Well, another fruit season is underway. Since early January we have been pruning in the apples, beginning with the large, mature trees. We took advantage of a couple relatively warm periods and have more than two thirds of the pruning done. We do not prune within three days of super cold weather (10F or lower). This can lead to winter injury near the pruning cuts.
This season we are backing off on the total amount of branches removed because of the heavy crop last year. The heavy crop used up a great deal of fruit buds so fewer flowers will develop this spring. Many folks mentioned how heavy their fruit crops were last year. Over cropped trees have lower carbohydrate reserves for a crop this year so pruning will only remove more potential buds. At our farm we removed over 80% of the fruit as it developed last spring. This will allow for a good crop potential for this year. Crop load management is the most important part of fruit growing.
Next up for pruning will be the pears. Again, a heavy crop last year means light pruning this winter. We wait till bud break to prune the plums and cherries and just before flowering on the peaches. This is done for disease prevention and so that a reasonable assessment of crop potential can be made prior to pruning.
Our lowest temperature so far has been minus 7.5F. This will damage some peach buds but we are more concerned about the fluctuating temperatures in between those cold periods. Not much you can do about it but you can cut some branches, place the stems in water and bring them inside to force the flowers to grow.
A silver lining for all the cold will be fewer bugs and diseases this growing season I guess.
Extended periods of snow on the ground can lead to vole and rabbit feeding on tree trunks. It is imperative for fruit growers to check fruit trees that are unprotected with either guards or paint right now. Just go out and pull back the snow from the base of trees and inspect for girdling by the mice (voles). This can kill the trees. Rabbit feeding is usually restricted to cutting the small shoots that they can reach but they can also girdle the trees in winters like this one. The best remedy for both pests are tree guards of one form or another. Also, you can reduce rabbit damage by pruning some branches now leaving them in place. This provides a food source for them instead of your living tree.