As usual there is a lot of information to cover for you in this month’s growing tips.
Frequently Asked Questions, basic questions for you to answer to help you make choices for new plants to put in your orchard or landscape. The December and January Growing Tips FAQ will continue with the theme of how to make plant selections so you can succeed with your fruit harvesting goals.
If hard winter freezes are at least four-six weeks away you can continue planting potted nursery stock and Spring Flowering Bulbs. West of the Cascades our typical late fall temperatures are mild enough that you can still fall plant through the end of November. We include Fall Planting Instructions and our Raintree Plant Owners Manual with each fall order we ship; or click on Growing Info from our home page to view or download the Raintree Plant Owners Manual.
FALL BULBS: It is time to Plant your Spring Flowering bulbs when the soil has cooled to about 50-55°F. For best results have your bulbs in the ground at least 6 weeks before your first hard freeze (26°F) to give roots time to establish. If hard freeze is fast approaching you can plant bulbs in containers and sink the containers into the ground for the winter, or keep the containers in a cool garage to receive enough chill hours without being damaged by too much freezing. When the bulbs come into bloom next spring, move the pots to add color to your landscape or home, or as gifts.
To pot bulbs for best growth and display, use a container that is deep enough to allow the tops of the bulbs to be several inches below the surface, and broad enough to hold several bulbs. Remember bulbs need a well-drained soil, so use a potting mix with good drainage properties. The following example is for a 12” deep and 12-15” wide container. Start by putting 3” of potting mix in the bottom of the container. Select 8-10 daffodils or tulips, and lightly press them into the potting mix, equally spaced randomly or in a pattern. Make sure the flat looking bottoms are down and the pointed or narrow tops are pointing up. They will be closer together than you would normally plant them in the ground. Gently add soil to cover the bulbs and fill the pot.
In order to have bulbs blooming for many weeks in the same container, place the bulbs in layers in the container. Start with daffodils or tulips on the 3” base layer of potting mix. Add just enough potting mix to barely cover the bulbs and arrange another layer of bulbs. Use a smaller sized narcissus or tulip bulb, or perhaps Dutch Iris. Again add enough potting mix to just cover the bulbs, if there is enough room in your container you could add more Dutch Iris. You could also top off your container with an everbearing strawberry; alpine, lipstick, or pink panda would top the container equally well. Add potting mix to just cover the last bulbs or plants and water in. Sink the finished container in the ground and mulch. In particularly cold locations the ground next to the house will stay warmer than ground further away. Next spring as the first green shoot tips emerge remove the container from the ground and position where you can enjoy the show. You may also keep the container in a cool location (garage or other out building), about 26-40 deg F, until new shoots start to appear. Keep the soil moist, light will not be necessary until the shoots start to emerge. The bulbs have to experience a certain number of hours below 40 deg before they can start growing in the spring, so avoid locations that might warm above 40 during the day during the winter. As each variety finishes blooming the next will come along for a long spring show. The everbearing strawberries will keep the interest in your container going, with beautiful flower color, or fruit from the alpine strawberries. Please view our Fall Bulbs page to see what we have to offer this year.
When should I transplant a tree or shrub I previously planted in the wrong spot? Fall is an excellent time to relocate your oversized or struggling plant that has been in the wrong spot, or one that was planted in a temporary location last spring. Ideally your plant should be fully dormant, or nearly so. Make sure the root system is well watered a week or so before digging it up. Get as much of the root system as you reasonably can and water well after you re-plant. If you need to move a larger tree, plan to take a little more time with the process. Start in October or early November, when the plant is nearly dormant. Dig straight down into the ground 12-18”deep, to sever the roots, along 1/3 of the planned root ball perimeter. Later in November dig along the next third of the perimeter. In December dig the final third along the perimeter and under the root-ball so you can lift the tree out. Carefully reset it in its new location and water in well. A little bone meal, or slow-release phosphorous source mixed with the back fill is beneficial, otherwise do not apply fertilizers. If you did not add mycorrhizal fungi to the soil when you originally planted, adding some now will be helpful. Finish your planting by applying a ½ inch layer of compost over the surface, then 3-4” of coarse material, keeping the mulch at least 2” away from the trunk (Raintree Plant Owners Manual pg 4).
