Dormant oil sprays

Home orchardists often under value the importance of applying a dormant oil spray to their fruit trees. Dormant oil sprays are typically applied to the point of run off to the branches and trunks of fruit trees to control over wintering adult insects and insect eggs that were laid last summer and fall as a means of lowering the insect pressure early in the season. Dormant oil sprays do not manage insects that are overwintering off your fruit trees or in the soil around your trees. These insects will be managed through yo

January is not too early to start to plan for a new home orchard or to consider replacements for aging fruit trees in an existing home orchard. There are several different kinds of fruit trees to consider, apple, cherry, peach, pear, and plum.

Since we are in the northern portion of Illinois, apple is likely the main fruit tree grown in back yards because it is the hardiest. For the home orchard, apples are a good starting point. Once you have got a good handle on apples, expanding out to other fruit trees will be easier.

Now that you have cleared off the coffee table and the kitchen counter from the holiday catalogs, the next pile will be gardening solicitations and more catalogs.  

Historically, this time of year was when gardeners ordered to get the hard-to-find seeds, perennial plants, and certain varieties of brambles and fruit trees. Given industry trends the last two growing seasons, it is going to be more important than ever to place all your orders as soon as possible.

We winterize everything else, why not the home orchard? Now is the time to prevent problems later by spending some quality time with your fruit trees.

Rodent damage to the trunk at the soil line happens when grass is left to grow tall next to the trunk. Remove the grass and weeds using hand clippers or by pulling, but do not use the string trimmer, as that can cause more problems. Rodents love to hide in the vegetation and will eat bark off the young trunk and the surface of the roots. This feeding can girdle the tree, causing the tree to die.

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.