close up of red apples on a tree

Last week, I wrote about what I feel is the most damaging fungal disease for apples and flowering crabapples – apple scab. These treatments may seem like a lot of work, but control measures for apple scab also will help with other diseases and pests.

apple blossoms

Our Master Gardener help desk gets emails mid-summer when apple trees drop many of their leaves, except for the outer 12 inches or so. The same thing can happen to our ornamental flowering crabapples. In both cases, the cause is the same – a fungal disease that infects the foliage and fruits.

Recent warming temperatures signals the beginning of the pruning season. Gardeners may need to just help nature shape up a shrub that did not read the rule book on how it should look, or they may begin or continue to structure the tree fruits or grapes in backyard.

Red apple hanging from tree

Note: this is the fifth post in a series on fruit trees. Read part one.

Young fruit trees in the home orchard should begin to fruit once the tree has become established.  Several conditions will need to be met before that happens. Some of them we cannot control and others, we can help along. The four big factors are: typical age for the tree to bear, tree health, weather, and proper pollination.

Note: this is the fourth post in a series on fruit trees. Read part one.

Note: this is part two of a series on fruit trees. Read part one.

Whether you have a single fruit tree or a small grove in the backyard, having the correct pollination is key for fruit production. However, for some species that is easier than others.

Note: this is part one of a series on fruit trees

You don’t need space for a full orchard to plant and enjoy fruit trees in the home landscape. However, where you place those fruit trees – whether it’s a whole home orchard or just a few trees – makes a big difference in how they grow and perform. As they say, “location, location, location.” Here’s what to consider:

January begins the annual flight of vegetable, flower, and fruit tree catalogs to your mailbox (or your email inbox). Depending on your level of gardening, the catalogs may arrive frequently and in mass.

We winterize the lawn mower, why not the home orchard and landscape? Now is the time to prevent problems later, by spending some time with your favorite young trees and fruit trees.

The weather can, does, and will influence foliage disease each year, starting in the early weeks of spring. While early spring was a long time ago, many diseases are now quite visible in the home landscape.

Emails to the office this time of year are always a mix of “When can I…?” or “Is it too late already to…?” kinds of questions. Here are three common examples:

Q: When should I be putting down crabgrass preventer?

Our plants will break dormancy at different times each spring. This depends on, as you can guess, the kind of weather we have. Besides the warming weather, “chilling hours” influence how soon we see bud swell and blooms.

University of Illinois Extension and Master Gardener Help Desk phone lines have seen more action recently, especially when it comes to what can be done outside. Here are a few that may ring a bell for many homeowners:

Q:            I am going to start my own vegetable and flower transplants this year. Can you give me some best practices?

lilac blooms in a vase

In the near future, when the weather is just right, gardeners will be out getting that dormant pruning done. This includes the both fruit trees and flowering shrubs in your yard. Out there in the home orchard, pruning is for structural reasons, maintaining the scaffolds that will hold the fruit.

apples in tree

Just what do experts mean when they say to train your fruit trees? It means home orchardists should train the branches for proper tree structure; this encourages fruit production and allows the fruiting branches to support the fruit load without additional support.

harvested apples filling a crate with trees blurred in background

If you live in northern Illinois, the most frequently grown large fruit is very likely the apple. There is certainly nothing wrong with peaches, pears, plums or cherries, it is just that apples are the hardiest of them all.