March Orchard Tasks

021214_Bee3Ahhhh. Spring.  I love it!  This time of year is my absolute favorite. That and Christmas. Spring-time, everything just feels fresh and clean.  It’s as if our senses are awakening from winter’s slumber in sync with the trees and flowers in time to see nature bejewel the trees, flowers and plants with a myriad of exquisite colors and fresh floral scents. It brings with it hope and renewal and the sweet promise of vibrant life.021214_AppleBloom

Take a stroll outside and enjoy Spring!  Make it a short break cuz there’s tons to do in the orchard.  Here’s March’s Orchard Task List (late I know ~ sorry).  A lot of these tasks continue in the month of April as well.

  • Thin fruit this month to reduce the weight load on limbs and to improve the quality of the fruit.
  • Irrigation ~ continue to water trees 1x a week this time of year and remember to turn off your irrigation when it rains to help save water and keep your trees from drowning.
  • Irrigation for newly planted trees ~ water them 3x a week (for about 10 minutes if using a garden hose or flood bubblers to irrigate); The ideal water flow is about 1 gallon per minute or a little less.  Continue to irrigate like this until the new trees leaf out nicely, then cut back to watering them 2x a week.  This should occur about mid-spring (mid/late-April).
  • Fertilize your mature fruit trees this month ~ remember to use an organic fertilizer. Important Note for Newly Planted Trees:  refrain from feeding/fertilizing newly planted fruit trees for the first year.  New trees need to focus on growing a strong root system their first year and need very little nitrogen (which fuels leaf growth) or potassium (essential for bud and fruit development).  Bone meal is a good natural source of phosphorus ~ which is vital for root growth. It’s best to toss in a couple of generous scoopfuls of bone meal into the planting hole (under, in and around the roots).  This will provide the tree with a slow release of phosphorus.  Forgot to add it when you planted?  Gently mix some into the top layer of soil and soak in.
  • Install branch spreaders on older growth.  Why?  This helps to “fix” structural issues within a fruit tree such as a limb growing straight up reaching for the sky instead of growing out at a nice 45 degree angle from the trunk. It’s best to install branch spreaders when the trees start to leaf out and when secondary or “new growth” occurs.  When this new growth is visible, the sap is flowing nicely within the tree and the limbs will be much more flexible to manipulate and bend.  Done too soon, there’s a good chance the branch will break or snap off the tree when bending it down to install a spreader ~ yikes! Leave the spreader in place for about 1-2 growing seasons.  If the tree is older, it may take up to 5 growing seasons to make the branch stay in place.
  • Keep an eye on the weather this month for late frost or freeze.  Protect frost/freeze sensitive trees such as Apricots, Apriums and Pluots.  Be rest assured that the fruit tree itself will be fine in the event of a late frost or freeze, but it’s an entirely different story for the delicate blooms and young fruitlets.  Frost/freeze damage on blooms or young fruitlets = little to no fruit for the season 😦
  • Check in on honey bee hives this month and gently harvest any available honey!  The bees should have enough honey to share now since they’ve been busy feasting on fruit tree blooms for the past few weeks.
  • Be sure Blue Orchard Bees have access to water and mud so they can securely tuck away their new-born as they gather pollen and food from the fruit tree blooms for their next generation.
  • Set out traps for Peach Twig Borer (early March).
  • Set out traps for Coddling Moth (early March). To be perfectly honest, I have yet to set out either types of traps in my orchard.  I’m a bit of a pesticide / chemical phobe (understatement) and I know the lures / traps are neither, but I hate the thought of attracting or should I say “luring” these pests into my orchard then having to address them.  Tempting fate if you will.  Silly, I know. Perhaps it’s a possibility that I’ll see these in my orchard some day, but for now I’m content focusing my efforts on holistic preventative measures.  I’ll keep the lures I have in storage for now and put out a couple of traps just to see what’s flitting around in the orchard.
  • Now is the time to address thrips while it’s early in the season.  Now these I’ve seen in my orchard (or at least seen their damage since these pests are so miniscule).  Here in Las Vegas, Nevada we have a real thrip problem.  The damage occurs on the fruit they feed on and can leave the fruit looking very unsightly.  Thrip damage looks like a rough brown dry patch on the fruit surface ~ almost like sunburn damage.  The fruit is still edible, just ugly and deformed looking. In most cases, this damage covers the entire fruit… yuck. In our orchard, the thrips seem to especially like our Artic Star Nectarine. When our fruit tree came into production last year, we did see some damage but nothing too horrible.  This year, we have a few holistic non-toxic methods we are going to try (my orchard is pesticide and chemical free and I rarely use organic pest control methods which can be harmful to my bees and other beneficials).  I’ll keep you posted on the results. In the meantime, if you’ve had a problem in the past, use Spinosad sparingly (only 4x per year) and alternate with applications (spray) Dr. Bronner’s Soap & Water or Neem Oil just after petal fall and before fruit set.  Be sure to spray early in the morning (about 5 AM) or at dusk when bees are not active.
  • Perform summer pruning (late March) and remove some of the “new growth” to allow light penetration into the fruit tree.
  • Put out traps for squirrels, especially if you have almond or other nut trees and want to harvest this year. These little buggers also love to “squirrel” up the branches of my fig tree and steal my figs, too! We use humane and safe traps that allow us to capture these little critters and relocate them.

Keep growing!

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6 Comments

Filed under Fruit Trees/Orchard, Monthly Task Calendar

6 responses to “March Orchard Tasks

  1. Pingback: Tuesday Garden Party 04.08.14: Fabulous Highlights - An Oregon Cottage

  2. Jami @ An Oregon Cottage

    What a beautiful post – and while we don’t have any blooms here yet, let alone thin fruit – ha! – I will file this great info for later. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  3. Lois Zablockis

    Your garden is beautiful and productive too.

  4. Hi Asher,

    You are reall a happy, diligent lady, hard-working just like your bees!

    Thank you so much for your beautiful pictures and your

    The first look on your pictures, I felt and just knew it is apple flowers without reading the words although I never saw them before. Yesterday afternoon, I was so surprised to find there have been some flower buds on my pink lady apple tree! I was excited to scream for those small, pink and read buds. It was unbeliveable. I thought I wouldn’t see any flowers on my fruit trees (they have located here just for 40 days).

    I didn’t add any phosphate or bone meal at the bottom of the holes while I was planting fruit trees. Today, I bought 20 Ib nature rock phosphate. I am going feed some around my trees next Monday.

    Will I have to use spray on my first year fruit trees? What holistic non-toxic methods are you using to get rid of some fruit disease?

    Thank you so much for your time and your help!

    Lily

    • Hi Lily,

      Thank you for the sweet compliments. Glad to hear that you have flowers on your apple trees! Re: your question… I typically leave my baby (under 1 year old) fruit trees alone. I refrain from feeding them, spraying them with dormant oils or summer oils, etc. their first year. If I see flowers, I remove them to help the fruit trees focus on growing new roots and becoming well established in my orchard. Letting them flower will redirect their energy. If aphids are an issue use a soapy water solution (i.e., Seventh Generation non-scented or Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap) and use a sprayer to get underneath the leaves. For caterpillars / worms… use bt (Dipel DF). This will target the little buggers.

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