A tree that bears fruit can be a beautiful enhancement to your property, even potentially raising the value of your home, but that is only if the tree is maintained properly. Fruit tree health is important for a number of reasons—first, there’s the obvious, that you want the fruit to be edible and taste good, but also the not so obvious is that unhealthy trees can cause much mess and damage.
At Mr. Tree, we understand the importance of fruit tree health. We have already shared with you some general tips for caring for fruit-bearing trees. Now we want to get a bit more detailed about keeping fruit trees healthy during the Oregon winter months. Here are five tips that you should follow during these colder months.
1. Clean Up All the Fruit and Leaves That May Have Fallen
We all know that fruit trees lose their leaves and their fruit during the autumn months. It’s important to clean up anything that has fallen before it gets too cold outside. The reason is that if any of these leaves or fruit are carrying pests or diseases, even if they are off the tree and on the ground, they can still hurt your fruit tree next year if they are not removed from the surrounding area.
For instance, the common disease of apple scab is caused by spores that come from dead apple leaves and fruit that are left on the ground to rot. The apple maggots overwinter in the fruit that’s left there and will then move on to the tree when it gets warmer.
2. Put Mulch Around the Trees
By adding mulch to your trees, you are helping to insulate the roots of the tree from the cold that winter brings. You are also protecting it from any nearby competing weeds and grass. After the first hard frost of the season, spread the mulch around. If you do it before this, there’s a chance that small rodents like field mice and moles will find a home in the mulch. The mulch should be around two to three inches thick and start several inches away from the trunk of the tree.
The best kinds of mulch to use are ones that decompose slowly, such as straw or composted wood chips. Avoid using manure or compost, as those will give the tree energy, leading to a delay in dormancy that you want the tree to enter during the winter.
3. Water the Trees Well
Before the weather gets too cold and the ground freezes, make sure that your fruit trees are watered deeply. A good time to do this is in the late autumn, after the leaves have fallen from the tree when the temperature outside is still over 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure that the water goes about a foot deep into the soil if you opt to do two or three deep waterings, or if you prefer to spread out your watering (such as if you have a timer and soaker hose or drip irrigation system), water about one or two inches at a time. You want to make sure that the water reaches the roots.
4. Do Not Fertilize Your Fruit Trees
You may think that you want to add to your fruit trees’ health by fertilizing them in the winter, but this is the wrong thing to do. By fertilizing it in the fall to prepare it for winter, you are encouraging the potential development of new growth on the tree. This growth will still be too new and young to survive the cold temperatures and especially any frost. Because of this, in climates that do become cold, it is best to fertilize fruit trees after July 1.
5. Prune Your Trees During The Winter
For a similar reason to the above, it may seem right to prune your trees in the fall, before the cold comes, but it’s not. This is because pruning can help spur new growth, and the new, young branches will not be able to survive the winter conditions, especially the weight of any snow that may fall on the tree or any heavy winds. Winter is actually a great time to prune your trees because the trees are dormant and don’t have any fruit, flowers, or leaves growing on them. This means you can see the full structure of the tree and can better see and decide what should be cut and what doesn’t need pruning.
It’s important to note that late winter rather than early winter is the better time to prune your tree. This is because, in the early winter, there is minimal branch growth. Trees are also unable to heal the wounds left from cutting. Late winter, however, is a much better time since spring is right around the corner, allowing the tree the opportunity to be able to heal its wounds.
6. Bonus! Ask for Help If You Need It
As you can see, there are many actions you can take to keep your fruit trees healthy during the Oregon winter. We do know that this can seem overwhelming. You do not want to mess up the maintenance during the winter months and then your fruit tree does not bloom or becomes sick once spring rolls around.
If you are hesitant about putting any of these tips into action yourself, the team at Mr. Tree can help. We have over 30 years of residential and commercial experience and know exactly how to keep your fruit trees healthy throughout the winter. We understand how important fruit tree health is to your yard, your property, and your family.
Our professionally trained and certified arborists can prepare your trees for that cold winter weather and can keep a look after them throughout the winter months. Please contact us today. We would love to hear from you, learn more about what type of fruit trees you already have in your yard or what type of fruit trees you are looking to add, and how we can help make the winter months easier for you.