Spring has sprung! Or at least the temperatures during the first part of the week sure made it appear that Mother Nature was ready to start growing. Some field activity on the better drained soils and 70 degree temperatures made us all somewhat excited for another growing season.
If you've not uncovered your strawberries, now is the time to do so. Soil temperatures have increased to the point that delaying straw removal will stress the plants. The goal is to remove straw before much of the new growth has turned yellow from lack of sunlight. Simply rake away straw to the row middles, leaving a small amount on the row to allow the strawberries some buffer from the soil.
Brambles should be pruned now, as should your fruit trees. We've placed a diagram on tree fruit pruning on our web site that you can refer to that will help guide your decisions. Don't be afraid to tackle pruning. You can't really ruin the tree (too bad) because it will grow out again. We've also posted the homeowners spray guide to help in your pest management strategies. http://web.extension.illinois.edu/abhps/localfoods.html
You can also access our archived webinars that pertain to tree fruit care to help guide in your spray decisions. These webinars discuss tree fruit insect and disease identification and control. They are located at the same web site.
Last years' bramble canes should be pruned out, and the rows thinned. For those brambles that sucker, thin out weak canes leaving the largest canes about 6-8" apart in the row. For those that form a hill, leave 5-6 of the largest canes and remove the rest. Raspberries canes need to be cut back to 5-6' with support and 3-4' without support. The lateral (side) branches of blackberries are where fruit originate, so cut those back to 15-18" in length.
During the summer, make sure you tip back the (hedge row) blackberries as they reach 3' in height. This will encourage lateral branching, which will help in fruit production.