Summer Fruit Tree Care

Saturday, August 6th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Take care of your roses: feed, water, weed, mulch and remove faded blooms regularly. Spray if necessary at first sign of insect or disease problems.
    • After the June crop of raspberries is finished, remove canes that produced fruit leaving new green canes, which can then be trained on trellises.
    • Keep flowers and vegetables in peak condition by giving them a midsummer feeding with a fertilizer that is higher in phosphorus than in nitrogen.
    • Budworms eat the petals of geraniums and petunias, leaving you with no flowers. Spray plants weekly with BT for complete control.
    • Birdbaths will attract our feathered friends to your backyard so you can enjoy them close-up. Place them a few feet from a bushy shrub to give the birds protection.

Summer Fruit Tree Care

Summer is the time when fruit trees grace us with their abundance of sweet, juicy fruit. It is also the time when fruit trees need your care and attention. They must be kept healthy and strong so they will produce well for you for many years to come.

Young fruit trees need particular attention. The most important cultural practice during the first year is watering. No other single element of plant care causes more problems or failures than over or under-watering. Water supply must be consistent. Drought followed by flooding can cause trees to stop growing due to the shock of these extremes conditions.

Check the soil weekly. A new tree needs approximately 10 gallons a week during the hot summer months. A tree two years old may need 20 gallons a week. A mature fruit tree can use 50 gallons a week or more. Fruit trees need water to size up their fruit properly. It’s best to water deeply and infrequently rather than shallowly and frequently. Water trees on clay soils every 2 to 3 weeks as clay holds moisture for a long time. For young trees, make a moat around the base of the tree so the water stays in the root zone. On older trees, water at the drip line of the tree.

Keep the base of your fruit trees weed free. Spread a 2- to 3-inch thick layer of organic mulch, such as pine straw or bark mulch, over the root zone but keep it a few inches away from the trunk. Organic mulch also breaks down gradually, providing organic matter to the soil.

Pick up fallen fruit as soon as possible after it drops, and destroy it. Fruit that drops to the ground can contain insect larvae, which burrow into the soil where they overwinter, to reemerge in the spring. A clean orchard is a healthy orchard.

Inspect your fruit tree bark, branches, leaves, and developing fruits often. Look for signs of insects and diseases and apply the appropriate organic controls. It’s usually easier to control pests if you act before or just as they are getting established, than to control them after they have caused lots of damage.

Paint trunks of young trees with white latex paint or Tree Trunk White to prevent sunburn which causes the bark to crack. This leaves openings for boring insects to enter. They can cause serious damage and even death in young trees.

While most pruning of fruit trees is done in the late winter, some can be done in the summer as well. Summer pruning can eliminate any dead, diseased, or broken branches. Prune off any new branches that are growing from the base of the tree (suckers) or straight up from horizontal branches (water sprouts).

Summer pruning uses thinning cuts (where the branch is cut off at its point of attachment, instead of part way along the branch) to train young fruit trees to the desired tree limb structure. If you want to keep your mature fruit trees at an easy-to-harvest height, summer pruning is essential.

Keep your fruit trees healthy and they will give you many years of abundant harvests.

Coping with Summer Heat and Your Garden

Saturday, August 8th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Set out starts of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and lettuce for a fall harvest. Spray weekly with BT to keep the cabbage worms at bay.
    • Replace codling moth pheromones now to make your apples as worm-free as possible. Replace the sticky papers at the same time.
    • Roses have more flowers all summer long than any other shrub. Plant them in a sunny location and feed monthly for continuous blooms.
    • Impatiens will give you instant color in shady areas and continue blooming right through the fall.
    • Mottled leaves are often a sign of spider mites. Check for them with a hand lens or bring a leaf in to your nursery, in a plastic bag, for identification and treatment options.

Coping with Summer Heat and Your Garden

This is the time of year when our gardens can get a little less than bright and fresh looking due to the summer heat. The combination of high temperatures and lack of water can stress plants, and especially fruit trees.

By far the easiest and most effective way of keeping your garden looking fresh is by mulching. It is most effective in areas where the direct rays of the sun are baking your soil. As the sun beats down on bare soil it just pulls the water right out of it.

This harsh drying of the soil surface can also result in a “crusting” of the soil so that it has difficulty absorbing water or actually repels water. This can be devastating to your garden causing you plants to stress each hot day during the warmest part of the day.

When plants wilt due to this heat, tissue damage occurs, and each time this happens the plants become weaker and have more trouble recovering. When plants are stressed for any reason they emit chemicals that may attract insect pests as well.

Some symptoms of heat stress on fruit trees are sunburn on the trunk and branches, branch dieback and the presence of bark beetles. Healthy, well-watered trees are more resistant to beetle attacks. Painting the trunks with white latex paint will reflect the hot sun and prevent sunburned bark.

For well-drained sites, apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch around trees. If there are drainage problems, a thinner layer should be used. Avoid placing mulch against the tree trunks, but spread it out to the tree’s drip line or beyond.

Runoff water is a real problem for many home gardeners that live where soils are heavy. It can also be a problem for owners of new homes where the soils have been mechanically compacted. A layer of organic compost over the top of your soil will significantly reduce runoff. Mulching will also keep valuable plant nutrients in your soil where they belong.

Organic mulches placed on your soil regularly also build the overall quality of your soil as the mulch breaks down. It feeds the billions of beneficial microorganisms that help to increase humus formation while it also feeds such valuable garden friends as earthworms.

Composted wood chips make a good mulch, especially when they contain a blend of leaves, bark, and wood. Fresh wood chips may be used around established trees and shrubs. Bagged decorative bark also works well.

Monitor soil moisture and check your drip system for clogged sprinklers and emitters. If plants are doing poorly in spite of watering, make sure that you are not overwatering. Poke your finger down into the soil to test.

When the forecast is sizzling, plan to rise early and work during the cooler morning hours or in the evening. Keep a sharp eye on plants’ water needs, take good care of your soil and your plants will flourish in spite of the summer heat.

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.