Spring Fruit News
Spring is around the corner! We are beginning to see ornamental quince, and plum bloom around town. Blueberry, asian plum, and pear buds are beginning to swell, and mason bees are
getting ready to emerge from hibernation to begin their life cycle of mating, pollen collecting (pollinating), and egg laying.
On April 24th I (Jessie) will be teaching a free class at Portland Nursery. This class will cover pest and disease management in the home orchard. In preparation for the class I have been researching pest and disease sprays and their impact on bees. I am disheartened to find that organic sprays can also be detrimental to our pollinating friends. Stay tuned for more information on this topic in upcoming blog posts.
At Tree and Ladder we will be using primarily holistic and natural biological sprays (more neem and compost tea, less sulfur and copper). Biological sprays and nematodes are not only less toxic to bees, but also to ourselves and neighboring aquatic ecosystems. I hope you will share our interest in shifting the management practices at Tree and Ladder into more sustainable, less-toxic methods.
As for now, here is a checklist for what is happening in the world of fruits in and around Portland.
Fruit News: Spring Checklist
1) Prune and Train: Prune fruit trees, ideally, before buds begin to swell (stone fruits are an exception). Prune for an open center to allow for sunlight and airflow. On young trees, train the branch crotch angles to 45-60° with limb spreaders or weights.
2) Plant new fruiting trees and shrubs: In regard to plant health, affordability, and variety selection, bare-root season (late winter) is the best time to purchase and plant new fruits.
3) Bees: Mason bees are excellent pollinators who can help increase your fruit yields. Both gentle and low maintenance, they are an excellent alternative to honeybees. They will work in cold/wet conditions, and require minimal supplies and skill to keep successfully year after year. Check out www.treeandladder.com for more information on Mason bees (also called Blue Orchard Bees).
4) Amend and mulch the soil: Spread finished compost and sprinkle Ag Lime (like powdered sugar on a cake) under the canopy of your fruit trees extending out to the drip line. Lay woodchips 4” thick under your fruit trees and berries.
5) Spraying: Pure Neem, Liquid Fish, and Kelp Extract, can be sprayed year-round to help the trees fight off diseases. Limit or omit the use of sulfur and copper sprays. Always follow safety guidelines for bees, humans, and pets.
6) Grafting: Grafting season is coming up, the Home Orchard Society’s scion fair is Sunday March 20th. There you can select from hundreds of heirloom and commercial varieties to get fruits that not only taste fantastic, but are also disease resistant and better adapted for home orchard sites. Options for grafting include top-working your old trees, and grafting new trees by selecting rootstock and scion (volunteers will be there to help you graft them together). A scion is: a detached living portion of a plant (as a bud or shoot) which is joined to a stock in grafting (asexual cuttings of honey crisp, cox’s orange pippin, comice, concord, fuyu, etc.)
Let us know if you would like help with any of this maintenance, and/or send an email if you have any questions concerning care of your specific fruiting plants.