July Orchard Tasks

Egg_070114Hi friends… hope you’re finding ways to stay cool this summer.  You know its July when the outside temps here turn from hot to sizzling hot.  Recently, our daytime temps have been around 105°F and this week we’re expecting the temps to be even hotter.  110°F to be exact.  It’s supposed to cool down a bit the first part of next week, to a cool 102°F.  It’s definitely gonna be a hot 4th of July.  Wondering about the egg photo? Since it’s so hot, I thought it would be a silly fun photograph for my post, so I cracked an egg on the concrete out back (exact time:  2:15PM).  Will it really cook in this heat?  Doubt it.  Check out this interesting link.

At 3:58PM, I used my temp gun to measure the concrete’s surface temperature… it’s registered at 141°F.  Check out the results at the end of this post.

Any plans for 4th of July?  We usually stay home and help “soothe” our doggie’s nerves when the fireworks start going off.  Pinny has never been a fan of fireworks and really struggles with the flashes and startling explosive sounds. As most of you might agree, 4th of July usually starts in most neighborhoods about a week or so in advance with random fireworks going off here and there.  Then continues off and on well past the official holiday date until neighbor firework supplies have been depleted.

Our youngest kitty, Jaspurr, takes his que from Pinny.  When she freaks out, he freaks out and typically hides and is nowhere to be found for several hours.  Buddies to the core.  It just breaks my heart that they are so frightened by the fireworks.  Ginger, our oldest kitty, is such a skittish little kitty with everything except fireworks.  She sleeps right through the noise and hoopla with no issue.  Go figure.

Aside from the expected temporary disruption to our little family, we always try to make the best of it by grilling something on the BBQ then watching a movie or two with the volume set several times louder than we’d usually have it to help drown out the sounds.

Moving on… here’s this month’s orchard task list.  A lot of the items are the same as June’s Orchard Task list but there are a few differences so be sure to check it out.070114_Pluot

  • Irrigation ~ now that temps are consistently hitting 105°F, it’s time to change-up the watering schedule. This time of year, I water all of my fruit trees 3x a week… typically Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 20 minutes each session. Baby trees can still be watered for about 15 minutes each session, but since all of my trees are on the same watering system, they all get watered for 20 minutes with this one change… I turn down the bubbler heads on my young trees so they get a little less water. My goal for them is about 15 gallons of water each session.
    • If Temps drop back down to 100°F if the day-time temperature drops back down to 100°F consistently for a few days, I’ll back off on my watering to 2x per week, but this is pretty rare here in our desert summer heat.
    • Monsoon Rains:  I keep a close watch out for rain in the forecast and turn off the water to my trees when rain is expected. After it rains, I wait a couple of days before resuming my normal watering schedule, depending on how much rain there was and how saturated the soil still is. Sometimes I’ll use my moisture meter to help determine this, but mostly I just look at the surface of the soil… with our native soil, it’s very easy to tell if the soil is still really wet.
  • Continue to pick up fallen fruit ~ As long as there is fruit to harvest, this will be a recurring task and for some trees, a daily task. For instance, as soon as the temps start to rise, my Saturn Peach tree starts dropping fruit, especially if I missed removing any bird-pecked fruit while harvesting. This half-eaten fruit inevitably starts to decay and rot on the tree then falls to the ground in a mushy mess which quickly turns into a soupy smelly mess.
    Tip: I like to store a small rake, with an empty plastic grocery bag tied to the handle, somewhere nearby the trees I’m harvesting to make quick work of collecting and disposing of fallen fruit.
  • Harvest fruit this month ~ Yum! Depending on where you’re located and the variety of fruit you have growing, you could be harvesting the following fruit this month:
    • Apples
    • Apricots
    • Asian Pears
    • Blueberries
    • Figs
    • NectaPlums
    • Nectarines
    • Peaches
    • Pears
    • Plums
    • Pluots

I’m currently harvesting

    • Dorsett Golden Apple
    • Saturn Peaches
    • Black Mission Figs
    • Weeping Santa Rosa Plums

070114_Plum

  • Keep harvested fruit out of direct sunlight ~ Besides the tips mentioned in June’s Orchard Tasks, bringing out an ice chest (with a handle and wheels) filled ½ way with ice is always helpful this time of year. Be sure to keep the fruit elevated out of any water by using a tray of some sort.
  • Summer Prune ~ continue to summer prune, if needed
  • Keep weeds under control ~ One helpful tip I failed to mention last month on this subject is that it’s super helpful to spread around a 3-inch to 4-inch layer of wood mulch on the ground, especially if you have areas with bare dirt. It works great to suppress the weeds.  Just remember, if your trees are less than 5 years old, keep the wood mulch away from the trunk at least 6-inches.
  • Continue to protect your fruit from bird damage.  Be sure to check out my post on bird netting.
  • Keep checking for and addressing pests in your backyard orchard.
    • Borers are out this month here in Las Vegas, Nevada. Be sure to check your fruit trees for any sap coming from the trunk, main scaffolds, branch crotch areas and branches.  Check out the UC IPM site for more info on Peachtree Borers and Peach Twig Borers.
    • Fire Ants and other ants are out in full force this month.

