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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Tips for Growing Tomatoes from Frugal Family Home
Parsnips Growing Guide & Health Benefits from Homemade Food Junkie
The Ultimate Corn Guide from An Oregon Cottage
Guide to Growing Scarlet Runner Beans from The Freckled Rose
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Do you also grow your own fruit? I’d love to hear your best tips for success too!