8 Ways to Work Your Mid-Winter Orchard
There's Always Plenty to Do in the Orchards...
January is not just the time to make New Year’s resolutions. It is also a great time to get a jump-start on this year’s preparations for the growing season. However, your tasks may be different, depending on what part of the U.S. you live in. We have broken down what you can spend your January working on to get ready for the upcoming growing season.
Plant young trees—If you want to add any trees to your orchard, January is the time to do it. Fruit trees should be planted when they are dormant. Plant trees on a frost-free day when the soil is not waterlogged.
Final application of dormant horticultural spray—If you want to do one last application of spray to the trees, it is recommended to do so before pruning.
Prepare pruning shears—This is a great time to sharpen, clean and sanitize pruning shears and loppers before, during and after the pruning season. Keeping your pruning shears in good working order and clean helps prevent disease transmission among the trees. Sanitize pruning shears with denatured alcohol between trees when pruning. However, do not use traditional soap and water to clean tools, as they can cause rust.
Collect scion wood—If you want to graft any trees currently in your orchard, the scions need to be cut when the trees are dormant. Keep them dormant if you are not going to use them right away by wrapping the scions in a plastic bag with damp tissue paper and refrigerating them.
Winter/restorative pruning of mature trees—Winter pruning is a term that describes many different types of pruning. If you want to prune a plant that is more than one year old, winter is the time to do so, including formative, restorative or structural pruning. Prune trees when the weather is frost free and dry.
Formative pruning of young apple/pear trees—Creating a good tree shape through formative pruning is best done when trees are young. Formative pruning allows you to decide the shape, size and positioning of the main limbs and branches.
Start a wildlife diary—You may be thinking, but wildlife will damage my trees? By orchard wildlife, we mean invertebrates, fungi, birds, bats and other small mammals. You will also find that orchards are welcoming to wildflowers, hedgehogs, rabbits, badgers, butterflies, wasps, beetles and of course, pollinators. At the beginning of the year, record what wildlife you see, where you see them and when in your orchard.
Inspect trees—While the trees are not in bloom is the best time to inspect trees for borers and any weather damage, such as broken limbs. Borers will leave a build up of orange frass (excrement) at the site where they have burrowed into the tree or just below the site on the ground. The site will also look a bit sappy and dark in color. Be sure to inspect the base of tree trunks, too.
You may find these helpful...
Electrocoup Battery Pruner
Grafting Wax - 1 pound
Felco 6 Pruning Shears