Selecting new fruit out of a tree in your own backyard may be a tempting dream, but for many home gardeners, fruit trees don’t appear overnight. In fact, there’s a great deal of work involved in caring for fruit trees all year long: gardeners have to be cautious about fruit pests and diseases and also take care when pruning to make sure that trees will grow a structure that will support those fruits of fantasy. Despite the fact that they’re dormant in the late autumn and winter, fruit trees nevertheless need some minimum maintenance in this year of rest.
Wait for the leaves to drop completely on all of fruit trees before beginning your dormant season examination. Look the tree over carefully for unusual growths, cracks in the bark that may be weeping sticky fluid, bark that is falling off, discoloration or other indications that something is likely wrong. Remove badly sick or damaged trees suffering from diseases that are incurable and replace them with more resistant varieties.
Examine your tree’s construction if it is very young and decide on which to make pruning cuts — generally speaking, wounds heal more rapidly during the late autumn and winter, since spring rains can support fungal and bacterial invaders. Remove much of the present season’s increase, particularly those branches at risk of growing into one another or rubbing as they mature. Cut out dead wood on old trees, in addition to any part of any trees that are showing signs of disease to slow its spread.
Select a dormant oil spray or inactive fruit tree spray according to your tree species and life history. Apply it thoroughly to ruin chronic pest and pathogenic agents when temperatures will probably be constantly above freezing for a couple of days. Avoid spraying general insecticides if your tree has already started to bud, because those poisons can linger, killing honeybees who visit early in the spring. Apply these therapies almost no time while the tree remains deeply weather and inactive conditions cooperative.
Keep a watchful eye on the weather. Apply a layer of mulch 4 to 6 inches deep into young, shallowly rooted fruit trees in case your regional weather forecast requires a hard freeze — even though you should wait to prune out frost damage to trees, a hard freeze could do extensive damage to the root systems of fruit trees and cannot be disregarded.