Harvest Hints: Check for ripeness and harvest late apples, pears, quinces, medlars, nuts, fuzzy kiwi, lingonberry, and cranberry.
Medlar fruit are ready to eat when the flesh is soft, after it has gone through a ‘bletting’ process. You can leave the fruits on the tree until they are soft (frosts seem to help). Here at Raintree Nursery we are often picking our medlar about the same time we are harvesting our trees, around mid-December. You can also pick them at the firm ripe stage, when the seeds have matured to a dark brown to black color. Store the fruits in a cool location, then finish bletting them at room temperature to eat. The flavor of medlar reminds me of a spiced applesauce with a bite.
Quinces are ready to harvest when they are aromatic and the seeds have matured to a dark color. The background color in the portion of skin that never sees the sun changes from green to yellow or yellow-green about the same time the seeds mature. Eat non-astringent varieties while firm, sliced and mixed with fruit salads or mixed into an apple pie; or allow them to soften and use in the same way as astringent varieties. Store astringent varieties until they have softened, then make jellies, jams, butters (see recipe below), etc..
Lingonberry and cranberry are harvested when the fruit are fully colored (bright red lingonberries to deep red cranberries). They are both used to make sauces, jellies and wines, or in baked goods. The fruit can be frozen for later processing if your time is short when you harvest. While they are used in the same way, the flavors of the two are a bit different, lingonberry tend to be more complex flavored and aromatic than cranberry.
Kiwi: (The plural of Kiwi is Kiwi.) Whether small and smooth, or larger and fuzzy, if the fruit have softened, kiwi are ripe and ready to eat. Kiwi tend to ripen unevenly on the vine and can be picked as they soften over several weeks. Or the whole crop can be picked when the fruit is firm ripe (berry feels firm, and when you cut them open the seeds inside are mature, dark brown in color), and stored in a cool (35-45°F) location. Finish ripening the fruit in a warm area as you are ready to eat or process it. Kiwi are enjoyed fresh, and made into jam, jelly, or wine. Small fruited kolomikta or arguta kiwi are also delicious dried like a raisin. To dehydrate, the fruit needs to be at the fully ripe soft stage. Remove the blossom end and a pinch of skinfrom the washed fruit and it is ready to put in the dehydrator.
Walnut, Butternut, and Heartnut are cured and stored like filberts, but cleaning them is a bit more involved. Knock the nuts from the tree when the green hulls begin to split and the packing tissue between and around the kernel halves has just started to turn brown. Remove the hulls as soon as you can. There are several ways to remove the hulls: Use a knife, stomp and roll the nuts with your foot, roll over them with the car tire, between two boards, or work them over a rough screen to loosen and remove the hulls. If the hulls stick tightly to the shells, moisten them and cover with a moist tarp or burlap sheet for several days to loosen. Particularly with black walnuts, but also with the others, wear gloves when handling the hulls to avoid staining your hands. Wash the nuts to remove clinging fibers, discard any floaters. (My first big harvest of butternuts and heartnuts was 90% floaters, we cleaned them up anyway, they were all blanks!) Spread the nuts in thin layers on the floor or on wire mesh trays in a warm well-ventilated area out of direct sun to cure that is pest proof (mice, squirrels, jay birds, etc.). Curing will take several weeks; the nuts will tend to rattle in the shell when they are done. Store the nuts in their shell in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location for several months. Shelled nuts may be frozen for up to a year. We offer the Kenkel Nut Cracker #T360 for hard shelled Black Walnuts, Butternuts and Heartnuts.
