April 2023, tips for a garden orchard
As the day temperatures gradually increase, trees are beginning to wake up, revealing the first green tips as the buds start to open. This stage of development is called bud burst. It requires attention because various types of insects love these newly-developing green parts of the fruit tree. In most organically-grown orchards, these insect communities are kept in balance by natural predators. However certain aphids and caterpillars may develop too fast. In this case, action may be required. In the photos below, a few examples of bud burst.
Bud burst is accompanied by many other processes that call for care in the garden orchard. For example, there are fungi such as scab and mildew. Some fruit tree varieties are resistant to these diseases. Other excellent varieties have a low level of resistance. In general, good air movement throughout the tree is the best defence mechanism available to reduce the infections caused by the spores of these fungal diseases, and this can be attained by a good trees structure, in turn achieved by good pruning.
This is also the time when spring frost damage to the blossom of fruit trees is likely to occur. Keep fleece handy to cover those blossoms which are at risk when temperatures drop below zero. Here is a video on using fleece for frost protection. The natural resistance to freezing temperatures is gradually decreasing, as trees wake up from their winter sleep. Often the damage looks worse than it really is. Open bloom is most vulnerable. Not all blossom opens up at the same time. therefore often the later-opening escape the frost and may develop into a worthwhile crop. Obviously types of fruit differ as to when blossom open. Early flowering trees such as apricots and peaches suffer more compared with later-flowering types of fruit such as apples and peers.
This is also the time when birds of all description are becoming short of food. Any fruits such as shrivelling and slowly-decaying fruits which were kept in storage rooms are gratefully received by the birds. Particularly when the worms have retreated to the lower layers of the soil for protection. Any help given around the feeding table to all types of birds is fully repaid when caterpillars are the main source of food, later in the growing season.
April is also the month when all pruning activities need to be finalised. There are so many activities which need to be given priority. Remove all grass and tall weeds close to the trunk of the trees. Maintain a generous weed free area around the trunks of the trees. Trees do appreciate organically-based manures such as “DUG”. Sprinkle this dried chicken manure around the trunks of the trees following the instructions on the bag. In the photo below, an example of how grass can be controlled around a fruit tree, in this case with a layer of gravel.
Finally, grass is the biggest consumer of rain water this time of the year. Make sure the trees do not go short of water later on in the season. Apply a mulch where needed to preserve the moisture for the trees during the growing season.