Winter is coming


What should I be doing with my fruit trees in the winter?


Winter time is a great time to do work on your trees. Short days and cool temperatures cause your fruit trees go dormant in the winter. Dormant means the tree's metabolism has shut down and can be worked without stressing the plant. Here is a work check list:


1. Don't Water.  Shut off the water in early November. Do not turn it back on until buds break and leaf out in March. Dormant trees do not have the ability to take on nutrients and water. Too much water just dissolves away vital sugars being stored in roots for the next season's growth and sets the stage for root and soil borne diseases. Normal winter rains will carry minimum moisture needed through the season. No rainfall may require a check for moisture and infrequent irrigation.


2. Fertilizer: N-P-K. You should not apply (N) nitrogen in the fall. Nitrogen could cause a delay in the dormancy process, causing the soft tissue to be damaged by frost. Once dormant, the trees will not use nitrogen during the winter and it will likely be gone by spring. (P) Phosphorus and (K) Potassium stay in the soil and do provide benefit of cold hardiness and root development. P and K are available organically in potash, hardwood ash and kelp products. Or you can just wait until spring and use a complete fertilizer like 12-12-12. Rates differ, check with your local extension agent or farm advisor.


3. Prune. Winter is a great time to prune. Remove all suckers and water sprouts (tall shoots with no side branches). Open center up to let light and air in during growing season. Work on developing the scaffold branches that grow the fruiting spurs. Pruning tar or paint delays healing process and is not recommended.


4. Spray. For protection against insects and fungus, I recommend a dormant spray program. There are many formulations on the market including some for organic use. Read your labels; it should have a dormant oil and copper and possibly sulfur in it. I do not have a pesticide applicator license for your area so I cannot make specific recommendations; just point you in the right direction. Remember, always use sprays according to the label! No exceptions. Once again, check with your county agents and farm advisors


5. Plant. When the trees are asleep it is the perfect time to plant and/or dig. If you need to lift up or move a tree; this is also the time. That is why we (L.E. Cooke) deliver your -trees during the winter. The rules in #1 apply to your new trees. Water in one time; do not water again until leaf opens fully. Overwatering is the most common reason for tree failure. Too much water is wasteful. Too much water hurts the trees.


Tom Fetch  10/21/15

L.E. Cooke Co.