Spring is coming! If you are one of my regular readers, you have probably planted and have a nice start on your new orchard. Early spring is a good time to catch up around the yard. I try to get these tasks done in February. I also like to get my snow peas planted by Valentine ’s Day. Here are some of my routine spring chores.
A sunny morning is a good time to repaint your tree trunks. I use mis-mixed interior semi-gloss of any light color, and paint from the lowest branches down to ground level. Don’t forget to check that your trees have their weed- whacker protection devices still in place. Look for signs of bug infestations. Weed around your trees and fertilize with a complete mix or some well aged manure. Spread mulch under your trees to retain moisture. Mulch will keep weeds down and it breaks down into the soil to improve soil fertility and tree growth.
Sharpen your pruners and dip them in alcohol between trees. Clean cuts heal faster and keep from spreading anything tree to tree. Cut off dead, damaged or diseased wood first, then go for an even and open structure. I cut my trees so they are shorter so I can pick fruit more easily. Close angles on branches are stronger for the tree when it is holding a load of fruit. Open the branches to allow light in, and to allow air circulation which keeps diseases down.
Pruning trees is quite simple and really makes a difference on fruit production. I avoid using poison sprays on food, but I try to spray my fruit trees with a heavy coating of dormant oil to smother overwintering bugs. Experts say to spray one week before bud swell for the best results. I have found out that the trees need to be dry to get the oil to stick.
This is Oregon, so I spray all of mine at the same time, probably none at the exact best time. I use a cup of vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons liquid soap in a gallon of water. For peach and apricots or other plants that have fungal issues, I add 5 tablespoons peroxide and 2 tablespoons baking soda to the mix.
My chickens are penned in my orchard, so they help keep the bugs down naturally, and they also clean up any dropped fruit. I also do some thinning of my apples, which results in larger fruit. I just cut off the small, or oddly shaped, or damaged fruit and let it drop. The chickens cleanup all the droppings.
It is a good time to fertilize, prune, and mulch blueberries and grapes as well. Thinning and fertilizing strawberries, now, will repay you with more and larger berries this season. In March, the sun begins to come out more and Oregon garden season starts to really come on for those of us that try to keep food coming out of our garden all year round!