Pruning – February and early March are the best time of year to prune fruit trees and grapes.
Apples and Pears (Pome Fruits) need to have a dominant leader, in other words, one main trunk with side branches coming off that trunk. There are 4 situations where pruning should be done:
- Remove branches that cross over each other. They may tend to rub in time and create open wounds.
- There should be good space between branches to allow sunlight and air flow around each branch. Remove a branch when too close together.
- Remove any watersprouts. These are shoots that grow straight up, very quickly. They are unproductive.
- Remove any suckers from around the base of the tree. These are also unproductive shoots that can interfere with the growth of the tree and compromise any grafts.
Peach, Nectarine, and Apricot prefer an open center and don’t usually have a dominant leader. Cherry and Plum can have an open center or rounded habit. Generally, only 4-5 main branches make up these trees, leaving shorter branches to develop and produce fruit. Follow the same 4 steps in pruning for all of these Stone Fruits.
Grapes are usually grown on a trellis or fence. Severe pruning each year produces the most yield per vine. Maintain 2-4 branches that will be secured to the trellis or fence and will grow horizontally. Any branches coming off these 2-4 branches should be cut to 2 buds.
Other small fruits, such as Blueberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Kiwi, Gooseberry, etc are usually pruned right after they are done fruiting. This allows time for new growth to emerge in the late summer and fall. Flower buds will then be set in the fall for flowering and fruiting next spring and summer. One exception to this rule is any fall-bearing types, such as some Raspberries, and they would be pruned now.
Dormant Sprays – Any type of fruit tree or small fruit will benefit from dormant sprays.
- Dormant Oil should be applied in February – mid-March when temperatures are above freezing for a few days. Dormant Oil controls overwintering insects, such as scale, mites, webworms, and aphids, and works by suffocating the eggs. It has to be applied before any new growth has emerged.
- Lime Sulfur controls overwintering diseases, such as rust, scab, leaf spots, and blight. Lime Sulfur should be applied 4-6 weeks after Dormant Oil. It is more flexible and can be applied even after new growth has started, just as long as temperatures are above 90 degrees.
Dormant Sprays are a great way to get started on disease and insect control but don’t take care of all possible problems and should be used as a part of a regular spray program. There are three times fruit trees should be sprayed in the spring: 1)once flower buds are visible and about to open, 2) at petal drop (flowers are going by), and 3) two weeks after petal drop. We can make recommendations on the type of spray to use, depending upon your personal needs and preferences.
Fertilizer – Fruits should be fertilized now, before growth begins. Depending upon the age of the plants, we may recommend liquid, granular, spike, or organic-type fertilizer. We can help you pick out the best fertilizer for your situation.
Mulch – A fresh layer can be applied if mulch levels have reduced to the point that soil is showing through. Only 2-3″ is necessary to retain moisture during dry times. Mulch also adds to the organic matter levels of the soil.
Mulch helps to insulate, and if applied when the ground is frozen, will help keep cold temperatures in the soil. Peach, Nectarine, and Apricot start to grow when soil temperatures warm up. Keeping them cold longer will delay the bloom and possibly avoid late freezes that could destroy fruit set.