Well, things are really buzzing around here and my fruit trees are waking up from their winter slumber. Honestly, even with our colder winter weather recently, it would be hard for me to say that my trees were in a deep slumber. Maybe their dormant period could be referred to as a short nap. Last December the majority of my fruit trees dropped their leaves and by early February they were already waking up.
This time of year is my absolute favorite. The various shades of pink (my fav) and white sprinkled about my orchard and the emerging pollinators taking advantage of the sun’s warmth just takes my breath away ~ every time. Today was no exception.
As I was walking through my orchard this morning the intense buzzing sound and the sweet captivating fragrance in the air made me pause and gaze into my blooming fruit trees. I focused on a point within the center of my Flavor Delight Aprium and within just a few seconds the crimson and cotton candy pink filled canopy came to life! The gentle and purposeful movement of my honey bees was so amazing. There were so many honey bees dancing from flower to flower. I grinned happily from ear to ear at the thought that my honey bees are back hard at work so early in the season. Of course I grabbed my camera, a staple tool I bring with me just about every time I go into my orchard or garden, and started snapping photos at every turn.
Inspired by this sight, I ran into the house, grabbed my blue orchard bee cocoons, which I’d taken out of the refrigerator the night before, and set them out in their house so they too could begin to emerge and join this wonderful spring dance.
February Orchard Tasks
With the arrival of fruit tree blooms comes a few more orchard tasks as we prepare for the onslaught of yummy fruit! Fruit begin to ripen in my orchard around mid to late May when my Flavor Delight Aprium comes into harvest.
With my pruning tasks all wrapped up and my fruit trees coming back to life after their winter “nap”, I’m ready to forge ahead with this month’s tasks. As I describe my tasks, I’ll be sure to add some helpful tips along the way for those of you who are interested.
- Whitewash tree trunks and main scaffolds
- Use an interior latex (water-based) white paint (do not use enamel and/or oil based paint); A different color can be used as long as it’s very light in color (to help reflect the heat and sunlight)
- Mix together 50% paint with 50% water
- When fruit trees are young and small, using a natural bristle paint brush works fine but as the trees grow, this becomes a lot more challenging. A few years ago, hubby and I purchased a refurbished HVLP (high volume low pressure) paint sprayer and it works like a charm making this task almost fun! Just throw down several scrape pieces of cardboard around the base of the tree and spray away. I focus on putting a nice coat of paint on the trunk and on my main branches (especially in the branch crotch areas). It’s important to get good coverage on the South and West sides of each tree. I typically leave my smaller branches (one inch and less) unpainted or I’ll just do a quick spray pass over the entire branching structure.
- Why whitewash fruit trees? In the desert, whitewashing helps fruit trees from getting “sunburned” and leaving an open wound for insects and nasty borers to enter into the tissue of the tree. This would be trouble for the tree and could mean it’s ultimate demise.Here’s a bit of info that some home orchardists may be unaware of… whitewashing also helps to protect fruit trees during winter as well. When a fruit tree is exposed to extremely cold or freezing temps at night and is then subjected to warm temperatures during the day it could cause the tree to “thaw” too quickly. The result: scaffold breakage or trunk cracking. The whitewash helps to reflect the heat and sun off the tree during the winter months reducing the risks involved.
- Plant new bare root fruit trees!
- Now is the time to plant ~ be sure to complete this task by early/mid-February to avoid planting when the new growth starts
- Water newly planted fruit trees 3x per week for about 10-15 minutes until they leaf out nicely ~ then cut back to 2x per week until the end of Spring
- Do not fertilize newly planted fruit trees… let them settle into their new homes for their first year and not rush their growth ~ fertilizing starts their 2nd year
- Remember to whitewash newly planted trees
- Tip: Always face the tree graft towards North ~ doing this will help protect this tender area from heat and sun damage
- Sharpen, clean and sanitize pruning shears and loppers before, during and after pruning
- This is an important repeat from last month’s task list
- After all pruning tasks are complete, be sure to clean, sharpen and sanitize all pruning tools so they are ready to grab for future pruning tasks (which will be summer pruning that actually takes place in late April / early May here in the desert)
- Tip #1: grab a dedicated spray bottle and fill it with alcohol (denatured if you can find it); when you go to clean/sanitize your tools, just spray the tool liberally then wipe off with a clean dry rag ~ makes the task easier than having to pour it from a bottle onto a rag
- Tip #2: dropping your tools onto the ground (dirt) and immediately using it to cut a branch or clip a twig is a big no-no! Though soil is a good thing in its own right and it’s relationship with fruit tree roots is nothing but spectacular… what it carries can be transferred to an open wound of a fruit tree which can be detrimental to the tree’s health. Can you say, soil-borne diseases? So if a tool is dropped onto the ground, be sure to give it a spritz of alcohol and a quick wipe down before cutting into your beautiful innocent tree.
- Expand and/or repair water basins around base of fruit trees
- I like to mound up dirt to form a ring around my fruit tree water basins to help keep the water under the tree canopy
- Tip ~ be sure to apply water to at least half of the area under a fruit tree’s canopy; if it’s been a while since the irrigation to your fruit trees have been expanded to accommodate it’s growth and size, be sure to fix that issue now
- Inspect your Fruit Trees daily and take notes
With a small hand-held notebook or journal, take a quick stroll every day through the orchard making note of things like…
- when buds start to swell
- when a little green tissue can be seen at or on the buds
- when a little color (pink, white – whatever color the tree’s flower may be) can be seen
- when the flowers bloom and petals drop, etc.
- Also, inspect trees for insects / weather damage while walking through the orchard
- And remember to make note of actual dates ~ this information will become a valuable resource as the orchard matures
- Fertilize / Amend 1 year and older fruit trees
- Use an organic fertilizer ~ commercial fertilizers will kill your soil (and the microbes in it!)
- After broadcasting my amendments under my fruit trees, I like to add a 2″ layer of compost and water it in nicely
- Inspect Fruit trees for Borers (if unable to do in January)
- Use a clean sharp knife to cut out borers from trunks and main scaffolds
- As the weather continues to warm up, these nasties will pop-up more and more
- Every time I’m in the orchard I carry around my handy dandy weeding tool – as I’m inspecting my trees and writing notes, I’ll glance around at the ground every so often and if I see a small weed, I hit it with my tool. Quick and easy!
- Replenish wood mulch
- I was unable to do this in January, so it’s on my February task list ~ this is a repeat of last month
- Time to setup the bee house and place blue orchard bee cocoons inside
- Weather is warming up in this part of the country and my fruit tree buds are bursting open in gorgeous colors of pink and white ~ its such a lovely sight. It’s time for my blue orchard bees to wake up and get busy pollinating!
- I like to remove my cocoons and straws (with cocoons inside) from the refrigerator and set them in a protected area indoors to warm up a little before putting them outside. A protected area is an absolute must otherwise Jaspurr, my 1 year old ragdoll kitty, will knock them off from wherever he finds them and scatter them all over the floor. What great fun ~ definitely not!
- Pull out honey bee hive supplies and prepare for inspection next month
- Gather, make or purchase branch spreaders
- Gather together integrated pest management tools (i.e., sticky traps, pheromone traps, etc.) ~ always remember to use organic / natural / botanical pesticides only and use sparingly – – – -> use only when absolutely necessary as we must protect our beloved pollinators
- Get ready to thin fruitlets starting end of next month
- Last but certainly not least, I like to say a prayer for my fruit orchard this time of year and ask for God’s blessings over my fruit trees and upcoming fruit harvest 🙂
Hope you find this helpful. Do you have fruit trees? What’s favorite spring-time orchard tip?