With the arrival of spring, nature wakes up: the branches grow, the small animals appear, the trees bloom. It’s time to take a walk in the orchard to enjoy this rebirth, but also to efficiently organize the work you need to do to enjoy a good harvest.
Caring for an orchard involves a lot of work, but to enjoy tasty fruit, picked with your hand from the garden, it is worth the effort. Late winter marks the beginning of the work season for those who grow fruit. Here are the most important operations to be performed every spring in your orchard:
Planting fruit trees
The best season to plant a fruit tree is autumn. In the spring campaign, you must act in March-April, before budding. Hurry, especially in the case of shrubs with small fruits (currants, gooseberries, climbing raspberries), if you want to enjoy a small harvest in summer. For more success, choose branched plants with 3 or 4 branches. Otherwise, wait until planting in the fall and harvest a first crop the following year.
To enjoy an orderly, healthy and rich orchard, you must follow some planting rules. Do not use clay soil surfaces. Choose healthy seedlings, 1–2 years old and with strong roots. Dig the pits long beforehand, in order to benefit from a well-aerated soil loaded with nutrients. Pre-treat the roots by “soaking” them with a mixture of water, soil and compost.
Keep the recommended distance between the trees depending on the variety, rootstock and need for light of the plant. Thus, for most trees, an area of 16 m este is required, and in the case of walnuts and cherries, 20 m.
Prevention and control of diseases and parasites of fruit trees
To avoid diseases and parasites, there are four moments according to which specific treatments must be applied: swelling of buds, cracking of buds, shaking of flowers and formation of fruit.
In general, damage caused by pests and pests is detected only at the time of harvest, when you see the affected fruit, so take care of fruit trees throughout the year, observing them regularly.
Fruit aphids and moths lay their eggs from April to June on young fruits, which will then be invaded by worms that feed on their “flesh”. An effective remedy against them is pheromone traps, sticky boxes that trap males, thus preventing the fertilization of females and the next cycle. Two such traps are enough for 5–6 trees.
At the beginning of the season, hang strips of glue (tree collar) around the trunks, to which the insects stick. These traps are effective in catching ants, aphids, caterpillars and other crawling insects.
Moniliosis (or fruit rot), apple or hair rot and bacterial fire are the main diseases that can attack your orchard and diminish its harvest and quality. Their treatment is done by spraying the trees with various substances.
Spraying the mixtures is done as soon as the buds burst, then after the young fruits are formed. A booster is required in autumn, after the leaves fall. In organic agriculture it is recommended to stimulate and strengthen the natural defense of plants. To do this, use a mixture of nettle, manure and horsetail decoction, sprayed 3–4 times, after flowering, on trees that were affected by a disease in the previous year.
Cutting and cleaning trees
The operations are performed during periods of vegetative rest, always with sharp, clean tools. Pruning is done depending on the species of fruit trees and the specifics and destination of the harvest. Grooming should not be done too early, so as not to sensitize the branches and expose them to frost.
There are several actions in this category, depending on the purpose. The formation cuttings aim at guiding the formation of the crown in such a way that the tree benefits from as much light as possible and facilitates the performance of other works.
Production pruning is related to tree maintenance and fruiting. In apples and pears, this operation consists in removing the smallest newly formed fruits and keeping the large ones and can take place from the end of April until mid-June if there are too many fruits in the tree. Thus, you will reap less fruit, but more beautiful.
Regeneration is followed by removing old, dry branches. It is made after budding, when the two types of buds begin to be distinguished: flower and wood (from which future branches will develop).
Branches that do not have buds or are too thin and risk consuming resources, but without producing fruit, will also be removed by corrective pruning.
Fertilization of trees
In May, in the first three years after planting the seedlings, clean the soil from their roots. Dig to remove weeds and aerate the soil. Every spring, you can bring a special fertilizer for fruit trees, rich in potassium and phosphorus. This can also be done on older but small subjects.
If you are against chemicals and want to get a 100% natural production, you can limit yourself to spreading a good compost in autumn to enrich the soil and strengthen the roots.
A flowering meadow, spread over the entire surface of the orchard, will remove fruit predators, is less demanding in care than the lawn, for example, and at the same time can be sources of fodder plants to feed your pets.
From April, prepare the seedlings and the soil. The land is cleared and crushed, then a mixture of perennials and annuals is sown, whose composition varies depending on the relief and climate. In colder areas, it is recommended to wait until May for this operation. To make your job easier at this stage, you can confidently use a Honda cultivator , which will help you save a lot of time and resources.
The first harvests
In May, but especially in June, the first harvests appear, especially in the warmer regions. Enjoy and leisurely enjoy the first cherries, raspberries, blackcurrants and also the first early fruits of greens and apricots.