Encouraging Fruit Trees to stop growing...

steve333_gw(5a)August 8, 2013

An unusual topic perhaps, but in my zone and at my altitude, we are probably only a month or so away from first frosts. It has been a great year for fruit tree growth here, and the trees are still actively growing (apples, pears, plums). While that seems good, it has started getting me concerned that the trees should be setting their terminal buds and cooling it on the growth thing in preparation for winter.

Typically all I need to do is cut back on the irrigation and that will slow things right down. However this year we have been getting lots of monsoon moisture and all plants have been growing late into the summer as a result. So unless/until the weather pattern changes cutting back on watering may not be an option.

I was wondering if there are any other things people can suggest? Of course I've cut out the N fertilizer (I do foliar sprays which I mix myself), but I was wondering if there are any other techniques for getting trees to wrap up their growth phase.

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franktank232(z5 WI)

I think I've read that stripping off leaves can do it? I still have a lot of new growth occurring here, but we usually have long mild falls... I don't worry about a real freeze here until maybe 2 months from now...

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 11:04AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

They'll very likely still harden off OK. Thousands of years of evolution has included many wet falls that thinned out the genotypes that aren't adapted. Hardiness in apples builds early in fall. They can survive severe cold before the leaves all drop.

Just leave them be unless it gets real dry. Then water good before the ground freezes. Always go into winter with moist soil. After a certain point in mid fall water doesn't cause growth or hurt hardiness. But dry soil in winter can kill the roots by allowing them to freeze.

Don't strip off the leaves. That's done sometimes to compensate for lack of chilling. But it's the worst thing you could do to your trees right now. They need to build carbohydrates as antifreeze for the cold. Stripping the leaves would deplete carbohydrates and encourage even more growth as they try to replace the leaves.

This post was edited by fruitnut on Thu, Aug 8, 13 at 11:28

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 11:24AM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)


I too was calculating the weeks left before frost. Is it too late to summer prune my peaches? I've been busy doing other things like weeding, thanks to the rain we've gotten lately, but I don't want to remove the fruiting buds for next year.

I've already seen some yellowing in the deciduous trees lately. At first I thought my eyes were deceiving me, that maybe they are just not getting enough water or something like that, but now I realize that we may be in for an early fall. My Pink Lady apple was a victim of not-hardening-off-in-time last year; she died back to the central leader. Yesterday I noticed that feel of fall coming on:(

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 11:59AM
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A cover crop of winter rye or oats would soak up any excess nitrogen and perhaps stop excessive growth. If the trees are already in sod, a cover crop would be of no use.
Cut off all fertilizing in late spring.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 1:42PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Obtain accurate regional info from your County's Extension Service Office.

Find your County's office with this map

Here is a link that might be useful: locate your county's Extension Service office

This post was edited by jean001a on Thu, Aug 8, 13 at 14:04

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 2:03PM
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mes111(5b -Purling NY & 7b -Nassau County NY)

Girdle them slighly. A fishing line snuggly constricting a branch or the trunk will limit vegetative growth and will encorage fruiting woood

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 8:50PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

I find it's best to plant trees on a hill where they can dry up sooner,..you still have a month left.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 9:48PM
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prestons_garden(9B SZ 22 HZ 6 SoCal)

steve333 ,

I would listen to fruitnut as he always has great advice and shares it.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 11:13PM
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Thanks for the advise, everyone...

I will probably wait and watch with no more irrigation for now, as fruitnut mentioned they likely will harden off; there is still a month or so.

It has been a most unusual summer here. Very late and dry at the start, then almost constant rain, with only a few days off. Typically the fields are brown by mid to late July and here it is mid August and everything is still green. Grasses may never turn brown this year. I have to do a second mowing in the orchard, a first. Been great for berries and fruit trees so far.

Milehigirl, I know what you mean. I was out this evening and there was definitely a sense of fall in the air. If this precip pattern continues into winter, it should be quite interesting. In July we got almost 6" of rain, that would be 6' of snow in the wintertime.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 12:21AM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

Thousands of years of evolution has included many wet falls that thinned out the genotypes that aren't adapted

I am still perplexed about my Pink Lady. It did not harden off last fall and I don't know if I should replace it or try to grow it from one of the new branches down low. I found Cummins has Hawaii this year so I ordered it with the intention of replacing the "old Lady" but it's hard to just dig it out.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 1:26AM
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