Fruit tree care is a must year-round, and autumn is a particularly fun time for this chore because of the harvest!
Many fall fruit trees, such as apples and pears, are ripe for the picking, and their bounty is begging to be put into your famous pies, tarts and gift baskets. Now is the time to properly store excess fruit for use throughout the winter, and also check your fruit trees’ health before the first frost. Proper fruit tree care includes adequate watering through the end of October, so trees go into winter well-moisturized.
Rake leaves regularly and pile them far away from trees to decrease the risk of leaf-borne diseases (or homes for pests). Trimming grass near trunks is also a good idea.
In most cases, avoid applying fertilizer after July, and never fertilize immature trees. Fertilizer encourages them to keep growing in the winter, leaving them unprotected from the weather. It also can hinder fruit bearing.
Basics of Fruit Tree Care
The best part of fruit tree care is the harvest, but be careful and follow best practices for each type of fruit.
For example, apples should come off the tree with their stems, but if the leaf spurs also come off, that’s a sign that they’re not quite ripe yet. Apples should come off easily when they’re ready.
Even small flaws in fruits can cause spoilage if stored, so set the “not quite perfect” fruit aside and eat or cook it immediately.
Pick fruit at its peak to avoid excess weight on the tree, rot and pests. Pick pears before they’re ripe and let them ripen indoors. The minute pear seeds start to brown (cut one open and see), pick them.
Apples should be picked when half the seeds are brown. Plums ripen quickly, and should be picked right before they’re at peak ripeness.
Tree Protection Tips
Fruit tree care includes protection. It’s easy to damage branch spurs (the small branches that hold the fruit) when picking by hand, so investing in a pole picker is a wise move.
Sunscald is an issue in colder climates like Utah, especially if it’s hot during the day but cold at night. Put a tree guard or tree wrap around the lower part of the trunk for extra safeguarding.
Keep an eye on the lowest part of the trunk for signs of rabbit or mouse damage, which is particularly common this time of year. If you notice any red flags, talk to your local arborist about the best pest control options (including humane ones).
Right now is the best time for preventive care. Don’t undertake major pruning until the spring, which can encourage your tree to grow in the winter. If you battled insects last spring, now is the time to put tanglefoot on the tree to ward off moths. Get more tips on fruit tree care by giving Reliable Tree Care a call!