Fall Fruit Tree Care


You enjoyed the spring flower display and harvested the bountiful crop of fruits in your orchard. Just because it's autumn does not mean stopping maintenance. Make sure the fruit tree does not enter winter with dry soil or litter that harbors fungus, diseases or dormant insect pests. A tidy orchard in fall encourages a healthier and productive next spring and summer.

Fruit Harvesting

Use care when picking fruits off the tree, regardless of fruit species. The fruit's stem attaches to small twigs called spurs, or the stems attach to twigs where next year's buds rest. Resist the urge to hastily tear away fruits so that branches retain as many spurs or buds for flowering and fruit-setting next growing season. If you encounter diseased or insect-eaten or bored fruits, remove them from the tree, but do not put them in the compost pile.

Late-Season Irrigation

Now that the tree is losing its foliage in preparation for winter, remember that the roots remain active up until the soil gets cold or frozen. Monitor the soil moisture around the base of the tree out to a diameter just beyond the extent of the canopy. Plants heading into winter suffering stress from a dry summer or fall tend to cope with winters less successfully. Apply one-inch of irrigation water every seven to 14 days in autumn until the ground freezes if natural rainfall lacks.

Litter Clean-Up

Yes, more trees to include in the autumn ritual leaf-raking project. This practice serves a grand purpose: to rid the area around the fruit tree from any fallen fruits and leaves that harbor fungi, insect pest eggs or viruses and bacteria. Gather and remove these litter and place it in garbage for removal from the property or place it in an active compost pile that is a good distance away from the tree. Next spring finds fewer habitats for the fruit tree pests and diseases to flourish and find their way back to the tree.

Active Pest Removal

While general pruning must be delayed until spring, pruning away twigs housing webworm nests or thoroughly wiping out nests with disposable rags doused with rubbing alcohol. Conduct any end-of-season preventative pesticide applications to control moths or borers that try to lay last-minute eggs or hibernate in tree bark.

Trunk Protection

Consider coiling the lower 4 to 5 feet of the fruit tree with a flexible protective wrap made of soft nylon or a metal mesh or cage-like sleeve. Garden centers carry appropriate tree wrap materials for your region, depending on climate, sunlight intensity and material durability. Fruit tree bark tastes delicious to hungry animals in winter, especially mice, rats, rabbits and deer. Opaque tree wraps also provide protection from drying sunlight on the southern and western sides of trunks, preventing cracking and premature sap flow in winter.

Keywords: fall gardening tasks, fruit tree maintenance, fruit tree care

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," non-profit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He holds a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware and studied horticulture and biology in Australia at Murdoch University and the University of Melbourne.