Fruit Tree Care

  1. Low Summer Water Area Fall Fruit Tree Preparation

    Wherever summer watering is necessary, fall preparation can make a tremendous difference with the success of your fruit trees. Choosing the location and digging the hole are very important in considerations for planting fruit trees. Determining how the trees will be cared for will ensure many years of bountiful fruit production.

    At the top of the list is an irrigation system. This is essential in low water climates and is not as expensive or difficult as one might think. Irrigation tubing, drip lines, emitters and a timer (clock) are your basic requirements. The system you create goes together like a child’s toy, pushing connections together, punching holes for drip lines and setting your clock as you would to bake a cake. Your system need not be a work of art, rather a work that functions.

    The initial set up costs should be less than $100 to do a simple system. Once in place, adding additional trees to your yard will be a fraction of the set-up cost, requiring nothing more than the materials needed to reach the additional plantings.

    Your fall planting will also require a layer of mulch be applied. Again, this is a water saving application that is best done at planting time. Four inches of mulch applied to 3 feet of the diameter around the tree should provide all the benefits. It keeps the soils warmer in the fall and winter to help promote root development and then provides cooling and eliminates surface evaporation in the warm spring and summer. Mulch should be applied to within 2 inches of the trunk and tapered quickly to 4 inches deep and 3 feet outside the trees canopy, keeping the mulch from contacting the tree's trunk.

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  2. Move Citrus Indoors for the Winter

    As temperatures begin to get cooler and the days get shorter, all citrus grown in cold climates need to be prepared to be brought in for the winter. This routine needs to be gradual to ensure that the plant does not get shocked by too quick a climate change.

    The most important consideration in transitioning to indoors is watering. As the days get shorter, the plant's growth rate slows considerably. This results in water needs that are quite a bit less than in the spring and summer. Start to pay close attention to how wet the soil is. Do this by checking with your finger pressed into the soil up to the second knuckle. This is the most accurate way to become familiar with soil on the dry side. You want to check the soil just before watering. The soil's moisture content will differ with the conditions that your plant is exposed to and requires your attention and understanding of how it is reacting to watering. Water only when the soil is on the dry side.

    Next, gradually move your plant from its summer location by choosing a place close to the house where it will get radiant heat from the house - porches with good sun exposure or outside walls adjacent to rooms that are typically heated with good sun exposure are some examples of interim locations to acclimate your plant. Keep it in this location until the nighttime temperatures get into the mid- to high-30s. The longer the plant is outdoors with nighttime temperatures above 35 degrees, the better.

    Next, choose a location indoors that has ample exposure to sunlight. Big, bright South to Southwest facing windows are usually good. Keep in mind that this may not be enough and additional lighting may be required. When choosing indoor lighting for indoor winter growing, avoid full spectrum lights that are more for promoting growth. This is contrary to what the plant is doing naturally at this time of year and can be detrimental to acclimating your plant and ripening fruit on your plant. Instead look for LED lights that are in the spectrum for flowering and ripening fruit.

    In addition, the location that you choose should be away for any heat sources such as vents, heaters and wood stoves. The dry conditions indoors lack humidity, which is another challenge in overwintering your citrus tree. In severely dry conditions, humidifiers can help when placed in close proximity to your plants.

    Feeding your plant before bringing it indoor is ideal. Use an organic acid base fertilizer and feed as you begin to adapt your plant to the move indoors. Feed again about 30 days before you move the plant back out.

    It is ok to transplant your citrus into a desired container when you receive it. A 16 inch pot is recommended for a #3. Once planted, DO NOT repot your plant during its time indoors. This almost always results in the loss of the plant. We never recommended this. If repotting is required, wait until late winter, early spring or just as you transition the plant to the outdoors.

    Watch for insect problems which often occur when the plant is brought indoors. Mites and scale are the two most common and if caught early they are easy to care for. Small black bugs coming out of the soil are most often fungus gnats - and a sure sign that you are overwatering.