Right now we’re experiencing an ant problem. A Southern Fire Ant problem to be exact. We’ve seen no signs of aphids on our trees, but the ants love to trail up onto the tree branches and feast on any fruit with open wounds (like from bird pecking). The thought of ants climbing around in my fruit trees barely registers on my “bug-on-me-freak-out-reaction-meter” like unexpectedly grabbing onto a spider or stink bug when harvesting fruit. It’s the painful fiery reminder that these ants give you when you inadvertently stir up a marching army of them. Fire ants are common place on our property and boy do those suckers hurt.

We’ve been spreading diatomaceous earth on them when we find large masses of them. Time permitting, we may still spread a DE slurry onto the trunks of our fruit trees, but it probably would have been better to do this a few weeks back.

This weekend we will kick up our search and destroy efforts by scouting around more thoroughly on our property to find entry points into their homes. Especially around my raised beds.  They seem to love my summer squash blossoms. So much so, there’s usually too many to count deep inside the flower itself.  Even the bees are a bit reluctant to go inside to collect pollen and pollinate.  Every time I try to manually pollinate the squash flowers, the ants go completely berserk and usually get on my hand and bite. Ouch!  I can’t tell you how many welts I’ve had on my right hand this week alone.  It’s time to pull out the citrus peel extract (d-Limonene) product and go medieval on their mounds.  I can also make up some special treats for them. Bite on this you fiery suckers!

Yeah, I know… it’s not a pretty sight.  Every year I get bit by these guys then rant about it and even dedicate an entire blog post to it.  Yes, a teeny tiny red and black insect has brought me to this point.  Sad but true.

  • Protect your fruit trees from squirrels, rabbits and other rodents ~ our “catch and release” program this year has been quite successful so far. I’ll be putting out a post on it soon.

070114_Peach

  • Protect yourself from the heat!
    • Work in the cool of the morning and evening ~ this time of year I recommend doing time and labor-intensive tasks, like pruning and harvesting, during the morning hours between 5:30 AM ~ 10:00 AM – and/or – in the evening hours between 6:00 PM ~ 7:30PM; I know this can be challenging with a full-time job, but just remember… this is the fun stuff 🙂
    • Wear protective clothing and accessories such as a long sleeve shirt made of a lightweight sun-blocking fabric, a nice wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses or protective eye wear, and gloves.
    • Stay hydrated ~ bring out a container of cool water with you to drink
    • Take frequent breaks ~ sit in the shade for a few minutes and drink your water
  • Make time to preserve and savor your bounty ~
    • can jams and pie fillings, fruit halves, puree’s, fruit salsas and pickled fruit for use now and later
    • dehydrate fruit for use in future recipes, for granola or — make a homemade trail mix for hiking or camping trips or make yummy fruit roll-ups with different spices and nuts for snacking
    • bake cookies, sweet breads and other delectable sweet treats
    • or freeze your bounty for later use in smoothies and juices ~ just think, fresh peach smoothies all summer long and in the middle of November… yum!
  • Continue feeding your fruit trees by using either a quality organic foliar spray or a soil-microbe friendly fertilizer. You can also add soil and microbe enriching amendments now, too.
    This time of year hubby and I continue to spray a holistic homemade foliar spray on all of our fruit trees except on our Asian pears.  They are more sensitive to the neem oil in our mix so we opt to spray the soil only around those trees.
  • Start Writing Your Fruit Tree Wish List at the end of this month. Planning to start a fruit orchard or add to an existing home fruit orchard? Now is the time to research your bare root fruit tree options.  Bay Laurel Nursery is my favorite online source for purchasing bare root fruit trees. They have a wonderful selection, awesome customer service and replacement guarantee, reasonable prices and shipping costs, great packaging and is a distributor of Dave Wilson Nursery fruit trees, which in my opinion (and the opinion of many other experienced orchardists) are the absolute best fruit tree stock available.

Unsure whether to buy bare root or containerized fruit trees and would like to learn more about the differences between the two? Be sure to check out my posts Step 3: Purchasing the Fruit Trees (Part 1)  (Part 2)  and (Part 3) where I talk about bare root vs. containerized fruit trees in detail.

Now for the results of my concrete cooked egg…

070114_eggNow that’s highly unappealing.  Yuck! Sorry folks, it’s pretty disgusting, but this is what an egg looks like at the end of a 110°F day… if you ever wondered.  Mmmmm.  Who wants breakfast 😛  Back to more pleasant things…

Until next time, happy harvesting.

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6 Comments

Filed under Fruit Trees/Orchard

6 responses to “July Orchard Tasks

  1. Hi April,

    Hope you have had a good holiday!

