I bought a home with 20 fruit trees. I need some advice!

christybmom9802August 1, 2012

I bought a home a 2 acres with the allure of having a small established home orchard! How exciting I thought! I will never have to pay for apples, peaches, and pears for canning and apple butter ever again. The daydreams of families bringing their children to my home to enjoy picking fruit and creating memories quickly clouded my judgment and now that I'm 4 weeks moved in I am quickly feeling overwhelmed!

The home was purchased through an estate and the orchard was un-manicured during that time and I'm sure for several years before due to the mans age. I have several varieties of apple trees (14ish) 2 pear trees, and 4 peach trees,(along with blackberries and grape vines, but we won't go there).

Through many calls I have lined up an experienced tree guy that has given me an estimate on pruning the trees back to working order this winter (In hopes that I can maintain pruning them after the initial grooming). I have proceed to try and decide on what chemicals to start purchasing and am a little overwhelmed. I tried calling my local county extension and everyone's best idea is to cut the trees down and start over?! I guess I was raised old-school and the idea of hard work does not intimidate me?! not sure

So what I am looking for is an idea of what has worked for you fellow orchard growers and at what schedule I should use them. I know their are many threads started on here dealing with this so it may be a bit repetitive but helpful for me thanks.

So here's the advice I've received and that has confused me. I have already decided to not use an all in one store concoction like Bonide fruit tree spray. I'm looking for what I put on the trees in the fall (since my trees haven't been sprayed for many years and need it). I've been told to use dormant oil and others have said that in addition to lime sulfur? I know the oil suffocates bug, eggs, etc. What is the purpose of lime sulfur? I know I should spray oil again in the spring before any growth and then I'm confused as to what to do from their for disease and insect control.

I'm contemplating Captan, Immunox and Ortho once and done? but not sure if Captan and Immunox do the same thing? and during what cycle I spray them, all season? I will post pics of the issues I have going on now, later today! Thanks in advance to all that are willing to share their knowledge!

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Looks like you're off to a good start.

Once and Done is a Spectracide product, not Ortho.

Dormant oil is mostly for smothering the eggs of scale and other insects. Copper is also often used in the dormant season, particuarly on peaches, against peach leaf curl.

If you're using Captan, be sure not to apply it after an application of oil, or if any oil might be left in your tank. And be sure to spring for a good sprayer that will reach the tops of your trees.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 1:20PM
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Hello! Though I'm not in quite the situation you are in (I have 19 less trees), I can offer you some advice that I've picked up recently from these forums. Of course, some of the more experienced growers can correct me or give you a better idea.

To answer one of your questions, the lime sulfur is actually a pesticide (the oldest pesticide in fact, used by Sumerians as far back as 4000 BC...a little fact for you). I'm not 100% sure about pesticide and fruit tree usage, but I will share what I can. Just like in humans, prevention is the best way to keep your trees healthy. One thing that I learned is that when you mulch, make sure the mulch is away from the tree trunk by 2-3 inches. Most landscapers I've seen just pile up the mulch like a dome up to the tree. You want to avoid this because insects will start colonizing your tree trunks. As for chemicals, only use it on a need basis. If you see a certain insect on it, try to ID it or take a picture of it and post it on the forum. Knowing what type of insect is harming your tree can allow you to use something specific to that insect that is milder and won't harm the tree or other insects. There are some broad-spectrum pesticides which you can just spray every 2-3 weeks, but you run the danger of harming honeybees or even causing the leaves and the trunk to burn. Some dilute pesticides include just soap and water with some baking soda, or a mixture of water, garlic, and chili pepper seeds (the capscaicin in the chili peppers burns the insect bodies).

Of course, I don't want to scare you into using one product over the other. Many people I know use the broad spectrum insecticide every 2-3 weeks. The advantage is that you don't need to closely inspect the trees, and if you have a lot of trees (as in your case), it will be a lot faster. If you take care as to what time of day you spray it, you can minimize its impact on beneficial insects. Someone else should give you more information on this.

And can you descirbe the trees a bit more? Are they fruiting? Wilting/dieing? Are you just asking for what chemicals to use so that you can just keep in stock and use on a need basis?

As far as fertilizing is concerned (I'm a little bit iffy here), if your trees are young, then in the beginning of your growing season, you will have to pour in a concentrated fertilizer with more nitrogen (so that the young tree can use it to make new branches). Otherwise, if they are old enough and are fruiting, you'll want to use a fertilizer with less Nitrogen and more Phosphorus and Potassium. You just need to do this ONCE in the beginning of the growing season. A friend of mine just uses Miracle Gro 10-10-10 and gives about 1 TBSP in 1 gallon to each of his trees weekly. I'm not sure which is better, either 1 concentrated dump or many diluted dumps throughout the growing season.

Also, when you fertilize, you want to fertilize away from the trunk and in an area where you have more root concentration. Since the root branching follows a similar pattern to the branches up on top, use that as a guide. fertilize in the outside and make your way in and just stay away from the main trunk of the tree by 1 feet (that is if your tree is pretty big

As far as pruning is concerned, you'll want to prune at the end of every growing season. There are books on how to prune properly, and there is one book in particular that most gardeners on this forum recommend, however the name escapes me. Perhaps someone else can fill that in? And pruning 20 trees or so would be a bit tedious and may take the better part of your whole weekend, so it may be a good idea to have someone else to do it, at least for the first couple of times while you just watch on so that you can get an idea.

