Tree Success Kit

Fruit trees can be so rewarding if given the proper care and maintenance. To be fruitful, you will want to understand the watering, fertilizing, pruning, and preventative needs for your fruit tree.

In this guide, we will cover often and how much to water your fruit trees, so that you can avoid water-related stress and issues that can arise as a result of overwatering. Also, get a good idea about when and what you can use to fertilize new and mature apple trees, and when to stop fertilizing to avoid complications with winter injury later on.

This section also covers pruning fruit trees with a central- or main-leader structure vs an open-center style of pruning. This is important for the longevity and productivity of your tree.

We will also discuss learning about spraying – including how to control existing issues and use prevention methods to avoid potential problems altogether. Be sure to read the following guide on common pests, diseases, and other fruit tree issues.

Watering

Unless your fruit trees are growing in an area where irrigation is usually needed for growth (desert areas, drought areas, containers, etc.), you probably won’t need to water your apple trees more than what the rain naturally provides after the first growing year. Until then, follow these guidelines to get your new fruit trees off to a great start.

If the growing season brings about an inch of rainfall every 10 days or so, you shouldn’t need to provide any additional water; however, if it gets really dry in a week’s time, you can give your young tree a good, thorough soaking.

The best way to do this is to let your garden hose trickle slowly around the root zone. This gives the water a chance to soak in and down to the roots instead of running off over the soil surface. You can also use a soaker hose to water several trees at once. Give your tree enough water to soak the ground all around the roots.

It’s important to note that, even if you’re in the midst of a “brown-lawn drought”, you shouldn’t water too much. Once every 7- to 10-days (or even once every two weeks) is plenty. Worse than dry, thirsty roots are waterlogged, drowning roots.

Fertilizing

Fertilizing is an excellent way to replenish the nutrients in your soil, especially nitrogen. Nitrogen encourages green vegetative growth, which is exactly what you want to promote before your fruit tree reaches its fruit-bearing years.

Get to know your soil and discover the importance of soil testing prior to making any changes.

Always test your soil prior to applying any fertilizers. Different soils can have varying amounts of native elements needed to support the health and development of a tree. If you discover your soil lacks any necessary nutrients (nitrogen, phosphates, potash, etc.), be sure to choose a fertilizer that supplements the soil’s nutrient deficiency.

Fertilizers – both synthetic and organic (naturally derived) – are soil amendments labeled with a “guaranteed analysis” of nutrients like Nitrogen (N), Phosphate (P), and Potash (K).

Alternately, there are organic soil amendments, like compost and aged/rotted manure. You can make your own organic soil amendments like compost out of food or garden scraps, or even find compost, manure, and other organic soil amendments from a trusted local source.

In general, fruit trees thrive when macronutrients like Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), and Potassium (K) are present. Nitrogen helps encourage vegetative growth (leaves and branches). Phosphorus encourages root- and blossom development. Potassium/Potash is responsible for the efficacy of the fruit tree’s natural disease resistance and systems supporting its overall health.

Pruning

Pruning is a very important part of proper fruit tree care and maintenance; however, many people think the task overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be!

Keep these things in mind when approaching pruning your fruit trees:

  • Have confidence in knowing that not everyone will prune the exact same way – including the experts.
  • In the best interest of your tree, it is preferable to do some pruning versus no pruning.
  • If an apple tree is left unpruned, it may not become fruitful, it will not grow as well, and – in some cases – it may not be encouraged to grow at all.

When your tree arrives from Stark Bro’s, our professionals have already pre-pruned your tree for you. Because of this, you do not need to prune them again at planting time.

There are three main reasons you should prune your fruit tree: its survival, stimulation, and shaping.

In addition to the survival benefits, pruning an apple tree stimulates stronger, more vigorous growth from the remaining buds. After a single growing season, a tree you prune will be bigger with stronger branching than a matching, unpruned fruit tree.

Plan to prune your fruit trees every year during their dormant season in late winter to Help the tree form a strong framework.

Feel confident in knowing what to prune:

  • Prune one-third of new growth from the previous growing season.
  • Prune to completely remove dead, damaged, and diseased limbs.
  • Prune to completely remove limbs that are growing inward toward the center of the tree.
  • Prune to completely remove tree suckers and water sprouts whenever they appear – not just when the tree is dormant.

Central Leader Pruning Vs Open Center Pruning

A fruit tree pruned with a Central Leader has one main trunk and a conical appearance. Apple, Pear, Persimmon, and Pecans are often pruned in this way, much like their natural growth habit.

 

Pruned with a central leader

 

Open center pruning, or sometimes called vase-type pruning is recommended for most stone-fruit trees like apricots, nectarines, peaches, sour cherries, and Japanese plums. This method allows sunlight, which is necessary for the development of quality fruit, and airflow through the middle to help prevent disease.

 

Pruned with Open Center

 

Spraying

A proper and consistent spray schedule can be paramount to the survival of your fruit tree. Many potential issues can be prevented with sprays before they become problematic.

A well-rounded home spray program for fruit trees includes dormant-season as well as growing-season sprays for pests and diseases. Research your location and learn about any pests or diseases that are common in your area. If you know fruit tree diseases are common in your area, consider planting easy-care, disease-resistant fruit trees if possible.

Before you begin, read and follow all instructions on the labels of the products you have in hand. Do not combine any chemicals unless the labels on each chemical spray involved specifically state that you can safely do so.

When to Spray Fruit Trees

  • Dormant Season (late winter/early spring, before bud break)
  • Growing Season – Bud Break (emergence of new growth)
  • Growing Season – After Blossom (after petals drop*)

*gives bees and other beneficial insects a chance to safely pollinate the blossoms

Always follow instructions printed on the container label for more detailed information, such as timing and application instructions specifically for fruit trees.

To get the most return on the investment of your time and energy, do your best to give your fruit trees the proper care & maintenance.

 

*Note: This is part 3 of 4 articles*

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