This is the time of year to start protecting young fruit trees from deer damage. Rubbing or uprooting by bucks in the fall is a common problem. A simple way to prevent buck rub damage is to wrap a short piece of wire fencing loosely around the trunk (see photo). We’ve had great success with this method, which doesn’t trap moisture around the bark the way corrugated tile does.
Rabbits will nibble the tender bark of fruit trees during winter. We use plastic tree guards to protect young bark from rabbits. This method also protects from herbicide spray drift, which can scar the smooth bark of young trees and stunt them.
Deer like to nibble the new growth during the winter, which destroys next season’s fruit buds. This can be prevented by spraying trees with a good deer repellent like “Liquid Fence” once a month starting in September and continuing through the winter. Always spray deer repellent on trees when planting, since deer are attracted to newly turned soil and will investigate right away.
We see many orchards with crooked trees. We recommend hardwood tree stakes for the first few years to prevent this. Sturdy stakes will also support wire fencing, the ultimate deer deterrent. We also recommend killing weeds and grass in the root zone with Remuda to eliminate competition for water and nutrients. Remuda will not poison the soil, but be careful not to spray any on the bark of the trees.
Soaking your trees with “dormant oil” helps control certain insects and diseases from getting started in your young orchard. Dormant oil spray, like Bonide’s “All Seasons Spray Oil”, smothers insect eggs on the bark, breaking their life cycle.
When planting, mix a multi-mineral, low nitrogen fertilizer with the soil around the tree. Espoma Tree Tone, a specialized fertilizer containing trace minerals like Boron and Zinc, is perfect for this. Trace minerals help prevent problems like blossom end rot and premature fruit drop. Fertilizers with high nitrogen content are not good for fruit trees. Mixing the fertilizer with the soil when you plant is the best way to feed young trees. Later, annual feeding is best done by scattering Tree Tone in the root zone in the late winter or early spring.
Right now is the best time of year to expand your home orchard. Fall planting gets you one year closer to bearing fruit than if you wait until spring. Fall weather is ideal for low-stress planting. The soil is still warm, encouraging rapid root development, while the tree itself is going dormant and doesn’t need much watering. Cooler temperatures and increased rainfall help as well. Planting container-grown trees in fall works much better than buying bare root trees for spring planting through mail order catalogs.
The most common mistake when planting fruit trees is digging the hole too deep and smothering the roots. The pot soil should be level with the area around the tree, and should be left exposed so the roots can breathe.
Steve Boehme is the owner of GoodSeed Nursery & Landscape, located on Old State Route 32 three miles west of Peebles. To e-mail your landscaping questions click “Contact Us” from their website at www.goodseedfarm.com or call (937) 587-7021.