Apples In the Pacific Northwest, the earliest varieties are often ready to start picking by mid-August. If you are not sure when you should start checking the varieties in your yard for their ripeness, review the ripening order list (see Growers Info on our home page) as a guide. Some people like their fruit more green and tart, others more ripe and sweet. As with pears, the background color of the fruit skin away from the sun will change from green to a yellow or pale orange as seed maturity approaches. A further test of apple ripeness is to cut the fruit open and look at the seed color, dark brown indicates the seeds are mature. October and November, with their cooler temperatures, slow down the ripening process, so fruits will tend to last longer on the tree than they did earlier in the year. The latest ripening varieties, in October or November, will also have the best storage properties. Some varieties, such as Karmijn de Sonneville and Red Belle de Boskoop, are best after they have been stored a month or two, during which time the starches convert to sugar. Applesauce is a great way to make use of all that fruit ripening at once. A Fruit Strainer and Sauce Maker will help you get the job done quickly. If you intend to store some apples set aside the nicest looking fruit, clean with a fruit wash, and let dry. Put in boxes that will breath, and keep them where the temperature will be a fairly steady 35-40º F. and there will not be any rodents to eat the fruit before you do. Do not store your apples with potatoes or other vegetables, the ethylene gas given off by the ripening apples reduces the storage time of your produce significantly.
European and Asian pears. European pears are usually harvested before they are fully ripe and kept in a cool place (45-55°F) for a few days or several months, depending on the variety, to allow the outer portion of the fruit to catch up with the ripening of the core. Early maturing varieties (August to early September) tend to need less storage time and may occasionally be in good condition if left on the tree until full ripe (core not over-ripe and starting to rot). For best results, the fruit is ready to pick when its stem readily separates from the tree as you bend the fruit upwards. You can also check the background color of the fruit where the sun doesn't hit it, when it changes from green to light green or yellow the seeds are generally mature. Cut the fruit open and check the color of the seeds, which are usually dark brown to black when mature. Stored fruit is ready to eat when the blossom or stem end gives a bit when you gently press, or the stem easily pulls out of the fruit. Skin color change is not as reliable an indicator.
Asian pears do not continue ripening after they have been picked, so leave them on the tree until they are fully ripe. Look at the background color of the skin on the side facing away from the sun. When the color changes from green to yellow or golden the fruit is approaching maturity. Cut open the fruit, the seeds are black when the fruit is mature, and the taste should be just right. Another option, after the back ground color has changed from green, is to gently poke your thumbnail into the skin of the fruit. If your fingernail easily pierces the skin it is generally ready, if the skin is still tough then it is not ready. The fruit often ripens unevenly on the tree. Only pick those that are ready. If your trees do not receive enough summer heat or water, the fruit may not develop much flavor or sweetness, even though the seed is mature and the fruit appears to be ripe.
Here is a tasty and easy recipe to try, from ‘Preserving Memories’ by Judy Glattstein #S075 $18.95
6 or 8 large quinces (If you have only a couple of quinces, make up the difference with apples or pears.)
Juice of ½ lemon
1. Wash the quinces. Scrub them with a coarse kitchen towel to remove any fuzz. Peel, cut open, and core. Set aside the peels and cores. Drop the prepared fruit into enough water to cover them and mix with the lemon juice to keep the quinces from turning brown.
2. Put the peels and cores, which are high in pectin, into a cheesecloth bag. Make the cheesecloth bag by taking a large square of cotton cheesecloth, double it over, then double it over again. Put the peels and cores in the center, gather up the corners into a pouch, and tie them with kitchen twine.
3. Lift the fruit from the acidified water and put it in a Dutch oven with enough water to cover. Add the pouch of cores and peels. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the fruit is easily pierced with a skewer.
4. Strain, saving the liquid but discarding the pouch of peels and cores after pressing in it to remove as much liquid as possible.
5. Purée the fruit using the coarse plate of a food mill. Measure the purée and add between two-thirds and an equal amount of sugar, depending on your preference for sweetness.
6. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, until the spoon leaves a track when dragged through the purée.
7. Fill and process prepared jars.
Make jellies, dried fruit, butters, cider, or lingonberry sauce to go with your Thanksgiving turkey. Make lingonberry sauce the same way you would make a cranberry sauce. For each 2 cups of berries add ½-1 cup of sugar and ½-1 cup of water. Simmer until the fruit is tender, cool, and enjoy.
You can find more Raintree Recipes under Raintree Projects in Growing Info in the top tool bar.
Grapes and Berries: Inspect the condition of supports and wires. After fruit harvest, remove, clean, and store nets used on berries or grapes.
Weeds: Control weeds around established fruit trees, berries, and cane fruits, make sure applied mulches are at least 2” away from the trunks of trees and shrubs to minimize rodent damage.
