Orchard Care

sumi

Sustainability Master
Administrator
Joined
Sep 26, 2013
Messages
7,021
Reaction score
5,247
Points
337
Location
Ireland
Thank you for starting this thread @Beekissed! This is a topic I am very interested in and keen to learn more about. I don't have any fruit fruits around at the moment and won't be planting any as long as I'm renting, but I have found and earmarked a nursery that supplies the most wonderful range of fruit trees here. Including things that are not usually grown here, like apricots. I'm planning to buy a few trees from then once I have my own place and can plant an orchard. I miss having trees around that we can pick fruit from. Growing up it was something I took for granted.
 

frustratedearthmother

Sustainability Master
Joined
Mar 11, 2012
Messages
15,407
Reaction score
7,792
Points
423
Location
USDA 9a
I totally forgot about my fig three! It is huge and bears, and bears, and bears. I kind of forget about it until it's time to start picking. DH can't really eat 'em because of the high sugar content. Because of that, I usually dry the fruit instead of making preserves. However, I might just make some preserves for myself this year!
 

sumi

Sustainability Master
Administrator
Joined
Sep 26, 2013
Messages
7,021
Reaction score
5,247
Points
337
Location
Ireland
They make amazing preserves!
 

freemotion

Food Guru
Joined
Jan 2, 2009
Messages
10,817
Reaction score
89
Points
317
Location
Southwick, MA
I can't say I know much about Orchard care but I do know that suddenly in the past two or three years my trees are producing. I'll tell you what I did differently to make this happen. Or at least I think it's what made it happen.

I mulched heavily using the BTE method of free ramial wood chips from local tree trimmers. I've refreshed the mulch a couple of times as it breaks down. I added wine cap mushroom spawn to help break the wood chips down faster and also there's a symbiotic relationship between the mushroom mycelium and plants in that it helps the plants uptake minerals.

I prune regularly. While they're dormant is best, but if it doesn't happen you can prune almost any time. I'm going to be pruning in the next week or so. Since I missed the ideal time, I was waiting for the sap to stop running heavily. Now the trees are leafed out so I can also feed them to the goats. I'll do it over a period of several days.

My pruning method is pretty basic. Cut off anything that grows completely vertically. Cut off any branches that cross each other. Cut off branches that are going to make me have to use a big ladder to pick any fruit that might grow there. And finally, step back and take a look and cut off enough of the remaining branches that I could throw a cat through the tree in any direction. Not that I would, but I could!

I fed the trees with some minerals. I used a foliar feed that I bought from the chapter leader of our local BFA.

And finally, when the trees are blooming I go look for pollinators. I wasn't finding any so I used an artist paint brush to pollinate the flowers. I just touched the center of each flower and just moved from flower to flower like a bee would. I got a nice crop of fruit the following fall. I still hand pollinated last year even though I had a beehive because we had a cool spring and my bees were low in numbers. They never made it to my fruit trees. This year I went into spring with 6 surviving hives and that seemed to be the magic number for my property. In spite of the very cold spring again all my fruit was pollinated by my bees. I will need to pull a lot of peaches off the peach tree throughout the season and also prop up some branches. There are enough peaches on that tree to take the whole thing down. It's very exciting. Everything else on my property is developing fruit in spite of the cold.
 

Beekissed

Mountain Sage
Joined
Jul 12, 2008
Messages
12,388
Reaction score
2,944
Points
417
Location
Mountains of WV
I wish I could source enough chips to cover my orchard at a good depth. I've tried to substitute with leaves, grass clippings, thin layers of chips when I have them, etc. but there's nothing to replace a thick depth of wood chips for deep composting nutrients getting to the roots. All of that did help them produce, along with the pruning, but I think they could do much better if they had better soil to live in.

Right now I have CP rings around the saplings so I can get a good depth of compost around their roots at the drip line but as they grow that won't do much.

My peach trees seem to self cull and are doing so even now...the dogs are cleaning up the culls steadily.

Free, that's dedication, to paint brush all your apple blossoms by hand! :th
 

freemotion

Food Guru
Joined
Jan 2, 2009
Messages
10,817
Reaction score
89
Points
317
Location
Southwick, MA
I wish I could source enough chips to cover my orchard at a good depth. I've tried to substitute with leaves, grass clippings, thin layers of chips when I have them, etc. but there's nothing to replace a thick depth of wood chips for deep composting nutrients getting to the roots. All of that did help them produce, along with the pruning, but I think they could do much better if they had better soil to live in.

Right now I have CP rings around the saplings so I can get a good depth of compost around their roots at the drip line but as they grow that won't do much.

My peach trees seem to self cull and are doing so even now...the dogs are cleaning up the culls steadily.

Free, that's dedication, to paint brush all your apple blossoms by hand! :th
Not dedication, desperation! I didn't pollinate all the blossoms, just what could be easily reached. It took maybe a half hour to an hour to do three trees and some currants and it worked. I could tell where my paintbrush had been, easily, by where the fruit was developing. I lost steam with the currants and it was also obvious.

I'm so thankful for the bees. It really highlights the problems with pollinators. When I was a kid you couldn't go near an apple tree in bloom as the entire tree was humming with bees, which could be heard easily as you approached. Now I have to get close to my trees and watch for a few minutes to see a handful of honeybees doing their jobs. My peach tree, the first to bloom, had a bit of a hum going on, but then the wild trees, maples and such, bloomed when the apples/pear/currants bloomed so there were less bees in those trees this spring. But enough, apparently, as the fruit is developing nicely.
 

Britesea

Sustainability Master
Joined
Jul 22, 2011
Messages
4,360
Reaction score
2,666
Points
333
Location
Klamath County, OR
We had an old Hawthorn on our property in CA, and for 2 weeks every May, the whole tree practically Vibrated from all the bees! I never had any problem coming near the tree- they were so busy concentrating on visiting the flowers that I'm not sure the bees were even aware of my being nearby.

I've been trying to encourage the wild bees in our area by putting up bee houses, and planting more flowers and shrubs. I try to have something in bloom from earliest spring to late fall, so they have food for the whole season.
I've been campaigning to let people know they should NOT be getting rid of the dandelions in their yards, as that is one of the first sources of pollen in our area.
 
Top