By MIKE ROEGGE
For those of you with fruit trees, now is a good time to review your plan to care for them during the coming year. Having trees in the backyard provides a bountiful harvest of the best-tasting fruit that you can eat.
For instance, when is the last time you've bitten into a peach and had the front of your shirt drenched with juice?
If you've never tasted a just-picked peach, you'll never know how great the taste can be. You just don't get that with store-bought peaches.
Apples are the same way; just-picked is the only way you can actually get what a real fruit tastes like.
There are several diseases and insects that can be prevented at this time of year (when the temperatures are above freezing and before much growth occurs in the spring)
Peach leaf curl is a disease that can cause the peach leaves to grow very distorted in shape and defoliate the tree. It can also affect the fruit, causing fruit drop.
Some years are worse than others. Control is easily achieved with a lime-sulfur spray, before buds swell in the spring.
The other major disease of peaches is brown rot (which causes the fruit to turn brown and drop). Control begins at the first signs of flowering in peach. Use Captan to control this disease.
Apple scale is controlled by an application of superior oil any time before green growth appears, as long as temperatures are above freezing for the next 24 hours.
Pruning of apple and peach trees can occur this spring as well. Commercial apple growers begin pruning in midwinter. Backyard peach trees can be pruned now, but it may be a better idea to wait until all frost events have concluded to know how well flowers survived.
If we get a normal crop, heavy pruning can occur, but if we get a late freeze that kills 90 percent of the flowers, a lighter pruning should be considered.
Our office has guides to help in pruning fruit trees, and we also can provide a homeowner's spray guide to help in controlling insects and diseases of fruit trees.