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Orchard Tasks for Spring

The buds of new beginnings are coming into life and the daffodils are out! After all that cold weather, nothing could be more uplifting than the colours of Spring. Now it’s time to get out into your garden or orchard to do those tasks which will improve the well-being of your fruit trees and increase your crop potential.

Restorative work to your soil:

  • Check drainage – fruit trees don’t like waterlogged soil so make sure excess water is ducted away.

  • Replenish nutrients in soil – a job to do every year but particularly essential after the recent torrential rains.

  • What your soil may need:

    1. Check the pH of your soil; for most fruit trees the ideal would be between 6.5 & 7 (very slightly alkaline). If it is too acidic then redress the balance progressively with a dressing of garden lime.
    2. Add Nitrogen for tree growth and fruit development and Potassium for good fruit size and flavour in the form of slow release bone meal (not grass fertiliser).
    3. Dress with Potash in spring; this will be taken up by the tree in summer to promote flower initiation for the following year (pure wood ash is ideal if you have it).
  • Feeding Roots - remember that the feeding roots of a fruit tree are in the top 6ins/15cms of soil around the perimeter of its canopy so spread your fertiliser widely. Trees will not take up nutrients in very dry conditions so wait till the soil is damp.

Other Things to check:

  • Scab: Even after your winter pruning session, check your trees regularly for scab – if you see any, cut out and burn the diseased wood.

  • Loosen tree ties: Check that there is enough room for the tree trunk to grow whilst at the same time offering appropriate support. This is especially important with young trees – you don’t want to strangle them just as they are getting established!

  • Check tree stakes and guards: Make sure that any stake needed to support a tree is still up to the job. Use tree guards to protect young trees from rabbit damage. If you have an orchard of standard trees which is grazed by sheep, make sure that the trees are adequately fenced off.

  • Mulch young trees: When the ground is moist put a good thick layer of mulch (leaf mould or compost) around the base of young trees – this will suppress competitive grass and weed growth whilst reducing moisture loss and offering some nutrition to the tree.

  • Allow patches of wild flowers (including some nettles) to grow: These will host beneficial pollinating and other pest eliminating insects.

With that work completed you can sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of spring unfolding in your orchard!

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