Tree Trunks: Take steps in the fall to protect young trees against sunscald injury. Sunscald injury occurs when warm sunny late winter days that encourage the sap to rise in the tree are followed by freezing nights that freeze the sap in the trunk. The next day, when the sun comes out and rapidly warms the trunk, the rapidly thawing cells rupture. Later in the spring you see vertical splits in the bark. Wrap young tree trunks with Tree Guards (#T364) to reflect the sun and prevent rapid thawing. You could also white-wash trunks with white indoor latex paint mixed 50% with water. As the trees mature and the bark gets thicker the risk of sunscald injury decreases. (Raintree Plant Owners Manual pg 21)
Figs: Provide protection for fig trees in more severe winter areas. Figs initiate fruit late in the summer that over-winter and ripen the next summer, known as the Breba crop. The trees and initiated fruit are hardy to about 10° F during the first part of winter, following a normal hardening off. In the Pacific Northwest our typical late winter temperature fluctuations break the dormancy of those initiated fruit leaving them more vulnerable to damage by spring frosts. In the Pacific Northwest Desert King fig (#D310) produces reliably without protection.
There are several methods people use to protect their fig trees, but any method should only be applied after the trees have gone fully dormant, and just before the first severe weather episode, to allow the trees to harden off well. One method is to put a cage around the tree, fill it with straw or other coarse material, and put plastic over the top to keep the straw dry. Remove the cover when night time temperatures will stay above the mid 20’s. This works best on trees that have been pruned to a bush shape. Another method is to dig into the ground under ½ of the root ball, out to the drip line, so you can tip the tree over onto its opposite side. Cover the tree and exposed roots with soil and coarse mulch and then plastic to minimize mold. Tip to one side one year, the opposite side the next year. Keeping your trees protected until spring has properly arrived will help minimize late frost damage on plants that are no longer fully dormant. You may have to cover and uncover if temperatures fluctuate and your fig starts growing. Keep an eye on covered fig trees, rodents may also appreciate your efforts.
Collect soil samples, if needed, for testing the pH and nutrient content of your soil. Healthy plants are grown in soil that meets their needs for pH, nutrient availability, and soil structure. A soil test is a helpful diagnostic tool when you have a plant that is not growing as well as it should, and you have eliminated other possible explanations. Your local co-operative extension office will have a list of soil testing labs. Find your local co-operative extension office in our Useful Links, located in the Growers Info link on our home page.
If you haven’t done so already, it is time to clean your mason bees and blocks, and prepare them for winter.
By October, mason bees have finished pupating inside their cocoons and are mature, waiting for springs’ signal to emerge. Between now and early December you can handle the bees inside their cocoons without damaging them, or waking them up accidentally, making this the ideal time to clean your mason bees and blocks, and prepare them for winter. It is important to keep naturally occurring mites and parasitic wasps to a minimum to maintain the health of your bee population.
Gently remove cocoons from the stacking trays. Trays should be cleaned with a mild (5%) bleach solution. Cocoons can also be carefully washed in a mild bleach solution to remove mites and maintain a healthy population. For complete instructions refer to “Pollination with Mason Bees” (#S426).
If you are using the block and straw system, carefully remove the bee filled straws from the block. New clean straws can then be inserted in the block. The book “Pollination with Mason Bees” has instructions on removing the cocoons from the straws if your bees are infested with mites and need to be cleaned.
If you are using home-drilled blocks without straws it is best to make new blocks each year and not re-use older ones. It will not be possible to remove the cocoons without damaging them, or remove mites and other debris. Place your new block where the filled one was and store the filled block outside or in a refrigerator as described below. Late January, or when your fruit tree flowers appear ready, position the filled block a few feet lower and below the new block. When your bees emerge in the spring they will use the new block.
Storing your bees outdoors :
Mason bees over winter outdoors and survive temporary periods of below freezing weather in the Pacific Northwest. Store the bees (loose cocoons or straws) in a mouse proof container with small breathing holes until late January. Loose cocoons or straws should be cushioned on several layers of soft paper inside a cardboard box inside the mouse proof container. Keep the container in a dry location. Bee filled wood blocks will benefit from being stored in a mouse proof container also. Then in late January you can put the blocks out, or the cocoons out in the release box, and they will become active as outdoor temperatures warm. You can also manage when the bees emerge by storing them in the refigerator, see instructions below.
