I have a confession… would you believe that I’ve been sitting on the May Orchard task list for a couple of weeks now. Yeah. I thought I was being all clever and everything writing up a draft post “before” May 1st, but yunno, life has a way of interfering with even our best made plans. Nothing horrible, mind you… just “daily busy” amped up to the umpth degree and non-stop wind that’s been making my life more challenging in the garden, making a mess of my sinuses and adding more tasks to our never-ending list for both the garden and orchard and our home (my roof has seen better days).
With all the strong winds lately, my fruit orchard has held up quite well with only a small handful of fruit on the ground after especially strong wind gusts (40+ mph). Guess my deep watering for deep roots, fruit thinning and summer pruning has really helped 😀 Well, if you live in the desert wind is a reality so its best to plan ahead, be as prepared as you possibly can, keep on top of weather reports and move through it the best you can.
Before we get started, I want to let you know that I added a convenient link at the top of my blog so you can easily access my monthly Home Orchard Tasks lists whenever you get the hankerin’ to get list busy. In the near future, I plan on creating some downloadable freebies for you as well that you can print off and place in your garden/orchard journal 🙂
Okay, now for the month of May. Hold on to your hats folks cuz May is the start of a garden and orchard whirl wind (it’s all good though). The task list is reasonable in length but the work is a bit more involved, especially if you have early fruiting trees like Cherries and Apricots.
There’s so much going on in my orchard and garden right now that I want to share with you, but we’ll stay focused on the task at hand and I’ll have to hold my britches for now.
Here’s this month’s Orchard Task List…
- Thin out fruit missed in the first round of fruit thinning last month. First round? There’s two specific reasons why I say this…
1) now, you may have the magic fruit thinning touch, but for me, I find it nearly impossible to thin out the fruitlets the first time around. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack, though in this situation, it’s like trying to find all the small green fruitlets in a lush sea of green leaves. Everything starts “blending” and I have to resort to letting my hands do all the work by feeling around under leaves and along branches.
2) this one is especially true for newbie home fruit orchardists… it can be downright hard to part with your hard-earned fruitlets “slash” future yummy fruit. In the case of fruit trees, more fruit on the tree is not better. It can hinder the fruit tree’s health and vigor. This is a discussion we’ll save for later, but for now, if you’re guilty of this just trust me when I say, “when you feel you’ve taken off enough fruitlets, take off at least another 20”.
Note: Unless you have fruit trees that are ready to harvest this month, thinning fruit now is okay, though tree fruit this month will be more sizeable than last month. There’s no harm done if a few fruit clusters here and there still need to be thinned out. Check out April’s tasks for a few quick tips on fruit thinning.
1 year or older fruit trees ~ start to water 2x a week this month. Here in the desert, the weather typically starts to warm up in early May (day temps in the mid 80’s+). Heat + our spring winds = dry conditions. Folks in more temperate climates may be able to delay the added watering day another month.How do you water and for how long? Boy, this is one of those highly debatable topics with so many conflicting opinions and is definitely worth further exploration in the future. What I can tell you is what works for me right now that is based on input from a local horticulturalist who’s been working hands-on with the UNCE test orchard for 10+ years, personal trial and error, and three years worth of study and testing in my own orchard. This my friends is a watering plan that has evolved with much care and concern for both our fruit orchard and local drought concerns. I personally water my fruit trees this time of year 2x a week for about 20 minutes each cycle with an approximate 1 gallon per minute water flow from flood bubblers. Each bubbler waters into a water basin under each tree just under the canopy (no run off) and then seeps down into the soil quickly. This allows for a nice-deep-soak encouraging the tree’s main roots to go deep. The feeder roots will stay near the soil surface at about 12-18-inches below the soil’s surface. I also check the soil of my trees with a water meter from time to time to make sure that I’m not over or under watering. For me… fruit trees that have infrequent deep watering = stronger and healthier trees = long-term success.
- Irrigation for newly planted trees ~ continue watering new fruit trees 2x a week. Irrigate for about 10 minutes if using a garden hose or flood bubblers to irrigate; the ideal water flow is about 1 gallon per minute.
- Continue to install branch spreaders ~ especially on new young growth. See April and March Orchard Tasks for more installation details.
- Keep up with your pest controls… See April Orchard Tasks for more tips.