    Last, yellowing leaves and leaf discoloration are common when bringing plants indoors. The goal is to bring the plant indoors as healthy as possible. A plant brought indoors with foliage discoloration will rarely recover until the following spring. If your plant is discolored when coming inside, follow the instructions above. Resume working on improving the health of the plant the following spring.

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  3. How Do You Select and Plant a Fruit Tree?

    Methley Plum Tree

    Wherever you live, the basic rules for selecting and planting a fruit trees are similar. First and foremost is selecting the right variety for where you live. Many varieties of fruit are widely adaptable like the Santa Rosa Plum. But the question is: will your favorite do well in your yard?

    Popular newer varieties like the Honeycrisp Apple or the Flavor King Pluot are the greatest, but they can be a challenge in some locations. The Honeycrisp Apple, for instance, was developed by the University of Minnesota and released in 1974. It is a fine quality apple that is perfectly suited for colder climates. However, it can be a challenge in dry climates with low humidity. In regions with low summer humidity, Honeycrisp can drop its crop with the occasional heat spikes. In drier areas, Gala would be a much better choice. With that said, the Flavor King Pluot is an outstanding plum-like piece of fruit introduced in the 1980’s by Zaiger Hybrids and is limited to areas where apricots do well. If you are unaware of apricots in your area, a selection like the Methley plum would be a better choice. The point is to make sure to pay attention to where the variety you are selecting is recommended.

    Drainage is the next consideration. The #1 reason people lose fruit trees is due to poor drainage. The problem is most often not over watering, rather suffocation in the root zone brought on by standing water throughout the wintertime. Recovery in the spring is difficult because once spring begins, irrigation begins as well. This does not allow the tree to dry out in the root zone and it struggles. In the Midwest, Northeast and South - where the rainy season extends into the summer months - a poor draining location will often never allow the tree to adapt. Some have no other choice but to plant in a location that drains poorly. In this case, a raised bed planting is recommended. The dimensions for a raised bed need not be any more than 3 x 3 x 12 inches tall and can be done with any material that will last. A simple mound can satisfy the need to elevate, but it needs to be at least 24 inches high by 4 feet wide to ensure that the mound will settle to 2 feet high.

    Digging a hole can be the easiest task of all. The hole need not be any deeper than the depth of the root you are planting. In the case of a #3 gallon tree, the depth would only be 12 inches. The width of the hole should be 3 times the width of the root or container, and dug in a cone-like shape. Place the tree in the center of the hole (cone) cover with soil packing the root as you cover to ensure no air pockets are remaining. In most situations, there is no need to amend the soil except in the most extreme conditions where there is an obvious lack of organic material present. It is to the benefit of the tree to get established in the soil that it will live in as soon as possible. If you are planting in a raised bed whether due to poor drainage or for ornamental reasons, use native soil and don’t worry about digging a hole. Place your tree in the center of your raised bed and fill and pack.

    Mulching, in the eyes of the experts, has become one off the most important additions required to growing almost anything successfully. This is particularly the case with fruit trees. Mulch provides winter protection to the root, keeps the root cool in the heat of the summer and when regularly replenished, provides nutrients to the tree. This means that the overall expense of mulch begins to pay you back right away with a more consistent growing environment for your tree. Mulching should be done to 3 feet from the trunk after planting. This includes the raised bed when one is used. In colder climates - like those that can occur in Zone 4a through 5b - it is recommended that the mulch cover the outside of the raised bed. Place the mulch within 5 inches of the trunk of the tree and taper it away from the trunk so it does not cover it. Make sure it raises quickly to 3 to 4 inches going out to 3 feet from the newly planted tree.

    Irrigation systems for dry climates are an important addition to fruit tree maintenance. A dripline with emitters and a clock allows for the more consistent control of water distribution, making it easier to adjust watering needs throughout the year.