If your environment is more extreme, the bees may not survive the winter outdoors. You will need to store them in the refrigerator, as described below, for best results.
Storing your bees in a refrigerator:
If you need to protect your mason bees from severe winter weather, or you want to manage when your bees emerge in the spring, to coincide with blooms in your orchard, you need to keep them in the refrigerator at 36-39° F. Put the bees in the refrigerator late September or early October, or just after cleaning and drying the cocoons, for the most reliable results. It is important to maintain proper humidity for the bees if you store them in a frost free refrigerator. Put the cardboard box of cocoons or filled wood block inside a plastic bag that you put several small holes in, along with a barely moist paper towel. Close the bag, and put it in the refrigerator. Mason bees will be eager to emerge from their cocoons by mid-February, earlier if you waited to put them in the refrigerator until December. Look for hints regarding releasing your bees in the February Growing Tips, or the book “Pollination with Mason Bees” (#S426).
View our Bees and Bee Supplies page to order bees, nest blocks, or books.
If you have not yet experienced your first fall frost, as your first frost date approaches prepare hardy plants you are growing outdoors in containers for winter. Plant roots are generally not as cold hardy as the top of the plant, so they need to be protected from freezing during severe winter weather. Sink containers to the rim in well drained ground, or surround containers with sawdust or other insulating material. Another option is to plan to move dormant plants to a cool (35°- 45° F.) location during severe weather episodes (remember to take them back outside when temperatures moderate to keep them dormant until spring).
If you are moving frost-tender plants indoors for the winter, be sure to harden them off (see Raintree Plant Owners Manual, pg 2) and inspect for insect infestations. Wait until indoor plants are dormant to repot or pot up to a larger container, generally late December to early January. In the December Growing Tips I will discuss re-potting techniques. Through the winter months indoor plants need less fertilizer, reduce fertilizer to ¼ strength applied once per month or none at all, until active new spring growth resumes.
Potted Figs: If your winter temperatures can go below 20° F, moving the plants to a cool (35°- 45° F.) location during severe weather episodes works well to protect the roots from freezing. You could also try burying the dormant plants.
A week or so before your first hard freeze lay your fig on its side in a hole, pot and all. Cover with mulch, then soil, to a depth where the fig tree will not freeze. Cover the mound with plastic to minimize rot. Uncover and remove your fig from the hole as soon as the risk of hard freezes has passed. Keep the container buried in the ground with the top upright a bit longer if there could be a surprise freeze, to keep the roots protected.
If you prefer to keep your dormant figs indoors through the winter, it is best to keep them cool (35°- 45° F.) so they remain dormant until day lengths are increasing. Move the dormant plants indoors when the first episode of significant winter weather is approaching. Inspect the pots a couple of times each month to make sure the soil remains moist. You can put the pots back outside in between extra cold episodes if you don’t experience too many or they are not very long. If your plants start growing before it is safe to put them back outside, move them to a bright location, but still keep them cool. At temperatures above 60° F they may try to grow vigorously and end up ‘stretched’ from low light levels.
Double check the plants you brought indoors last month, make sure hidden insects are not re-establishing (Raintree Plant Owners Manual pg 22).
Evergreen Citrus, Sugar Leaf, Bananas and Lemon Grass require bright light through the winter months. Provide supplemental light with plant growing bulbs if your plants seem to be getting leggy, 12-14 hours a day, and reduce the temperature to a range of 50-60° F. To keep your Meyer lemon fruiting regularly, protect it from regular exposure to temperatures below 50° F. Maintain proper humidity for your citrus and banana by misting daily, keeping a tray of pebbles and water nearby, or use an indoor water feature.
Sugar leaf (Stevia rebaudiana) is a tender annual. Protect it from exposure to temperatures below 35° F, and provide plenty of bright light. The sugar content of the leaves seems to be highest when the plants are initiating flower buds, and seed production needs to be avoided to keep the plants growing (they die after producing seed). So each time the plants are in a bloom flush harvest the leaves by cutting the main stems back to 3-5 nodes. Dry the leaves slowly, out of the sun, for the best results.
