Caring for Fruit Trees Organically: 5 Things You Must Do

If you’re thinking about growing your own fruit, here are five tips you need to know for caring for your fruit trees organically. An orchard is a great way to increase your sustainability! Make the most of your fruit trees with these tips.

caring for fruit trees organically

Welcome to another installment of Tuesdays in the Garden! Today, my gardening friends and I are sharing more growing tips and resources for specific crops. Read to the end for direct links to all the great tips. Look for posts to help you grow your best tomatoes, corn, scarlet runner beans, and parsnips, and my tips on fruit trees, or course!

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Caring for Fruit Trees Organically: 5 Things You Must Do

We first planted a small orchard in 2012. I ordered apple, pear, peach, and cherry trees from Trees of Antiquity, and one spring in freezing cold weather, my husband and I planted them at our little homestead. Every year we mulch them and remove weeds, but beyond that, I haven’t done much to maximize our harvests, and quite honestly, we haven’t harvested much from my four year old trees.

This year, we lost a pear tree to a fungus, and my loaded peach tree (my first tree to be loaded with fruit!) was destroyed in a storm. I plan to order more fruit trees this fall and then work a little harder to help them produce to their best ability because home grown fruit is just amazing! The following five tips will guide me as I try to increase our fruit yields – especially the information on diseases in fruit trees.

1. Mulch 

Mulch helps improve fertility and health of your soil and should be applied in the spring or fall as it protects trees from cold winters, keeps moisture in and weeds down. As the mulch decomposes, it also provides necessary nutrients to trees. An ideal mulch, like large wood chips, hasn’t been treated chemically and will last for a long time. A good rule of thumb is to spread a thick layer of mulch (three inches or so) in a three foot diameter around each tree.

2. Prune Fruit Trees

Winter, while the trees are dormant, is the best time to prune fruit trees. You need to prune to remove diseased branches and to direct proper growth of your trees. A well pruned tree will produce more flowers and fruit! And if you prune to allow sunlight to reach the interior of the tree you will keep the tree drier and help ward off fungus.

3. Test the Soil

State Extension Offices can run tests on your soil if you send them samples. To find a state lab in your area, head over here to the USDA’s interactive map. Simply choose your state and get a list, take a sample and send it off. The report will tell you how to amend your soil for optimal performance.

destroyed peach tree

4. Thin Fruit & Support Branches

It sounds counter-intuitive to remove baby fruit from your trees, but doing so will allow your fruit trees to grow bigger and nicer fruit. It will also help keep your tree branches stable. As you inspect your trees in the spring and remove fruit, make sure to support any branches that may be sagging with too much fruit. Otherwise, you could lose the branches, and all the fruit, in a big storm.

dead pear tree killed by fungus

5. Treat any Diseases

Keep a close eye on your trees and take corrective action right away if you notice problems. Be on the lookout for spots on the leaves, broken branches, or oozing from the trunks which can indicate problems with fungus or pests. Here’s a comprehensive guide to common orchard diseases, if you need to take a look.

If you have chickens, you might consider allowing them to forage under the trees to help control insects. Another good preventative step might be to coat your trees with kaolin clay during the growing season to repel pests. Kaolin clay (called Surround for garden use) keeps Japanese Beetles away and all sorts of other pests as well. It’s safe to apply right up to harvest and it doesn’t harm pollinators.

Helpful Products for Your Orchard

Serenade Diseases Control for Fungus Treatment – can be safely used in an organic garden to keep fungus at bay. It might even be really useful for tomato plants as well.

Surround for garden use – organic pesticide to keep away nasty bugs without harming pollinators

Neem Oil – also useful for deterring pests organically

Telescoping Tree Pruners – useful for reaching high branches

Now it’s time for Tuesdays in the Garden! Head over to each of these posts for amazing gardening tips:

frugal family home

 

Tips for Growing Tomatoes from Frugal Family Home

parsnips growing guide

Parsnips Growing Guide & Health Benefits from Homemade Food Junkie

the ultimate corn guide

The Ultimate Corn Guide from An Oregon Cottage

freckled rose

Guide to Growing Scarlet Runner Beans from The Freckled Rose

Do you also grow your own fruit? I’d love to hear your best tips for success too!

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Comments

  1. I love these tips, Michelle! We have lost fruit trees in the winter winds. But our biggest problems here are fungi, scab and tree maggots. Dave sprayed our trees three times last February with dormant oil spray. It did help. The apples look MUCH better this harvest season. I am excited to see the products you found for organic orchards!!! We have been wondering how to organically attack those darn fungus on our tree leaves. And I never thought to mulch them! Thanks for the great post!
  2. These are great tips, Michelle. We don't have the room to grow fruit trees right now but I'm hoping to be able to plant a peach or pear tree in the future. My aunt has 4 fruit trees and fungus can be a problem in our area. But I agree the fruit off homegrown trees is the best.
  3. Oh, you must've been so heartbroken to see that peach tree broken when it had all that beautiful fruit!! Yikes. We've been so bad at pruning and supporting branches, and thinning takes SO much time. But I agree it's worth it - harvesting your own fruit is wonderful. Thanks for these tips - now jus to DO them, ha!
    • I know, right? We do prune in the winter and mulch, but that's about it. I have not been proactive about disease control and apparently we need to do that! Losing that tree just broke my heart, Jami. So sad. :-(
  4. I have always wanted to plant some cherry trees for my mom. She loves buying fresh cherries at the farmers markets and grocery store! I'd love to grow some locally for her one day soon. These are seriously great tips. I’m definitely keeping this helpful guide on hand for the future!
  5. I didn’t know that different plants needed to be pruned at different times, but it makes sense. I’m doing some researches on the plants and trees in my yard to determine when they need to be trimmed!
  6. I have always wanted to have a mango tree in my backyard. I think is interesting that you can test your soil and know how to best take care of it so that it takes care of your trees. I think that having trees by your house can be very beneficial to you and the environment.
  7. Hey Michelle, You've just shared such an awesome post. Would probably try these tips. Just wanted to have a large peach tree at my backyard too. Hope I could have it! Thanks for sharing. Cheers, Oliver

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