Davis: Start thinking about spring fruit tree care

Published 8:03 am Wednesday, February 22, 2017

By David Davis

Clark County Extension Service

It has been a very strange February for sure with 70 degree temperatures predicted later this week.

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I know that many homeowners are concerned about their fruit trees. I have had conversations with several homeowners who are concerned about “winter weather still to come.” There have been some reports of plum trees blooming and peach trees budding in Western Kentucky.

If winter weather does come later this spring, it may be a hard year on fruit trees, especially for peach trees. Kentucky weather in the spring is always an uncertainty, especially with our current conditions. All we can really do is wait and see, but here are a few tips about things that can be done now in fruit tree plantings.

It is a good idea to consider taking advantage of the warmer temperatures to apply dormant oil sprays on apples, especially if you have had trouble with scale.

There is some benefit to holding off just a little longer if you don’t have scale issues. By waiting until a little later, dormant oil applications can be applied to help with aphids and a few other pests that have yet to make an appearance.

If you do go ahead with dormant oil applications, don’t forget to apply fixed copper fungicide to apple and pear trees to help with minimizing fireblight problems. Copper fungicide should be applied while the trees are breaking dormancy, just at first green tip and prior to 1/2-inch green tip so the fruits do not become russetted.

It should be applied to twigs and branches to help reduce overwintering bacterial inoculum. Applying fixed copper fungicide will also reduce overwintering populations of fungi that cause black rot, blotch and other canker diseases.

It is also time to consider pruning older apple trees. Wait until later for younger trees as they will be the most susceptible to cold temperatures, if those conditions are yet to come. Hold off just a little longer on peach, pear and plums.

Peaches can be pruned at or after bloom, and later pruning is also good to prune out winter injury if we do have cold temperatures later on.

Make sure to use good orchard sanitation practices. Completely remove diseased twigs, branches and mummified fruit.

Remove all pruned materials from the fruit orchard and destroy it to minimize the spread and development of disease pathogens. Make sure to sanitize pruning equipment, at least between trees.

If you have questions or want more information regarding recommended fruit tree care and maintenance practices, contact the Clark County Extension Office by calling 744-4682.

David Davis is the Clark County Cooperative Extension Service Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources.