a little time each spring will result in better production
this summer and healthier trees for years to come.
If you still would like to add to your fruit tree orchard, Urban
Harvest has fruit trees for sale at their Eastside Farmers
Market on March 23. More details of the varieties offered will
be posted on their website
This column is produced by Urban Harvest. Learn about
gardening classes, community gardens and orchards, farmers'
markets, and more at
article was written by Angela Chandler, who is a freelance
garden writer and speaker and Heidi Sheesley who is the owner of
TreeSearch Farms Inc., which is a wholesale grower of
perennials, natives and unique plants. You may contact her at