We have already discussed the things that you should consider in planning and starting an orchard in your home. But actually, it does not just end there. The real essence of having an orchard is in the care and maintenance phase. This is the stage wherein you have to dedicate your body, mind, soul and most especially, your heart. This is where your passion and love for the environment comes out.
Again, your orchard should have your favorite nut and fruit-bearing trees. If you have just planted them, it will still take years for them to grow and bear fruits. While you are waiting for the harvesting season, you should be knowledgeable on how to provide care and maintenance for your trees and your orchard.
Pruning is a horticultural practice that involves the removal of some certain parts of the trees that inhibit its growth and development. After you plated the tree, prune the top immediately to restore the normal ratio of roots to the top. Most fruiting trees need to be pruned while they are still dormant in winter. Of course, you need to have pruning tools (pruners, clippers, shears, and loppers). Remove the deadwood and unwanted branches. Basically, always maintain the tree in shape. Perform pruning every year.
Mulching is done to improve the fertility and the health of the soil by applying a layer of material to the top area of the soil. Mulching is also used to reduce weed growth that also affects our plants. Mulches are usually organic in nature. But there are also other materials of mulches like old carpet, rubber, plastic, rock, and gravel. Mulches can be applied anytime. But commonly, mulching is done after planting the tree to maintain the moisture of the soil.
Pollination is ideal for fruit trees to produce seeds. It is the process of moving the pollen grains from one plant to another. There are many ways to perform pollination. It can be natural in which animals like birds and bees carry the pollen to another area, or through the wind. Usually in orchards, hand-pollination is done. To do this, you have to manually transfer pollen from one plant to the pistil of another. You can use cotton swap, small brush or pollen-sprayer.
After the first season, your trees will need a little nitrogen to speed up its growth. Head to your favorite shops and purchase fertilizers. We recommend the use of organic, high nitrogen fertilizer which includes composted chicken manure, soybean meal, blood meal and feather meal. The amount of fertilizer that you will apply depends on the age of the tree. Just follow the instructions on the packaging of the fertilizer. Basically, peach and hazelnut trees demand more fertilizer than any other fruiting trees.
Fruit thinning aims to achieve the appropriate fruit size and annual bloom of fruiting trees. It involves removing flowers or young and immature fruits. It also stimulates next year’s crop, helps to prevent limb damage from heavy fruit load, and improves the size, color, and quality of fruits. To do this, you just need your hand or pruners and carefully remove the excess fruits. Do fruit thinning in the early stages of fruit development or after pollination.
Commonly, mature fruit trees need period irrigation. You need to wet the top two to three feet of the soil. Perform watering every two or three weeks. We also recommend micro-irrigation systems. This type of irrigation method use trickle, micro-spray or micro-sprinkler to water the tree line of the orchard, whereas conventional methods can wet traffic-lane between rows. Also, the amount and frequency of water provided by micro-irrigation systems are enough to match the requirements of the crop.
Basically, pest control can be done through the use of synthetic pesticides. However, this method is not sustainable and is not healthy for the environment, especially your orchard. Also, pesticides can kill the natural predators that protect your trees. It is important that you perform organic pest control methods and understand the predator-pest relationship. Orchard predators like beetles, earwigs, hoverfly larvae and lacewings kill pests that attack your trees. During spring and summer, wasps and hornets provide fantastic pest control.
Weather is unpredictable. During windy seasons, trees will lean, thus, it is important that your newly-planted trees are stalked. In sunny periods, you can paint the trunks of the trees with water-based white latex to prevent sunburn. During the winter season, it is important that you initiate frost protection. You can place heaters or frost fans around your orchard. Sprinkler systems also clear the ice that surrounds your trees. Also, in your planning stage, remember not to plant trees in low-lying areas.
Deer are really close to nature. They are attracted to young trees. Thus, they can become a nuisance to orchards, home gardens, landscape foundations, and agriculture. It is important that we fence our orchards to keep the deer out. In some countries, fencing is a must, especially in apple orchards. An alternative to deer fencing is the use of mesh netting because sometimes deer can jump above our fences. You can also position guard dogs around your orchards to scare the deer. Just always remember not to use harsh repellants or shoot-to-kill the deer.
Harvesting and Storage
After all your efforts of taking care and maintaining the fruit trees, it is the time for you to reap all your hard work. But before harvesting, you should make sure that the fruits have reached full maturity stage. The maturity of various fruits can depend on the variety, season and weather conditions. For example, different varieties of apples have varied ripening seasons – “Gravenstein” in July, “Gala” in August, “Jonagold” in September, “Fuji” in October and “Granny Smith” in November.
Apples can be harvested when they easily separate from the tree when twisted upward. Apricots, peaches, plums, prunes and sweet cherries ripe when ready for picking. European pears are usually picked when green.
Once harvested, wash the fruits first. If you want to store them, make sure you wrap them in paper and place them in cold storage.