Orchard Care

Q. Do you have information about orchard care? I think we do pretty well with the pruning (read lots of books) but is there a best way to fertilize the trees? I’d like to let the grass grow under the trees and just keep it mowed to keep the weeds down unless that’s a bad idea.

We have a fairly high water table, (about 6 feet down we hit water in the summer months) so I’m not sure how often to water, either. Any advice?

A. Shallow disking to eliminate weeds saves all nutrients for your trees.  If you keep the grass, etc. that’s growing between the trees in your orchard mowed properly, it is not a big problem that way.  Do remember, however, that any growing materials under or around your trees can harbor pests and diseases.

There are two reasons for pruning fruit trees: 1) to increase light to the center (and all parts) of the tree, and 2) to shape the tree to your desires.  “The best time to prune is when you have a sharp knife.” (Dr. M)

Watering should be done once every 7 to 10 days.  However, once your trees are well established, if you have a permanent water table only 6 feet down, you may not have to water often.  Never allow your trees to show signs of water stress, such as wilting of the leaves.  Unless you have a serious problem with drainage, it is better to water too often than not often enough.

You should feed your fruit trees twice each year: 1) in the early spring when the sap is flowing, and 2) in June/July, when the tree is producing leaf and fruit buds for next year.

REPEATING THE SEPARATE POST ON TREES:  For established small trees, loosen the soil at the surface and apply 8 ounces (227 grams) Pre-Plant mix at the end of the dormant season.  Larger trees should receive Pre-Plant once each year, in amounts equal to the Weekly Feed applications which follow. 

Two weeks later, apply Weekly feed as follows:  For a 1″ to 2″ (2 1/2-5 cm) diameter trunk – 8 ounces (227 grams).  A 2″ to 4″ (5-10 cm) diameter trunk gets 1# (454 grams).  And a 4″ to 8″ (10-20 cm) diameter trunk should receive 2+# (1 kg).  After 90-120 days – when next year’s buds begin to form, repeat the above applications.  Large trees of 12″ to 16″ (40-80 cm) diameter, would get 2# (1 kg) in each of 4 applications