- Take daily strolls through your orchard and “observe”
- Capture and identify pests found (here’s one good resource)
- Continue to monitor any traps set out for pests in your area
- Watch for early signs of Peach Twig Borer damage
- Watch for aphids on new growth
- Set out “humane and safe” traps for squirrels
- Address ants ~ apply a diatomaceous earth slurry (basically DE mixed with water together to form a paste-consistency) onto trunks to help with ants, beetles and other creepy crawlies climbing into the fruit trees
- Watch for Leaf Footed Bugs and Stink Bugs
- Set up bird netting, scare tape and other bird scare contraptions now ~ this is especially true for early fruiting varieties like cherries, apricots, and apriums and also berries, such as blueberries. One note I want to make… I am currently monitoring Leaf Footed Bug and Stink Bug activity in my orchard with yellow sticky traps (I read in a few places that they are attracted to the color – we’ll see). Last year, Leaf Footed Bugs started showing up in my orchard toward the end of May. These guys are large and no fun. Last year, they’d get spooked when I was harvesting and made a mad dash out of the tree and into my hair or face… yuck! This year, I’ve found one Stink Bug in my nectarine tree (where there’s one there may be more).One concern I have with bird netting is that it does a great job keeping out larger birds like mockingbirds, and purple and yellow finches. The tinier finches make a mockery of the netting as they slip in and out of the small netting holes with ease. Unfortunately, these tiny finches do a very poor job eating larger insects in my trees. The hard-working bug eaters (a.k.a mockingbirds) are kept out. I will continue to study this closely to see if it’s more beneficial to sacrifice some fruit for natural pest control. As of today, I’m two thumbs up for bird netting, but who knows what tomorrow will bring.
- Continue summer pruning to ensure light penetration into your fruit trees and on your developing fruit. Focus on new growth that is going either straight up, back into the tree or straight down. Also, for fruit trees planted in rows (like mine), make sure to “prune a path” between fruit trees to make room for walking through and harvesting. And be sure to especially prune at eye level. It’s either that or wearing protective glasses to prevent eye pokes!
- Remove broken or badly damaged branches and limbs from any recent storms. Like wind… blah!
- Protect apple fruit from sunburn. What are some options? Try spraying Kaolin clay (Surround) directly onto the fruit (a little bit on the leaves won’t hurt) or place Kaolin clay coated nylon booties on each piece of fruit (these can be made easily by soaking the booties in a wet solution of Kaolin clay then let dry). This second option takes a little bit of time to place the booties on the fruit, but it works ~ helps keep bugs off, too.
- Pick up fallen fruitlets. There’s nothing like ringing the dinner bell for every creepy crawlie in town when fruit is left to rot on the ground.
- Remove any damaged, partly eaten (birds/bugs), shriveled and/or wrinkled, badly scarred, misshapen, stunted or yellowing fruitlets from the trees. That was a mouthful.
- Foliar feed fruit trees every 10-14 days.
- Replenish wood mulch and/or compost underneath each fruit tree canopy ~ the heat is coming! Remember, if your trees are less than 5 years old, keep the mulch about 6″ away from the trunk.
- Prepare for harvesting fruit and preserving the abundance. My supplies include…
- couple of large flat/sturdy boxes from my local warehouse store to lay out easily bruised fruit in a single layer when harvesting
- wire and/or wicker harvest basket and cotton towel to lay on the bottom in case there are any sharp/rough edges
- Hand Clippers
- 5 gallon bucket, trash bag or other receptacle to toss in the inevitable damaged or rotting piece of fruit or two
- Plastic baggies (in case you run across an unwelcome guest that you need capture and identify later)
- Small flat boxes for fruit that you plan to gift to others (rather than just tossing your prized fruit into a flimsy plastic grocery bag ~ so unworthy of all your hard work and your beautiful fruit)
- Long sleeve shirt (very important ~ it never fails, when I wear short sleeved shirts when I harvest I always get an itchy~scratchy rash and branch scrapes and cuts to boot)
- Water bath canner
- Canning jars, lids and rings of various sizes
- Other canning supplies (ladles, hot pads, etc.)
- And pull out canning recipe books and other relevant cookbooks, a notepad and pen and start making a list of ingredients needed for all the wonderful yumminess bursting through your back door (or front door)
- Clean refrigerator to make room for all the wonderful fruit!
- Have a notebook (or something) to record harvest numbers and observations.
- Continue to update your Orchard Journal.
- Begin harvesting early bearing fruit trees and berries 😀
And most importantly…
- Gather loved ones together in the orchard, hold hands and pray for blessings and abundance for this year’s harvest season
Here’s to an awesome harvest season everyone… May your garden always be full of goodness, health and filled with God’s blessings.
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