For Release March 23, 1999

Start Planning for Fruit Tree Care

by Chuck Otte, County Extension Agent

If you are one of the many backyard fruit producers, then it’s time to get started on your fruit tree care for this year. I’ve already seen one precocious apricot tree in bloom, so I guess spring really is here!

If you haven’t done any pruning yet you need to get right on that. It’s best to prune fruit trees when they are still dormant, before buds start to swell. You can still prune clear up to blooming, it’s just that as the buds start to swell they become more fragile and more easily knocked off the tree. If you need direction on how to prune fruit trees, stop by the Extension Office, 199 East 9th, Junction City, and ask for a copy of our fruit tree pruning bulletin. We also have a videotape available for loan on pruning fruit trees.

The next step is to fertilize your trees. One fertilization, in the spring, is normally sufficient for the entire year. You want to be careful not to apply too much nitrogen fertilizer as this will stimulate excessive shoot development, often at the expense of future blossoms and fruit production. The fruit tree fertilizer stakes work very well as will a general purpose garden fertilizer such as 13-13-13. For a bulk fertilizer, like 13-13-13, use one to two cups per tree per year. Sprinkle this fertilizer evenly around under the drip line of the tree to about one foot past the drip line. the drip line is the imaginary circle formed by the tips of the outermost branches.

Then plan your pest control. The most consistent fruit tree complaint I hear every year has to do with insect and disease problems. My peach tree leaves are all wrinkled; there’s brown spots on my cherry tree leaves; my grapes start to ripen and then they turn to raisins, my apples have holes in them. Do any of these sound familiar?

Many of these problems have to be treated before they develop. One peach leaf curl starts to wrinkle the peach leaves it’s weeks too late to spray. Further complicating that matter is that one product doesn’t do it all. Space doesn’t allow me to cover everything that you need to spray during the course of a fruit year. Stop by and pick up the new fruit pest control bulletin for that. What I’ll address is what needs to be done over the next six weeks or so.

Most of the early season problems are disease problems so a dormant or early season fungicide is required. Many people apply dormant oils at this time, but dormant, or horticultural, oils DO NOT control diseases, only a few minor mite and scale insects. Fungicides for peach leaf curl control need to be applied NOW before the buds swell anymore. You can use Bordeaux, Chlorothalonil, Ferbam, lime-sulfur or wettable sulfur. Apply with lots of water to thoroughly cover the entire tree. One treatment should be all that is needed. All sprays should be applied when the temperature is above 40 degrees and will be above 40 for 24 hours.

The other serious fruit tree diseases that need to be dealt with are cedar apple rust and apple scab on apple and crabapple trees (including ornamental flowering crabs). Both of these diseases can be serious problems and can completely defoliate a tree if untreated, and each disease needs a different fungicide. For scab we can use benomyl, captan and wettable sulfur. For cedar apple rust we can use Ferbam or Triadimefon. You can combine these fungicides to save yourself a little work, but once again be sure to apply with lots of water. Apply the first treatment when blossom buds show about one half inch of green, the next spray just before blossoms open and then again when the last petals are falling. You need to start using an insecticide at this time also. After the end of May you can drop the rust treatment but keep spraying the others at two week intervals.

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