Putting the Orchard to Bed for the Winter
Posted: November 5, 2010
This year will be remembered for the fact that fruit maturity was so early. We started with an unusually warm April. The first week in April saw temperatures in the 80s with full bloom of apples and peaches occurring early. At Rock Springs we had apples, peaches and sweet cherries in full bloom all at the same time! I have never seen these three crops bloom together. The resulting harvest was about 10 to 14 days ahead of normal. We harvested Fuji apples on October 6th, which is 11 days ahead of the earliest I have ever harvested Fuji and 16 days ahead of our normal average harvest date for this variety.
All this means that we have a lot more time postharvest than we normally have before the ground freezes. The first task in getting an orchard ready for winter is to scout the orchard for troublesome weeds, especially perennial weeds. Fall is the ideal time to control perennial weeds. Applications of glyphosate in combination with 2,4-D will help to reduce perennial weeds. The addition of a pre-emergent herbicide will also help reduce establishment of winter annual weeds such as those in the mustard family. Winter annuals reduce the effectiveness of spring applied pre-emergent herbicides. Remember that the most critical period to control weed growth is the first few weeks after full bloom when the tree’s resources are at their lowest. Do not overlook the orchard edges along the roadsides and fence rows. Perennial weeds can get established there and spread their seeds into the orchard next season. Fall is also a good time to treat drive rows with 2,4-D to suppress broadleaf weeds. Another task is to check tree guards to make sure they are intact and in place. Tree guards will keep voles and rabbits from damaging the base of your trees. Be sure to mow your grass row middles down low to take away any protective cover for voles.
If needed, establish bait stations in the orchard to reduce the vole population. Split used tires, trash can lids or roofing shingles can be used as bait station covers to protect the materials. Now is also a good time to apply foliar applications of boron if you need it. Applications of 0.8 – 1.6 lbs of actual boron (4 – 8 lbs Solubor) per acre can help improve fruit set for the next spring. Winterize sprayers and other equipment. Order replacement nozzles for sprayers, so if we have another early spring you will be ready. Finally, look at Table 4-16 on page 219 of the current Pennsylvania Tree Fruit Production Guide to see what residual pesticides you have left that need to be stored at temperatures above freezing and take action as needed.