Thursday, December 9, 2010

Seasonal Tree Care Outlines

If you are wondering what care your tree or orchard needs in each season, give these a look:

Winter Care

The Best Tree Care Videos on the web

Chuck Ingels is a master teacher on schoolyard-scale orchards and a dear friend of Common Vision. In this 2-hour segment he goes through the basics of fruit tree care. Below the videos we have outlines that break down the subjects so you can skip to the sections you need. Some of this is more complex then you need to know. Please email or call us with any questions.

Basics of how trees grow:

0:40 Roots - how they grow
4:30 Chilling Requirement
6:40 Sunlight Requirement
7:00 Pollenization
10:15 Soil Requirements
12:20 Parts of the Tree -
17:50 Planting the Tree
26:00 Post-Planting Care
29:30 Water and Irrigation
34:05 Fertilization
36:00 Pruning

Note: on Pruning: Common Vision recommends an open center kept very short. This is a little different then the "fruit bush" described in that the cuts are made with a little more choice involved.

0:45 Pruning "fruit bushes" cont.
9:45 Espalier
13:30 Managing an overgrown mature tree
22:55 Fruit Thinning
27:55 Common Problems with fruiting
29:18 Budding and Grafting
37:10 Citrus Trees
42:00 Pest Management - Codding Moth
45:27 Boreres
48:00 FireBlight
52:50 ShotHole Disease
53:30 Peach Leaf Curl
56:45 Brown Rot

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Overview of Schoolyard Orchardculture

Our friends and sponsors at Dave Wilson Nurseries have been such inspirations and guides in helping schools maintain their orchards. Just keep it small! They have a concise webpage that will give you the basics of this empowering approach to fruit trees.

>Check it out!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Maintaining the height ~ Simple Guide to Pruning

Here is a simple slide show with a simplified breakdown of when to make what cuts to produce a short productive fruit bush.  Thank you Chuck Ingels.  For apples, pears, asian pears, and cherries this strategy is especially effective.  For peach, nectarine, pluot, plum, and apricot a little more finesse can make a big increase in fruit yield.  More on that later.   Either way, this general method is the outline for maintaining all school orchard trees. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


A - "Keeping it Simple"
When fruit is dropping and birds are feeding in the tree, chances are you're approaching harvest time for that crop. Then apply the taste test. These are perhaps the easiest ways to determine harvest time in the School Orchard, with its multiple varieties of trees.

B - "More in Depth"
For the Apples, you should be able to indent the skin and flesh with your finger nail, and when you cut it open the seeds should be dark brown or black. If seeds are still light color, you're not quite ready for harvest. If there is good sunlight on the apple, and the nights are cold, some red color will still develop.
Be careful when harvesting the Apple! Lift it with a little twist. It should  separate at the stems abscission zone (that's the little wider area near the tree end of the stem). If it doesn't come away easily... leave it on the tree. The risk is breaking the little gnarled "Fruiting Spur." In Apples, the Fruiting Spur should bear fruit for 10 or more years. Some instruction  for the students and helpers will keep your Apple tree bearing for years, otherwise you'll have to wait for another Spur to develop! Apples ripened on the tree taste great. Let the students have a harvest party, and eat the apples right there.
"Asian Pears"  (e.g. Chojuro, Shinseiki) can be harvested like the Apples, and eaten right off the tree. Use the same "ripeness" criteria. They will usually turn from green to a yellow buff color, even almost tan to russet. And for Pears.... treat the Spurs the same as Apples. They wont last quite as long, but they set fruit at the same spot year after year.  The most frequent harvest problem in the School Orchard is that kids pick the fruit prematurely, and "pull" the apple or pear down, breaking the Spur.