Stevia, citrus, and Lemon Grass need a well-drained soil and lots of oxygen available to the roots, allow the soil to become mostly dry between each watering, but not quite to the point of wilting, to avoid root rot. Keep bananas evenly moist, but not constantly soggy. You can hold these plants at cooler air temperatures (45-55° F) and reduce the potential for root rot if you provide bottom heat for the roots. A seed starting mat that maintains a temperature of about 72° F works well.
Avoid fruit tree pruning, except broken or dead limbs, if trees or shrubs are not fully dormant or approaching dormancy. Open wounds heal more slowly as trees are approaching dormancy, increasing the opportunity for fungal infections to occur. If you have not yet done so, cut out old dead fruited canes from blackberries, raspberries, and related hybrids after fruiting and tie in the new canes for next year. Cut everbearing raspberries and blackberries to the ground after all the fruit has been picked. New canes will grow next spring and produce fruit in the fall. You could also cut the everbearing canes to just below where they fruited this fall, leaving the lower portion of the cane to fruit next summer.
Be careful not to over-water plants in the greenhouse or indoors as their growth slows down with shorter and cooler days. Water thoroughly, then allow most plants to dry out before watering again. Provide humidity for citrus and other sub-tropical plants growing indoors. Outside, most locations will receive enough rainfall. If you are in a drier location check the soil once a week, apply water to new plants as needed to keep the soil evenly moist.
Anthracnose in apples can be controlled with a copper spray applied after fall fruit harvest and before the rains begin. Cankers can be cut out or cauterized late spring to early summer as well (Raintree Nursery Owners Manual pg 16). Removing or heating the new lesions each spring will significantly reduce the amount of innoculum available to cause new infections the next fall. Look for areas on the bark that appear darker, or wet looking, test with a knife to see if the area feels soft, or the area under the bark is dead (brown).
Cauterize individual canker sites by heating with a small torch only until the surface bubbles. If it starts to turn black you have overheated the area. Treat the entire area of infection plus 1/4 inch beyond its perimeter, making a pointed oval shape.
Cut out infection sites with a clean sharp knife, cutting to the cambium layer. Remove the entire infection area plus 1/4 inch beyond its perimeter, making a pointed oval shape. Burn or destroy the piece you remove.
Fireblight infections occur in both apples and pears, in locations that experience warm humid summers. Fixed copper spray or Bordeaux mix applied in the fall and early spring can help control this disease. A more reliable solution is to select resistant cultivars to plant. In western Washington pear and apple trees may exhibit symptoms that look like fireblight, particularly blackened shoot tips that curl over at the top, but the trees will usually be infected with pseudomonas disease.
Pseudomonas is an opportunistic bacterial disease that infects tissues damaged by frost, physical wounds, or other diseases. If the bacteria are established in the tissues they can also increase susceptibility to further frost damage. The organism is active when there is rain and temperatures are low, from frost to the low 40’s. Asian pears are more susceptible than European pears, generally, and apples are somewhat susceptible. Stressed trees are more likely to be infected, such as newly planted, those in soil that is too wet or too dry, or weak non-thriving trees. Cultural controls include pruning susceptible trees (i.e. Asian pear) only during the dry season and preventing frost damage in blossoms of susceptible European pear varieties. Several types of copper sprays (read the label to be sure what you have will work) applied before fall rains and again before spring growth begins can help if you tend to have infections every year. Streptomycin or terramycin applied at early bloom will control blossom infections.
Continue keeping fallen fruits picked up and used or discarded to control apple maggot and other fruit infesting insects.
Rust Diseases are fungal diseases that cause lesions on the upper surface of the leaf, or on the fruit or stem, that are followed by clusters of orangish structures on the lower side of the leaf, or on the fruit or stem, that produce spores. Rust diseases require an alternate host, typically a different plant species, to complete their life cycle, with both hosts releasing spores (release times vary with types of rust diseases). Spores may be carried on the wind up to 6-10 miles. As is the case with most fungal diseases, sprays may prevent, but seldom control, infections. In addition, sprays for rust diseases are often not available to the back yard grower. The usual cultural recommendation is to remove the alternate host or plant resistant varieties. Keep in mind though, there are many varieties of fruit and berry plants that have not been tested for rust disease resistance, either because they are not comercially viable, or the rust disease in question is not common where they have typically been grown. When rust disease involves the rosaceae (rose) family, the list of hosts can include apple, pear, quince, crabapple, hawthorn, mountain ash and serviceberry. You might also try removing and destroying infected parts of your fruit trees and other local hosts and alternate hosts you can find, to try to interrupt the life cycle of the disease.
