» Archive for February, 2014

Drought and Orchard Trees

Saturday, February 8th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Primroses, in their rainbow of colors, will light up your flower beds and boxes this winter and spring.
    • Witch hazels bloom in the middle of winter with their interesting and showy, fragrant yellow or red blooms. One might look good in your garden.
    • Strawberries can be planted any time now. Get them in early, and you’ll be picking strawberries this summer.
    • If you’re short on space in your orchard, you can plant 2 or 3 varieties of the same fruit in one large hole. This will allow cross-pollination among apples, pears, plums, cherries and Asian pears.

Drought and Orchard Trees

Fruit trees will do all they can to survive drought conditions. They will lessen water use by eliminating tree parts, so you may see wilted and scorched leaves or the shedding of leaves and fruit. Twigs and branches will die if necessary and fruit trees will go into semi-dormancy to cope with the lack of water. It is best to prevent fruit trees from needing to resort to such measures by providing them with all the water they need, but in extreme drought conditions you may have no choice. The following tips will help fruit trees to endure a water shortage.

Mulch with 3-4 inches of organic mulch (leaves, aged sawdust, wood chips, or straw) from the trunk to the drip line and beyond if possible. Don’t mulch more than 4 inches deep, and keep it 4-6 inches away from the tree’s trunk. Apply the mulch after the soil has been irrigated or after a good rain so that the soil is moist. Remove weeds and cover crops under the tree’s canopy before placing the mulch.

If water supplies are extremely limited use breathable landscape fabrics underneath the organic mulches to slow down water evaporation even more. Cardboard or biodegradable paper mulches can be used in place of synthetic landscape fabrics.

Fruit trees will naturally drop more fruit during droughts to minimize their water loss. Help them by removing all fruit on trees under three years old and most or all fruit on older trees. Do any thinning of fruit within 30 days of fruit set.

If the fruit trees lose their leaves then paint their exposed limbs and trunk with white latex paint diluted by 50% or spray with kaolinate clay found in a product called “Surround.”

Slow down transpiration of water by thinning out some of the leaves and shading the tree with shade cloth. Do not use anti-desiccants as they can do more harm than good.

Do not fertilize with nitrogen as it encourages growth, which requires more water use. Also, do not severely prune during a drought because it stresses the tree’s ability to cope with adverse conditions. Do not till or cultivate under fruit trees.

If you have more orchard trees than you can irrigate sufficiently, prioritize them: Newly planted or young trees under 4 years old must have water. They need far less water than older trees but it is essential for their future growth. Water favorite bearing trees over less favorite or poorly performing trees.

Give water to fruit trees with higher water needs first. Peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries, pears, and apples on non-dwarf rootstocks need more water than jujubes, pomegranates, olives, persimmons, figs, mulberries, black walnuts, hazelnuts, grapes, almonds, apricots, and apples on standard or M-111 rootstocks.

The most important time to irrigate fruit trees is from their bloom period to their harvest. After harvest, watering can lessen or stop. Water in the evening or at night to minimize evaporation and water slowly so that there is no runoff.

The easiest way to apply water to a newly planted tree is to make a basin 2-3 feet wide with 4-6 inch berm around the tree and fill it with water following the suggested amounts below. Expand the basins as the trees grow to enable the tree’s spreading root system to receive water.

If older trees have not been given regular, supplemental watering, don’t begin now. They have established a root system that will cope with a drought. On the other hand, trees 5 years or older that have been dripped or flood irrigated regularly must be given sufficient water or they will be harmed by a drought. Provide them with the recommended amounts of water in the chart.

………………………Fruit Tree Water Recommendations
………………………..(Gallons of water per week)
Age of Tree…………………….New …….1-2 years …..3-4 years…..5 + years
From Bud Break to June………5…………10………………20……………..30
July to Oct. ………………………10…………15………………30……………..60
Nov. to Dec. ……………………….5…………10………………20……………..30

Rose Care During Drought

Saturday, February 8th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Apples and pears are the easiest fruits to grow in our area. Choose early, mid-season and late varieties for a continuous harvest from late summer into winter.
    • Fill your winter garden with color from primroses and pansies.
    • Stop peach leaf curl by spraying now with copper spray to help prevent this disfiguring disease from attacking your trees this spring.
    • Start an asparagus bed so you can enjoy their young, tender shoots straight from the garden.
    • Plant strawberry plants now for delicious strawberry shortcake this summer.

TLC for Roses during Drought

Roses are a valuable asset to your permanent landscaping. They should be given high priority when planning water allotments for the drought season. But roses will adjust to prolonged water shortage better than many flowering plants.

Because roses are so resilient, caring for them during drought is not difficult. There will be less growth, fewer and smaller blooms, and fewer and shorter blooming periods. But despite these disappointments, your roses will survive. Follow these tips keep your roses healthy during this challenging time.

To decrease the stress on your roses you must help them make the most of the available water. Infrequent, deep watering is the key. Deep watering ensures that moisture will penetrate down into the root zone where mycorrhizal fungi and root hairs maximize the surface area of the roots and provide the most efficient use of the water.

Drip irrigation, soaker hoses or other slow delivery systems conserve more water than sprinkling. Build some sort of edging around the rose bed to keep the water in the root area and prevent runoff.

When you water your roses, mark it on your calendar. Then wait and watch. When the roses start to droop, note the date, count back the number of days to when you last watered, subtract one day and that is how often you need to water. Repeat this occasionally and you will likely see you will need to water less and less as the roots push deeper into the earth. In other words let your roses tell you when they’re thirsty.

To retain the moisture and moderate soil temperatures, mulch heavily with 3 to 4 inches of shredded mulch. This will stretch the time between waterings and reduce the number of weeds competing for available water.

If summer temperatures are high, cover the plants with shade cloth to further reduce transpiration.

Prune lightly to avoid stimulating vigorous new growth. Remove only dead, diseased or damaged wood and shape lightly, but leave as much material as possible. The root system and the top stay in balance with each other. You want to maintain a robust root system that can reach out to find water in the soil.

Do not cut blooms from the rose bush as they start to fade. Allow them to form seed heads which will help postpone the new growth that normally follows each blooming period. But once the seed heads have formed, remove them because they will use water to mature.

Do very little fertilizing. Use a mild fertilizer in the spring, giving them just enough to keep them healthy without stimulating growth.

New roses need to be kept moist during their first summer to encourage a strong root system. Two gallons of water per week should be sufficient. Feed them lightly and mulch.

With a little extra TLC, your roses will survive the drought to enhance your garden for years to come.