January Orchard Tasks

012414_Orchard2January… this is the month things start hopping in the orchard and if the weather has been kind and uneventful, in the veggie garden, too.

It’s the start of a new year and I already feel a bit behind in completing my garden and orchard tasks.  Too many things cookin’ in the kitchen if you know what I mean. Lately, Hubby and I have been focused on house repair projects that required our attention for a city inspection we had a few short weeks ago.  We have another inspection coming up in June and lots more house repair projects as a result, so we’ll need to find a balance between the work needed for the house and the tasks we need to complete in our garden and orchard.  No simple job.

That’s where my task checklist and schedule helps.  The checklist and schedule are a “guideline” really.  In an attempt to keep in step with life’s ebb and flow, both my checklist and schedule are fluid and flexible and can change at a moment’s notice (as is often the case). For this reason, I typically work from a hard copy version that allows me to scribble out notes as I work in my orchard or garden.  Then later, I reference the notes and changes I made on my folded dirt smudged hard copy to update my original version on my computer.

012414_Orchard5So what does a typical January look like in my orchard?  Well, let’s take a look…

January Orchard Tasks

Updated on January 6, 2015

January is definitely a busy month in the orchard.  This is the time for pruning and preparing the orchard for the upcoming harvest season.  I’ve jotted down some of the tasks that I typically do in my orchard this time of year along with some helpful tips…

  • Apply final application of dormant (horticultural) spray or spray on an emulsified solution of cold-pressed neem oil

    • I recommend doing this early in the month just before pruning
  • Sharpen, clean and sanitize pruning shears and loppers before, during and after pruning
    • Starting off with clean sanitized tools helps to avoid transmitting disease to your beloved fruit trees
    • Always sanitize pruning shears and loppers with denatured alcohol before moving to the next fruit tree
    • Avoid using soap and/or water to clean tools – these can cause your tools to rust
  • Prune Fruit Trees

    • Complete all pruning tasks before flower bloom ~ the perfect time is when the flower buds are just beginning to swell on the branch. If you start to see a little color peek through the bud, it’s time to get pruning cuz the blooms are not too far behind (about a week or two ~ depending on the variety of fruit tree and how warm the weather is when this occurs)
    • What if the blooms have opened? I do not recommend this, but pruning can still be done at this time. Just use extreme caution to avoid damaging the flowers or disturbing pollinators, too much.
  • Inspect Fruit trees for Borers
    • Inspect trees carefully for insects and weather damage (i.e., broken limbs)
    • Borers leave a build up of orange frass (borer poop) at the site they’ve burrowed into the tree and/or just below the site on the ground. The site can also look a bit sappy and dark in color. Keep in mind though that some fruit trees are naturally “sappy”, like Plums, so inspect carefully. And be sure to pull away any mulch and inspect around the base of the trunk as well.
    • Suspect a borer? Here’s some great info on how to remove the pesky big fat white borer grub.
    • Once the borer has been removed, clean up the wound site by smoothing out any jagged edges. The tree will do the rest and will heal over the would site over time.
  • Weed
    • Here in the desert, January is usually the month these little buggers start peaking up out of the dirt; snap them up when they’re small to help keep things manageable
  • Replenish wood mulch
    • Now’s a good time to replenish mulch in and around your fruit trees
    • If your fruit trees are 5 years old or less, be sure to keep the mulch about 6-8 inches away from the trunk; doing so will help to keep the young and tender trunk dry and free of moisture decay.
    • While pruning, rough cut twigs (the newest growth – no larger than 2-1/2 inches in diameter) into 4″-6″ long pieces and just toss them onto the ground. There’s a ton of nutrition in this new growth in the form of soluble lignin which contains loads of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and more.  A feast for fungi in the soil which in turn supports the health of our fruit trees. Larger branches (larger than 2-1/2″ in diameter) are rich in carbon and take a while to decompose and ties up nitrogen temporarily during the decomposition process.  This could negatively impact fruit tree growth.  Its best you save these for fire wood, or perhaps to add wonderful flavor and aroma to a future BBQ fixin’.
  • Prepare record-keeping tools for upcoming harvest season
    • I create and print blank record-keeping forms (using MS Word) and keep them in a binder for quick and easy access
  • Check and repair orchard irrigation
    • This is a big “must” here in the desert
  • Review your watering schedule
    • This time of year, water every 10-14 days about 15-20 minutes per tree
  • Apply Iron to trees
    • Use EDDHA iron
      • Here in the desert we have calcareous soil that is high in calcium carbonate (also known as caliche or free lime) making our soil very alkaline.  The result: a high pH that is typically 8 or even higher.  This can have a negative influence on nutrient availability (i.e., phosphorus and iron) and iron chlorosis is common.  Only iron chelates (EDDHA) is effective on this type of soil.
    • Recipe Per Fruit Tree: Mix together 1 Tablespoon EDDHA iron, 1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar and 1 gallon of fresh water; pour 6″ away from the tree trunk out to the drip line
      • the vinegar acts as a buffer so the iron is more readily absorbed
  • Gather tools and supplies needed to plant new bareroot fruit trees
    • Stakes
    • Amendments (please use organic – the commercial stuff will kill your soil)
    • Bone meal, OMRI certified Organic please
    • Shovels
    • Bucket (to soak your new bareroot fruit trees)
    • Rakes
    • Gloves
  • Receive and refrigerate new blue orchard bee cocoons
  • Check existing blue orchard bee cocoons for signs of mold; clean if there are any visible signs
  • Clean and repair blue orchard bee house – you’ll be putting these out soon!

Harvest season… here we come.  All I know is that miss Pinny’s ready to help protect the fruit from thieving birds.


Hope you have an awesomely blessed weekend!


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Filed under Fruit Trees/Orchard, Monthly Task Calendar

2 responses to “January Orchard Tasks

  1. Lois Zablockis

    Looks like you are well organized. Pinny takes a very nice picture.Enjoy your gardening.

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