When the leaves start to fall and the last crop of fruit is harvested, the most responsible time for every fruit tree owner begins-taking care of fruit trees. The quality and timeliness of fall work help prepare trees for winter, both for the health of the garden and for the quality of future harvests.
It is important not only to remove fallen leaves and windrows in time for spraying in autumn. Fruit trees also need watering, trunk cleaning, and pruning. We will remember in this article the rules of care of fruit trees in autumn.
Fruit trees can be planted not only in the fall, although replanting work is one of the main items in any gardener’s program. Fall is the best time to fight the root war, remove drupes, and pull out old unproductive shrubs, and care of fruit trees.
There is no time to waste. Rooting is best done later when the weather is really cold, but you can already remove the brushwood in October.
Even if the fruit harvest is finished in September (for apple trees of late varieties – in October), it is better to remove all trapping strips from the trees. They should not be left on the plot and destroyed (burned) immediately.
Hygienic pruning in autumn is the main thing to keep the plant canopy healthy. After fruit harvest or before the arrival of the first frost, cut off all unfruitful, inward-growing, thin, damaged branches and spikes.
It is easier to find dry and diseased branches before leaf fall, but after leaf fall the rest is easier to assess. However, it is best to perform all sanitary pruning at the same time. All wounds, even if they seem small, should be treated thoroughly with garden varnish. If necessary, limit the height of the trunk or the length of the backbone branches.
It is better to finish pruning your orchard before November, but you can also prune later if the weather permits. Do not water your fruit trees for at least a month after pruning. Also plan fertilization and watering carefully.
The bark of fruit trees needs to be cleaned in the fall. Otherwise, it simply cannot be kept healthy. When cleaning in the fall, cover as much area as possible and clean at least all available surfaces on scaffold shoots and trunks.
Fall cleaning is easy for fruit trees:
- Around the tree, lay down a dense cloth, film, or tarp to keep bark, moss, and dirt debris from falling to the ground. There is no harm in protecting your hands and eyes because the process of cleaning the bark is unpleasant and sometimes dangerous.
- Use a special scraper or metal brush to carefully and thoroughly remove loose dirt, moss, and lichen from the bark, taking care not to re-injure the bark.
- After each tree has been cleaned, collect the accumulated debris and dispose of it off-site.
Cracks in the bark are not only very dangerous because of the risk of fungal diseases, but can also harbor insects. Treating wounds and detecting injuries is one of the main goals of fall tree cleanup.
Cracks and other bark injuries are first treated with a fungicide on the exposed tissue and then carefully protected with a Garden varnish or special fruit tree protection products and pastes. If hollows are found in the tree, they should also be carefully treated and filled in.
Painting the tree trunk
After cleaning, it is time for autumn whitewashing. It is no less important than spring whitewashing and is often more functional. Whitewashing is not only to kill bacteria and spores but also to protect the bark from the dangerous winter sun.
It can only be replaced by wrapping the trunk with a special protective fiber or several layers of paper. On young trees, it is important to pay attention not only to frostbite but also to protect the trunk and skeletal shoots from rodents and rabbits (with nets, reeds, ranks, tol, etc.).
Collection of fallen leaves and windfalls
Sanitary measures include the collection of loose leaves and the obligatory picking up of fallen fruits. Decaying fruits piled up under fruit trees are the best “helpers” for pests and they spread unhindered. Fruit trees should be cleared of fallen and damaged fruit and leaves over the winter.
If there is categorically not enough time, it is best to collect the fallen fruit as soon as they appear – in several passes. Loose fruit does not have to be thrown away; many gardeners successfully use them for composting.
Do not burn leaves, which wastes precious organic matter and damages the environment. Leaves of trees affected by fungal diseases are an exception.
Tidying the root zone
Digging under the tree can often only be done in November before the winter snow cover begins. However, it is much safer to choose the period after the fruiting period and before the autumn buds – when the leaves on the tree start to yellow. Prune the standing rings shallowly, 4inch (10 cm) for apple trees, 8inch (20 cm) for pear trees, and about 6inch (15 cm) for other species.
The areas between the rows (if not mulched and not planted with grass or herbs) also need to be re-cultivated and re-cultivated. In autumn, the adequate depth of the row spacing is about 6inch (15 cm). In November, it is best to cover the perimeter of the bed with a layer of perimeter mulch to help retain the snow.
Mulching is a necessary step only for colony-shaped, bent, dwarf trees. However, creating a protective layer of about 2.3inch (6cm) in height with sawdust, peat, substrate, and organic fertilizer is only good for any care of fruit trees, and if possible, it is best to create it for everyone.
For young seedlings, it is necessary to pay attention to and about additional protection from frost – cover. It is not at all difficult to carry out a neat dip of “young plants” on cleaned and prepared the soil for winter.
Starting in October, it is worthwhile to start rodent control, placing baits and traps in the rhizosphere.
Fall feeding – early
In order not to make mistakes in the timing of fertilization, the aim is not only to restore the soil but also to ripen it on the eve of winter, it is better to concentrate on the first days after harvest. As a rule, the autumn fertilization of care of fruit trees is limited to the beginning of September.
Only potassium and phosphorus fertilizers are used for fruit trees in autumn, and no or minimal nitrogen fertilization is applied. A fertilizer consisting of 100 grams of phosphate and 50 grams of potash (e.g. superphosphate and potassium sulfate) is considered the standard fertilizer. Many gardeners apply potash only in the spring and limit themselves to phosphorus fertilizer in the fall.
In addition to the two main macronutrients, in the fall, tree fertilizers can be used.
- organic fertilizers (first of all compost and humus, starting from 10 liters per adult tree), spread on the rhizosphere after all works are completed and fertilized with mineral fertilizers).
- wood ash or bone meal (at least one large handful per plant).
The fertilizer can be applied in both liquid and dry form, embedded in the planting soil. A dry application of fertilizer is preferred in the fall. The standard embedding depth is 6-8inch (15-20 cm).
Pre-winter control of pests and diseases in orchards is one of the easiest and most effective means of prevention. It is done at the end of the season after trunk cleaning is completed, but before frost arrives, at least when positive temperatures are low.
Only for trees with severe disease in the current year, treat before leaf drop. Spraying with copper or iron sulfate, Bordeaux solution, urea, or special “fall” system preparations is usually done immediately after the trees have completely defoliated.
Although the lack of snow can be compensated by spring water, which protects the plants from early drought and does not allow the cotyledons to drop early, abundant early spring water is only a supplement to the main, fall water.
It is a must for prairie areas with a dry or very rich fall harvest and is desirable for all fruit trees and ornamental shrubs and trees.
The need for watering in a given season can be judged not only by the amount and level of precipitation but also by simply checking soil moisture: if the depth of the spade is dry, then watering is vital.
Fall watering is the saturation of soil moisture before winter. The watering rate is determined by adjusting to the water table. For fruit-bearing trees, the minimum soaking depth is 32inch (80 cm) and the optimum is 40-60inch (1-1.5 m).
The choice of watering time is very simple. Deep watering is carried out before a large number of leaves fall, mostly from the end of October, using the weather and recent forecasts as a guide and choosing a few days before a light frost. Early watering is not useful.
If the soil is compacted and does not absorb moisture, the soil should be loosened or combined with digging before watering.