That's about as far as I can help you. I'm still trying to get my first peach tree to start off okay and healthily before I go about and purchase 5 more trees. Someone else can come in and help you out here and tell you more about what you're looking for, I apologize if this wasn't helpful.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 1:29PM
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Sulfur can be used as an insecticide in limited cases, It is more commonly used as an early season fungicide. Quite a few of the local Peach Apple Pear orchards use it in my area of the country. We do have wet springs around here though.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 4:55PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

Personally I would be hesitant to hire someone to prune your trees unless money is no object. I was referred to a great book, I think by Harvestman, called Ecological Fruit Production in the North. It has a chapter called "The Swiss Pruning Method", and the author goes into detail about how to rejuvenate fruit trees. It will most likely take at least four years for you to get the trees to full production. I would step back and take a deep breath and realize you are on a journey; this is not a task to just cross off your to-do list.

Personally I envy you for having so many established trees. I have brought back only a single pear and am working on two apples. I have learned so much from everyone here.

You WILL have those moments you have envisioned, but it just won't be this fall, or maybe even next. Realize that the trees will be there for many years. Learn one step at a time and don't get overwhelmed.

I was mentioning my little back-yard orchard to a friend who didn't know about my passion. She was so excited and said her mother, who is from Italy, would love to see my trees. It dawned on me that there are probably lots of older people who have a great deal of knowledge and are unable to share it. Maybe you could find an older person who has the knowledge and wisdom you need and who would feel it a great privilege to come and help.

When my parents decided to keep sheep many years ago we heard about a man who was in an "old folks home" that knew everything about sheep. He virtually LIVED to come and spend time with us. It was a blessing for him and for us as well.

Your new neighbors might be able to refer you to someone who helped the previous owner out in the orchard. Maybe the children of the owner would have some ideas of a person who could help.

Sorry, long-winded and rambling!

Congratulations on your new home!!!!

Here is a link that might be useful: Ecological Fruit Production in the North

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 9:59PM
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What part of indiana are you in?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 8:52AM
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I have fourteen trees in my orchard and it has taken me 2 1/2 years to figure out a proper spraying schedule. Its not that I'm a slow learner it is that my different trees have different needs. I suggest you talk with Olpea, Scott Smith, Fruitnut and Harvestman (to name just a few!!!!!) in this forum. They are professional orchardists and really know their fruit trees and tree maintenence. In the interim, go to your local university hort. website and do research on your own. There is excellent information here in the Orchard forum that will help you a great deal as are the kind people giving it. You must feel overwhelmed. That feeling will go away once you attack the trees! Mrs. G

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 11:29AM
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If you do a search on the internet for "fruit tree spray schedule" you will find various good scources. The indiana extension service may have one published, if not pay particular attention to the ones closest to your area, what needs done in Ca is not the same as Indiana. Have fun.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 1:05PM
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I agree with pruning your own trees. Rejuvenating your trees yourself will teach you how to look after them in the future. In general, you will want to take off no more then 30% each year, so that's a start. Use dormant oil with lime sulphur in fall and spring. As far as the rest, it depends on your philosophy and local laws. Where I live for example, chemical pesticides are banned, and organic pesticides are soon to be banned, leaving not many things aside from soap.

Depending on your laws and philosophy, you can take a proactive spray program (the old school way), and make sure you don't spray during flowering which can kill beneficial bees. Or you can take the IPM (Integrated pest management) approach, which I recommend which is to observe closely, and use least toxic to most toxic in order and based on damage. IPM forces you to learn your pests, your plants and available controls and use only what's needed. That can't be a bad thing.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 1:24PM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

I agree with capoman! Dont kill bees and know your pests! Lots of organic sprays work real good such as oils but you will need to use some chemicals. People have said immunox works good on apple trees but I wont go there. Just research your trees schedules. This is just a guideline and basic chart but it is full of information such as what type of tree and what and when to spray but you will need to find your individual trees schedules and pests.


I dont know much about orchards and apple trees but I think I would want to prune before it got too cold so the wounds heal and maybe, as stated above, 1/3 "off the top".

Here is a link that might be useful: Virginia University Orchard Fruit Spray Guide

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 6:37PM
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Christy, I suggest you read up on forms of "permaculture", namely, start with the book called "Gaias Garden". You may get some great ideas from that book (SPOILER: It involves less work with more yeilds!)

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 9:30AM
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bart1(6/7 Northern VA)

Forget about fruit tree books. Use this forum instead.

I'm only about 5 years into fruit growing and have learned 50 years worth of knowledge in this forum. And a lot of it is exactly opposite from what you'll read in books, but it works much better.

The search engine should become your best friend. Search for "summer pruning" and read up on that. Then you can branch off to "apple pruning", "peach pruning", etc.

You should also stop in here daily and just start reading topics

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 2:30PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

I just want to mention that I agree with bart1, but to get the most out of GardenWeb one will need to use another search engine instead. The link below has the info you will need.

I have learned a lot from the books I have read. It's not a bad idea to read up on a topic, but before you proceed with anything drastic it would be good to run it across the members to be sure.

Here is a link that might be useful: What's up with the search engine?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 2:44PM
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