• Bare root fruit trees are now available. Choose one tree or a whole orchard and get them planted while the weather is good for digging.
• Strawberries can be planted any time now. Get them in early, and you’ll be picking strawberries this summer.
• Primroses will give you the most color during this cold weather. Choose some pretty ones now for your boxes and beds.
• Prune fruit trees, grapes, berries, and ornamental trees this month. Take in a pruning class and sharpen your shears before you start.
• Delicious raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, boysenberries and blueberries are all available now for early planting.
Pollination Is Essential In the Home Orchard
The job of a fruit tree is to make seeds which will make more trees. The fruit is merely part of the package, from the tree’s perspective. But seed development requires pollination which can be done either by wind or insects. The pollination required by most fruit trees is performed by bees, wasps and hover flies.
For a successful home orchard, it is important to be aware of the pollination requirements of the trees you plant. Some trees are called self-fruitful. This means that their blossoms can be fertilized by pollen from another flower on the same tree. They will produce fruit even if they are far from any other tree of their kind. Most peaches, apricots, sour cherries and some apples, pears and plums are self-fruitful.
Partially self-fruitful trees will produce a crop on their own, but they will produce a larger crop, up to twice as many fruit, if cross-pollinated. Many apples and pears are partially self-fruitful.
Some fruit trees only set fruit when they receive pollen from another variety. Their own pollen is defective or sterile. Most sweet cherries, some apples and plums and a few peaches fall into this group. For example, if you plant a Bing Cherry, you must also plant a Van or a Black Tartarian or another pollinating cherry tree nearby.
For trees to cross-pollinate, they must bloom at the same time. Blooming time does not necessarily correspond to fruiting time. A late apple can bloom early, so check to be sure you are planting the correct varieties together.
A fruit tree that needs a pollenizer needs it close by. Trees should be planted within 50 feet of each other. This is because the bees that carry the pollen must visit both trees on the same trip. To protect those bees, do not spray pesticides while trees are in bloom.
To ensure good pollination, either plant the trees fairly close together, or plant a combination tree with several varieties grafted onto the same tree. You can also graft a branch of a variety with fertile pollen onto a tree that needs pollination. Crabapple trees often make excellent pollenizers for regular apple trees.
Even if you have compatible trees in place, other factors can interfere with pollination. One of the most frustrating foes of pollination is the weather. Flower buds can be injured by spring frosts or heavy rains. The more developed the bud, the more sensitive it is to injury. Fortunately, not every flower bud on the tree needs to survive to have a good crop. But each incident of frost further decreases the fruiting potential.
When you plan your orchard or decide to add a new tree to it, be sure to check on pollination requirements so you’ll be able to enjoy fruit and not just blossoms a few years from now.