Winter Chores Abundant in the Home Fruit Planting
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Delicious cold weather foods like spiced cider and strawberry jam on warm muffins should remind anyone with home fruit plantings of the winter chores that need to be done for spring and summer success.
Perhaps the most important winter chore in the home fruit planting is dormant season pruning according to Patrick Byers, a horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
“Apples, pears, and grapes may be pruned before Jan. 1, but wait until February to prune stone fruits. Fall bearing raspberries may be mowed in late February. Other brambles and gooseberries may be pruned after the first of the year,” said Byers.
Specific information on pruning can be found in MU Extension guides available at the nearest MU Extension center or online at extension.missouri.edu.
“Winter and early spring are also good times to repair and maintain the various structures associated with home fruit production,” said Byers.
Rotted or broken trellis posts should be replaced. Repair and tighten sagging or broken wires. Damaged stakes should be replaced. Repaint signs and other wooden structures such as arbors, gazebos, tables, and seats.
Cold frames should be made ready for the spring and check the sides of planters or raised beds for signs of damage.
It is also a good idea to apply organic fertilizers in fall or early winter to allow for decomposition before spring.
“Organic matter tends to tie up nitrogen as it breaks down, leading to temporary nutritional problems. This problem can be avoided if sufficient time is allowed for the material to break down before plants start growth in the spring,” said Byers.
Mulches for winter protection of strawberries should be applied after the soil is cold, usually after Dec. 1. Rodents can also feed on fruit plants in the winter and cause extensive damage or plant death. Plastic, wire, or paper protectors may be placed on the trunks of young trees.
“A general cleanup of brush, weeds, and debris will make the planting less attractive to rodents. Cats, traps, and baits are other ways of reducing rodent damage,” said Byers.
Pest control is another winter chore and it is a good idea to remove the egg cases of tent caterpillars during pruning.
“Prune out and destroy any diseased or dead plant parts such as cankers, fireblight strikes, and fruit mummies,” said Byers.
Dormant season pesticide applications are an important part of pest management. Dormant oil sprays are effective controls for mites, scales, and other insects. Dormant season fungicides are important in controlling several fruit diseases.
For more information, consult the "Home Fruit Spray Schedules" available from MU Extension.
For more information on home fruit production, contact Patrick Byers at the Greene County Extension Center in Springfield at (417) 881-8909.