"European" Pears (e.g. Bartlett) can be picked when they are full sized, but still green and firm. They should then be stored in a refrigerator for at least a week,  then taken out and allowed to ripen. These are not eaten "tree ripe." When ripened on the tree, they tend to get "mealy."
Your Stone fruit (Peaches, Plums etc.) are probably all harvested by now, but if not, they should be allowed to ripen (soften) on the tree and eaten fresh.  The Persimmons should be ready from October to November, in most regions. Both common varieties should be bright, shiny Orange in color. The flat, squat shaped ones, the "Fuyu," should be eaten when they are firm, like an apple. The acorn shaped "Hachiya" must be almost custard soft before you give them a bite! (but they can ripen off the tree) If you mix the two up you're in for a mouth puckering surprise!   Persimmons should be harvested by cutting the stem (there are harvest clippers that are shaped like your two fingers when you make a cutting sign.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Fall Fertilizing

A - "Keeping it Simple!"
Right after Harvest, You can give the trees another application of Fertilizer similar to our Spring/Summer suggestions. Or, spread about 2 to 5 pounds of compost per tree in a 6" band around the drip line, under the mulch. (Keep away from the Trunk!)
If it's later in the fall: sit back....enjoy the view of the School Orchard, do nothing, think about the pleasures of Dormancy...... Lucky trees!  
B - "Hey, wait a minute what's going on here!" 
All that food and stuff from the leaves (starches, carbohydrates, sugars, pigments, water etc. etc.) has been retrieved (sucked back actually) by the trees..... before they actually dropped the leaves. All that food is stored in the trunk and roots. In the Spring, before there can be any energy production from leaves, the "sap" will come rushing up from storage to fuel the whole works. Vermonters will tap off some as "Maple Syrup" for Pancakes, and Southeast Alaskans will tap off "Birch Syrup" for their biscuits.  It's sweet 'cause it's loaded with sugars and Energy.
Don't worry there will be plenty to do later, but in the School Orchard more Fertilizer is usually not needed! The exception is:
If you've noticed a deficiency (yellow leaves during mid-summer), post-harvest is a good time to correct the deficiency.
Short of doing a leaf analysis, the Compost application is your best shot at fertilizing and correcting the nutrient deficiency.
Hint: Supermarket Chains in Los Angeles County have their day old and wilted Produce professionally composted. Vons especially has been very happy to donate compost to our School Gardens and Orchards. The Compost is Superb!! It's arranged through the Manager of the neighborhood Market in the School's community. It's likely done by chain Markets throughout the State. Their objective is to sell the Compost to Organic Farmers. A neighborhood manager can donate a load to your School Orchard. Be grateful... and post a sign thanking them.... the school garden and orchard can be a real link between school and community.