    Your doggies and kittes looks so cutes and lovely in the pictures. I can tell that you love them so much. Will you pleased tell us more about them someday if possible?

    I got some ants on my fruit trees this spring time. But I didn’t do any thing with them. And the trees are fine, no damaged. I am sure that the ants love your orchard, which are full of sweet air and sweet food. But, in order to stay in the heavenly place, they should stop biting and feel guilty for so many bites on you. -:)

    We had 115 Fahrenhait here. Now, it keeps around 105 fahrenhait at daytime.

    Do you make your holistic homemade foliar spray with compost tea? How do you make your foliar spray?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Lily,
      Thank you… my little ones are very precious. I have so many things I want to write about gardening and orcharding it’s challenging to think about writing anything else. Maybe someday.

      Glad to hear that your orchard is doing well even with the presence of ants. It is definitely challenging to not get bit especially when I’m all up in their business doing my orchard and gardening thing.

      The holistic fruit tree spray we use has several different soil-nurturing items in it. First, I must give credit where credit is due. The original source for this wonderful foliar spray is Michael Phillips ~ check out his website http://www.groworganicapples.com/. We are still in the process of fine tuning his recipe to our specific situation/environment. One product used in his recipe is a soil inoculant of effective microorganisms that can be further “fermented” to increase the number of microbes then used as a foliar spray or soil drench. The fermenting process does not require any agitation or brewing process (like a compost tea) to accomplish this. Once hubby and I have fine tuned the recipe for our hot and arid climate, I’ll pass it along by writing about it and our process in a future post.

  2. Lois

    Well, I must say the egg on the cement was disappointing. I wonder if cooking a meal on a hot motor is false also. It sounds like you must keep on top of your schedule. It is good that you plan well.
    What about keeping the pets in a room with black-out type of curtains and loud music? My cat is afraid also, but we do have one room that is a quiet room and that seems to help.

    • Hi Lois,

      We usually hunker down in our living room with the t.v. blasting and later in the evening we’ll turn on a radio in one of the bedrooms and pull the shades down. Pinny has such good ears, though and can hear the festivities even through the t.v./loud music.

  3. April, we have tiny red ants in our male zucchini flowers and they only hurt a little when they bite. The problem is that we don’t have any pollen to hand pollinate the females! I didn’t mind the ants so much at first, but now we have to do “something” about it. Been battling huge black carpenter ants in the hoophouse and their bites really HURT! Seems like the corn meal helps get rid of them, at least for a while.

    Regarding trees, I just looked at http://www.baylaurelnursery.com again and I’m hoping we’ll get to order 21+ trees and then get the 20% discount. I’ve also looked into getting trees wholesale from Dave Wilson directly, but even with others from our gardening club ordering I don’t think we’ll get a large enough order together.

    I noticed that your only nut tree is an almond. I want to plant some large nut trees like pecans or walnuts outside the orchard for wind protection and shade, Do you have any info on hazelnuts? Bay Laural doesn’t carry them and I once read that hazelnuts LIKE alkaline soil, but don’t know of anyone growing them around here.

    I think we’ll go with dwarf trees inside our little orchard area and plant some full sized trees outside. I’d also like try grafting (been reading the Holistic Orchard) and growing some trees directly from seed or cuttings. Since nuts don’t seem to come on special root stock, they’d be especially suitable to grow from cuttings or nuts. There are so many different ways to grow fruit and nut trees, I’d like to try it all!

    • Hi Christine,
      I can definitely sympathize with you on the ant situation. I hate to even admit this, but these little guys can serve a good purpose in the garden. I guess if they remove their bite and stop farming “bad bugs” into my garden, they can stay :/

      How wonderful… 21+ fruit trees 😀 Sometimes the local test orchard here in North Las Vegas orders bulk fruit trees directly from Dave Wilson Nursery (all their trees came from them), but I’m not certain they’ll be doing this again in the near future. You might be able to get in touch with someone on their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Master-Gardeners-Tree-Fruit-Orchard/117996858226695.

      For now, the almond is the only nut tree on our property ~ which we have to replace one more time. I’ve looked into Pistachios and Pecans but that’s where my nut tree search ended. Another great source for fruit/nut trees is http://www.treesofantiquity.com. We’ve purchased from them before and received strong healthy tree stock. They sell nuts but I think only almonds, chestnuts and walnuts. Willis Orchards sells hazelnut trees https://www.willisorchards.com/ ~ never purchased from them though.

      All of our fruit trees are semi-dwarf (with the exception of two of our cherry trees which are dwarf). We keep our trees ladderless (6′-8′ high) by pruning. I know what you mean about try it all. Someday, I’d love to espalier some fruit trees along the back wall of our property. Our most adventurous fruit tree planting so far is two trees in the same hole. It’s turned out very nicely for us.

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