    Container or bareroot is a choice most often about timing. Bareroot is available from early January until June. The largest variety of fruit trees becomes available in the winter with the delivery of the current crop of fruit trees. Growers send one crop a year of bareroot harvested in fall and delivered throughout the winter and spring. It is now that most container fruit trees are planted up to become available as the bareroot winds down. The containers are typically available throughout the season and some will roll into the next year. Both are great choices, with containers being there anytime you are ready to plant.

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  4. It’s Fall and Fall is the Time to Plant Fruit Trees

    Donald Wyman Crabapple

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  5. Fruit Trees Benefit From Fall Planting in the Mid West and East

    Tree mulch

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  6. The Scoop on Crabapples

    With so many different crabapples available today it is hard to know what to choose. Some of those old-fashioned crabapple varieties used to be wildly susceptible to apple scab and other diseases, to the point where the leaves would rain off the trees in August. The older selections also had fruit that was also large and fell to the ground in summer creating another mess. Those days of disease ridden, messy crabapple varieties are long gone, but not forgotten. Maybe you remember the old Hopa Crabapple from years ago? It was a huge grower with pink flowers, and once the flowers were done, it had no other attributes. Today, Nature Hills offers Crabapples of many types offering a myriad of flower color, leaf color, persistent fruit, and disease resistance. Crabapples are worth looking at once again!

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  7. Pruning Peach Trees for Larger Fruit

    Peach TreeGardeners often fall into one of two categories – either they LOVE pruning time every year (“It’s cathartic!”) or they HATE pruning time every year (“I think that tree can wait till next year.”). Unfortunately, it is part of the deal when you plant fruit trees. All fruit trees – but especially peach trees – need some coddling when it comes to pruning time.

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  8. Dwarf Citrus Tree: A Perfect Accent for Your Baby’s Room

    Indoor Citrus Tree Gearing up the nursery involves a lot of tough choices. After all, you and your baby will be spending a lot of time in there. You want it to be as healthy as possible for your little one, but also comfortable and decorative. There’s no better way to achieve all of that than houseplants. Houseplants are nice decorative accents, and are well known for improving air quality, as they produce clean oxygen from their leaves.
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  9. Fruit Tree Pollination: Does Your Fruit Tree Need a Friend?

    Many fruit trees require a pollinator, but what does that mean exactly?   Although there are fruit trees out there that are self fruitful (like some cherry tree varieties for example), others will require a recommended pollinator in order to produce fruit (like apple trees). Basically, fruit is produced when the female parts of a flower are exposed to pollen, which is what we mean when we say "pollination."  Pollen is produced by the male parts of the flower.  Some flowers, called “perfect flowers,” contain both female parts and pollen-producing male parts.  Plants with perfect flowers can sometimes pollinate themselves, but some have biological blocks in place that prevent self-pollination.  Other plants have flowers that are either male or female.  These require pollen-producing male flowers to be accessible to the female flowers.  Sometimes, male and female flowers grow on the same tree.  In some species, though, male flowers grow on male trees and female flowers grow on female trees.
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  10. Fruit Tree Fertilization

    [caption id="attachment_4366" align="alignleft" width="300"]fertile_soil Fertile soil[/caption] You want the best fruit your fruit tree can give, right? Good fruit comes from fertile soil, so the key is to  maintain soil health.  Sometimes, this means adding fertilizer, but know how to prevent over-fertilizing. Fertilizer in excess can be more damaging than no fertilizer at all. The most practical way of checking soil fertility is by investigating the annual growth of the tree.  If you inspect the branches and follow the branch from the tip to the previous year’s growth, you can measure how much the fruiting tree grew in a season. New growth is flexible and green, while last year's growth is darker (often brown) and more rigid.  A mature, fruit-producing tree should have 6-8 inches of vegetative growth each year.  Immature fruit trees grow more quickly, but don’t produce fruit.  

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