Time to be thinking spring…garden, orchard, & berry patch!

Yup, yesterday morning got me thinking about spring…garden, orchard, berry patch…YEA!

I’ve been putting it off because of weather, mud mostly, but yesterday was one of my most favorite times of spring (ok, late winter)…pruning my fruit trees.

I spent a couple of hours hacking away at my apple, peach, cherry trees like a man in love. Okay, that sounds a bit oxymoronish I know. But I am pretty harsh when it comes to pruning. Now remember, several of my trees are only coming into their third year, the other 4 are only starting their 2nd year. The single most important goal for new trees…setting really, really good root system. The #2 goal is as strong a trunk as you can get.

#3 is great shape…meaning strong branches, well-formed and correctly placed. To get the branches and shape right…I am pretty brutal when it comes to pruning…at least when the trees are young. I think the main idea…keep the center of the tree as open as possible to allow plenty of light in to ripen the fruit. And of course you want to ensure strong branches to begin with…and that means directing as much of the tree’s energy to producing those strong branches.

So the late winter, dormant, pruning is done. Now, I have to find the right location and dig 4 more large holes (3’x’3) for the 4 dormant apple trees my neighbor gave be last year. They have been sitting in a planter pot just waiting for me to not be lazy and get them in the ground. Maybe Saturday…we’ll see.

But the most fun yesterday…planting 30 dormant raspberry bare-root starts. One of my buddies, and a good neighbor, has a huge raspberry and blackberry patch. He offered some of his canes that had grown outside of his patch…duh, of course I took him up on the offer. We dug up 30 really good looking canes, some of which already had the new starts hiding in the ground several inches below the surface.

He also turned me on to a new product called Agri-Gel. It’s a formulation that absorbs and holds water to roots. The swollen crystals adhere to plant roots, reducing transplant shock. Safe, nontoxic, easy to use. Useful for garden seedlings as well as woody plants. Highly recommended for brambles and conifers. Let’s see if I can tell a difference.

I already had my holes dug, had filled them several times with water to get the surrounding area saturated with water. Remember, I live in a dry part of the country, starting out with moist soil is a must. I didn’t use the native sandy soil. I did a mix of my local compost plus Grow King composted steer manure. No added fertilizer at all in the hole to start out. Brambles should not be planted with fertilizer, wait till they are well established before fertilizing.

I saturated the holes really well with water after planting. I will do a light & loose layer of weed-free straw as a mulch today. I will also cut back the canes to 6” – 12” above the surface. Remember, it is not the old canes that will produce the fruit…it will be the new shoots that come up that will produce the fruit.

I checked on my strawberry patch when I was done. Some of the protective winter straw mulch has gotten a little thin but is still protecting my plants. I am not quite ready to uncover them yet, some cold weather still ahead. But they are close, within a month I am pretty sure. I will look for the new growth on the plants, then they get uncovered…should the weather look promising.

I am behind the curve on building my new above ground containers for the garden this year. I am just running out of time each week. I have already scrapped the cattle panel green house due to lack of time. But, I won’t ignore the planting boxes…and you know why…we must grow food this year!

So how are your garden, orchard, and patch projects coming along?




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