OEFFA – Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association – will host their annual conference in the Dayton area this year. There are several lectures and workshops that will be of interest to local fruit growers.
When to remove trees or fruit bushes: the easy answer is when they are dead. Care needs to be taken with the dead plants since they are usually hosting a disease of some sort. Remove and burn the plant or compost it far from your orchard. Remember to clean and disinfect all of your tools afterwards.
For low performing or weak plants, one needs to weigh the plus/minus analysis as to why the plant should stay. If the fruit is wonderful, I will prune, adjust the nutrition and coddle a plant for a few years to see if the vigor returns. After that period, for the health of the whole orchard, I remove any plants that could spread disease to the other trees or have your reaching for the strongest chemicals.
If possible, try to identify the disease that weakened your plant. There are varieties that have greater resistance to specific problems and perhaps you should consider one of those when picking a new tree.
If the plant is healthy but the flavor and quality of the fruit is low, I will remove it as well. There are too many wonderful varieties available to settle for mediocre fruit.
As harvest approaches for apple trees, it is a good idea to walk around your trees and observe how things look on August 1st. Look at your overall pruning job and take note as to what you should change next year. Is there adequate airflow through the tree? Can sunlight reach all of the fruits? How do the leaves look? And of course the fruit: clean? insect damage? fungal issues? size of fruit?
Each tree has different issues and by observing them individually throughout the season you can address some of those needs pre-emptively next year. Be sure to take good notes in your journal
Some pruning can and should be done in the summer months. You do not want to cut big limbs unless they are dead or diseased. Young trees benefit from removing a few branches to help balance the beginning scaffold limbs. Older trees that sucker heavily and start to block sunlight in the upper canopy can also be pruned.
Watch your peach trees to see which branches are blocking the sunlight. Wait to prune those after the peaches have been harvested.
Pear trees are very susceptable to fireblight. If you see any brown, dead branches, remove those and destroy them. Remember to sanitize your tools afterwards.
We have a small window of time to thin this season’s fruit crop. Thinning does several things:
-allows for bigger individual fruits
-allows us to remove damaged fruitlets
-helps insure a return crop next year
Peaches: thin to 7-10 inches apart(peach wood is very brittle and will break with a heavy load
Apples: leave largest single fruit every 5-7 inches
Pears: leave 1 fruit per cluster
Thinning should be completed 45 days after petal fall. After this time thinning will not effect fruit size or put more energy into next seasons crop.
Do not compost the fruitlets because many contain insect eggs.
I noticed the first wave on GPTB today in my sticky wing trap. Tomorrow I will spray the lower trunk of my peach trees with a solution of neem. I will not spray the leaves as this pest is interested in boring into the trunk to lay its eggs. I will also drench the base of the tree to try and reach the grub stage of the insect. I will attach a link from Ohio State for more information about the Greater and Lesser Peach Tree Borer. Note that the treatment that they recommend in the article is not an organic product.http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/pdf/2032.pdf
The fire blight season is in full swing now so keep a close eye on your trees. I will attach an article from University of Kentucky and a good article about the approved use of antibiotics in fighting this disease. If you have Michael Phillips book, The Holistic Orchard, he has a discussion on this topic as well.
I will also provide a list of disease resistant apples for our area. This is a combined list from Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
Disease Resistant Apples for Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky
Ashmead’s Kernel (ML)
Northern Spy (ML)
Turley Winesap (ML)
(the ones listed with (ML) have done well at Hayfields)