Preventing winter damage to fruit plants

northernmn(3/4)August 24, 2013

I have posted this on the "Fruit and Orchard" forum, but many of you have more experience with winter issues:

Every winter I get at least some winter damage on my half high blueberries and florocane raspberries. It appears to be mostly on that years growth and the canes or branches that had the most growth. The damage appears to be desiccation of the last 6 to 12 inches of this new growth.
1) Do these tips try to wick moisture up as they start to dry out, even though it is below freezing but the sun is shining on them? If they do, would it be better to trim them back as soon as the ground freezes to stop this wicking action?

2) Is it best to keep plants fairly dry until just before the ground freezes, then soak the ground. Thinking that the early dry ground will help with the hardening off process, and then getting moisture to prevent desiccation? How much lead time before freeze-up would a plant need?

3) Several deer managed to break through my deer fence. Because many of the trees and bushes are young the defoliation was bad. Some branch tips were eaten, but mostly just leaves. The %age of defoliation was as follows:
Evan Cherry 90%
Northstar " 30%
Carmine Jewel 50%
2 kinds of plums 90%
5 Asst. apples 50%
My fear is this will push a flush of late grow growth and winter will kill the new growth and maybe even the plants. The ground is fairly dry right now, but they are all heavily mulched with wood chips. How would you proceed to minimize winter damage?

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Not really skilled in your issues, but happy to offer advice anyway :)

1) I don't think the tips are wicking moisture, I think they are the least developed part of the canes/branches, also the most exposed during winter, therefore the most likely to die. For my raspberries, I often prune the tips before freeze-up but that's really just to control some very tall canes. Tip-kill isn't going to hurt them, and you can prune it out in the spring if that's easiest.

2) Yes, to harden them better keep the soil on the dry side from now on, then give them a good watering a week or so before the ground usually freezes, if you wish. Personally, I rarely water my raspberries in the fall, unless it's been exceptionally dry.

3) I'd do nothing, just let them figure it out for themselves. Plants might not have brains, but they still know winter is coming and they will work it out.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 1:59AM
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i just redid my deer fence because they broke down the old cheap fence,
but i found some much stronger fencing this year at a big box store
and they have yet to get at my new cherries, now i just have to do my apples

i think don is right, keep dry till freeze-up then just prior water in well
(because you never know if you will get a good snow-pack or not)
and if you fertilize, stop a month or two before dormancy
pruning should be held off until well past dormancy (and after bud break for plums)

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 11:36AM
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What type of plum are you experiencing winter damage too. Plums are very hardy but need shade in winter months as sun will destroy your trees. Wrap them in something white or paint them. Depends which way you faced the trees if its south western facing with little shade in winter that's why your trees are dying.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 10:19PM
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I like the "do nothing" approach for the plants with the deer damage. I probably couldn't influence the outcome that much any way.

I may let the raspberries fend for themselves this winter, but I will definitely "water in" the blueberries for the last week or two before the ground freezes up. It would be good to know if it is possible to minimize their desiccation problem.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 8:13PM
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