Fall Pruning

 A - "Keeping it simple!"
 August, (and perhaps the first few weeks of September) is the best time to prune the Apricot and Aprium trees.
 With your Pruners and Loppers remove any "suckers," cut out Dead, Deformed, Damaged, and Crossing shoots and branches.
 Remove the "Water Sprouts." These are the paradoxically very green and healthy looking shoots, that you might think are "good"  to save..... they're not! They usually grow from interior branches, are this years growth, and grow straight up to the sky with no branches (they will rarely have any fruit!)
 The lateral branches (reach out with your arms) will have the shoots with fruiting spurs. For the ones that grew this year (green bark) visually divide the shoot into four sections, starting from the origin,.... cut off the outermost one, of the four sections (that is: reduce the length by 20-25% of the shoot's length).
 Try to cut the shoots or branches at a point about 1/4 inch out from a bud or node. It's best if the bud (node or shoot) is pointing in the general direction that you want the branch to grow (e.g. not pointing down.... or towards the central/interior area of the tree). If you have to  remove a branch entirely, make the final cut just outside of the little "collar" where the  Branch originates from the Trunk. Don't leave  a "stump."   
 B - "More in Depth:"
 Post harvest, or late "summer" pruning is particularly useful if trees have been growing too vigorously, and are getting out of control (too high).
 Summer and post harvest pruning has a modulating effect on tree growth. On the other hand: Pruning after leaf drop is a great stimulant to spring growth!
 APRICOTS  should NOT be pruned any later than early September. So this is the last time you can prune them before mid-summer next year.
 Apricot pruning wounds are subject to a disease (Eutypa Dieback) the organism is spread by rain. The pruning wounds need 6 to 8 weeks of dry
 weather to properly heal.
 The Water Sprouts can be thought of being like your Appendix.... it probably once did.... but no longer has any real function. Probably genetically left over from when the tree had to "get up there" to compete for light from its surrounding trees. These shoots rarely if ever bear any fruit.
 You also want to remove shoots growing towards the center of the tree. This allows air to circulate and sunlight to penetrate to the interior.
 If you shorten the shoots (the 25% number), you'll be keeping the fruit more towards the trunk and major branches and reduce the chance of breakage. The remaining spurs will now bear larger and healthier fruit.
For all the trees, it's a good time to remove branches that have broken under the weight of fruit
("really herb, where have you been!....... Some Orchard in Fresno!")  ........Just wait your trees will get there. 
C - "Some more Background:"
  - A good time for pruning over-vigorous trees is after harvest, before dormancy. The other trees are best pruned later,
in the Dormant period. Broken or cracked limbs or branches (some say a Shoot becomes a branch when it's 1 yr old) are a place for disease entry (like any wound). It's best to remove those branches, back to a proper location. The area of a bud (those little swellings, or a leaf node) contains the hormones necessary for proper healing. The smooth sections (internodal area) will not heal, they'll just die back to the bud, and you've not accomplished much.
If the bud (or shoot) is pointing to the direction you want the limb to grow, your cut will also have "training" value. The Branch Bark Collar, at the origin of the branch, has the healing potential to close over the wound (take a look at some old pruned trees). A stump that protrudes will heal poorly, if at all. Pruning paints or sealers are not recommended.    It's far better to place the cut in an area of good natural healing.
Dead shoot ends (black and really dry) may have been invaded by a borer, or bacteria. The dead, wilted and shrivelled leaves may still be hanging down and attached. Prune these shoots off (don't cut through the dead part, go back a ways to where the shoot is normal looking. Diseased branches may have a bacterial or fungal infection. These branches will often have an area of disrupted bark, and oozing a somewhat resinous, brown or black sticky fluid. Cut these branches back at least a foot from the wound, so that you are in healthy looking wood.  (Nice intact bark and cambium layer, with uniform and light cream colored sap and heart wood (not stained brown or black).
When pruning out dead twigs or branches (particularly if they look diseased; oozing, crusting) leave a healthy margin of normal looking branch (up to about 12" if you can) to get well beyond the bad part.
Cut out crossing branches, the areas where they rub are subject to wounding and disease entry. Leave the bigger, or better oriented branch. (Or make an "executive decision" and leave the one that YOU like best. Hey..... you're doing the work!  Michael understands.)
This is also a good time to prune the Citrus trees of any dead branches or twigs, and any branch ends that are dragging on the ground. When you have access to the trunk, renew the "Tanglefoot." If you can keep the ants out of the Tree you're probably 90% to good disease control. Often, nothing more is needed. (Ants kill the Beneficial's larvae that are feeding on the Pests...... that's not good)
Except for the Apricot (remember?), you will probably want to do some Winter Pruning on your trees......
but more about that in the next newsletter.
And remember! with any diseased branch... or going from Tree to Tree..... always sterilize your  pruners between cuts, by dipping  the blades in 70% or 90% Drugstore Alcohol (Isopropyl).     When you're finished, wash off the pruners and spray or  apply  a protective oil. Afterwards  I always resharpen my Pruners, and spray metal parts with an oil protectant like "WD-40." 
Cleaning your Tools between "Cases", is just like washing your hands. BECAUSE..... You're Doing Surgery!  And wear your goggles!!
Hint   For Orchard Instruction, Pruning, Training, or Tree Care: Fill out the Commonvision request online, for a free Workshop at your School Orchard. These are put on by the Master Gardener Orchard Team (not yet available in all Counties).