Follow the sun: Organic fruit tree care

Orchard, February 2010

Orchard, February 2010

When a gardener gets a beautiful sunny day in February, it cannot be wasted. By noon on Saturday, our temperatures were hitting the sixties, the sun was out in full force, and wind was minimal. It was the absolutely perfect day to put a layer of dormant oil on my fruit trees. Now, this isn’t exactly a task I have been looking forward to, but I would have kicked myself had I not done it — today (as you can see in the picture above) the weather has already turned cloudy and damp which is not ideal for dormant oil spraying. To take one step back on this, I have been debating whether or not to use the dormant oil spray. I’ve been reading a variety of sources about organic fruit tree care and keep getting conflicting guidance. Some guides recommend nothing more than good pruning and planting around the trees with native grasses and flowers, plus mulching with organic matter, especially manure. Others recommend a few applications of dormant oil spray and then later a copper spray. This year, I decided to give these minimal spray applications a try, and yesterday was the perfect day to get started.  I still feel confused about this topic, however, so if you have more experience growing organic fruit trees I’d love to hear your opinion on this matter.

The other major initiative I am undertaking this year to bolster my orchard is to learn beekeeping and get a hive.  Even with the best fruit tree care, I won’t have much of a crop if I don’t have good pollination.  So keeping a hive in my orchard seems like a good idea.  Plus, I might be able to play a small role in helping the struggling honey bee population. To learn how to manage a hive, I will be taking the Natural Beekeeping course at 21 Acres, a local non-profit community farm focused on sustainable agriculture.

I did manage to do a little more than just the dormant spraying yesterday. I weeded the two raspberry beds and the asparagus bed.  Laura at the Modern Victory Garden had the same exact idea and made huge progress doing spring tidying tasks.  See, when a gardener gets a beautiful, sunny day in February, it cannot be wasted.

I’ll leave you with a few pictures of impending spring.

Shiro plum tree, February 2010

Shiro plum tree, February 2010

Garlic patch, February 2010

Garlic patch, February 2010

Hellebores, February 2010

Hellebores, February 2010

Rhododendron, February 2010

Rhododendron, February 2010


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6 Responses to Follow the sun: Organic fruit tree care

  1. kitsapFG says:

    Looks like you had a busy and productive day on Saturday too! No advice to share on the fruit trees, I have always used the dormant oil spray on our previous fruit trees with good success but never tried anything else to compare it with.

    The bee adventure is very exciting! What a nice addition to your orchard and garden and the honey will be a great benefit too.

    Are your rhodies really breaking bloom?! Ours have significant swelling but nothing is close to popping yet.

  2. Hi Laura,

    Yes, I have rhodies blooming. This is the variety called Christmas Cheer (I think) and it blooms very early. I have to say everything does seem a bit ahead of schedule this year since we had such a warm January.


  3. yikes! I want to spray mine too but had forgotten. Hoping for more non-rainy weather this weekend so I can get out and do it! Wade at Rockridge Orchard told me I should use something I bought and now forgot what it is. Something organic though. What are you spraying to prevent? Now I can’t even remember that much. Mildew maybe?

  4. If you find out what Wade recommended, let me know! The dormant oil prevents various pests. There is another organic spray to prevent mildew, but I haven’t done that yet. I think that comes later anyway. If you get any good tips please let me know because I am finding tree care quite confusing. 🙂

  5. He’s on vacation right now. I got that Backyard Orchard book but I need the cliff notes for dummies. I guess I’ll dig through it again tonight. Gah! Swore I’d have this figured out by late winter. I guess we’re there, right?

  6. I finally got my linkwithin working again and saw this post which I had forgotten about:

    Explains that dormant spray important for preventing mildew later. I had forgotten that so I’ll be spraying this weekend.

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