Contact your local co-operative extension office to find out what, if any, fruiting plant rust diseases are typical in your area. If you believe you have an infected plant, take a sample to your extension office for positive identification.
There are some rust diseases that are common, such as cedar-apple rust in the North Eastern States, currant or gooseberry blister rust also in the North Eastern states, or Pacific Coast Pear rust in the Pacific Northwest.
Pear leaf blister mite is a small eriophyid mite that makes bronze colored football shaped raised bumps on the foliage and can also cause russetting on the fruit. Apply a fungal spray at prebloom and/or post harvest for best control. Micronized sulfur; or lime sulfur (at label rate) mixed with horticultural mineral oil at the rate of 1-2 gal/ 100 gallons (2-4 tsp/gal) of water are effective. Do not use the oil if trees are stressed. Adding the oil also helps with control of over-wintering pear psylla, spider mite, and San Jose scale.
Stone Fruits: Apply fungicide for coryneum blight control at 50% leaf drop and again during the dormant season. (Raintree Plant Owners Manual pg 17) The commom name for corynium blight is shot-hole disease, because the holes in the leaves typically look like a shot gun pattern. Corynium blight may also infect buds, which fail to grow the next season.
Peach: One of the more significant fungal diseases in the Pacific Northwest on peaches is Peach Leaf Curl. Once the chill requirement for the peach tree has been met, the bud scales “unzip” (you will not be able to see any change, but the bud scales will no longer be sealed closed), leaving them vulnerable to peach leaf curl infection. Generally, sprays for peach leaf control start in December in the Pacific Northwest. However, if you followed the standard time table of first treatment mid-late December last year for your low chill peach variety and still had a significant rate of infection, you might want to consider applying your first spray in November (mid-late November). In the Pacific Northwest where chill units can accumulate rapidly early in the fall season (such as the Puget Sound area, coastal areas, or cool valleys), low chill varieties (500 hours or less) are more likely to need the first spray applied in November. You can learn more about chill hours on our Growing Info page, found on our home page. Time tables for treatment vary in different parts of the country, contact the co-operative extension office in your location for recommendations. Peach leaf curl infections can only be prevented, control treatments are ineffective.
There are two primary methods of treatment. One is to apply fungicide at 1 month intervals, late December through February (Raintree Plant Owners Manual pg 17). Another method is to keep the stems of the tree dry. Put plastic over the tree, with supports to keep the plastic off the stems (condensation can wet the stems), after the tree has gone dormant and before the buds have “unzipped”. Or train a tree against a wall under an eave where rain can’t hit it. You could also grow a genetic dwarf tree in a container, and move the container to a rain protected location during the disease infection period. An additional benefit to keeping the stems dry is you also control other fungal diseases that would normally affect peach trees.
The easiest method is to select a cultivar of peach that has some degree of resistance to peach leaf curl, then you may only to need to spray during the first few years. (Click on Pre-Order for Spring, select Fruit Trees, then select 'Peaches' and then 'Curl Resistant' to view our peach leaf curl resistant varieties).
Contact your local co-operative extension office for disease or insect management recommendations that are appropriate for your location. Find them listed in your phone book, under county listings; or look at our Useful Links page, found in our Growers Info page, found on our home page.
Are you planning to put in more trees or shrubs next spring? If you know what trees and shrubs you want, and where they will be planted, you can prepare the planting holes for them now. Make a plan of where you will plant your new trees, and mark the locations in your landscape. Remove the surface vegetation from a 2-3’ wide circle (for a shrub or tree), fracture and loosen the soil with a digging fork or shovel (you don’t need to lift and turn), and cover the area with a thick mulch of straw, leaves, or other coarse material. Next spring when it’s time to plant you can just pull the mulch back, dig the hole, and plant. Refer to the Raintree catalog for spacing information.
How do I choose plants for my location? We are proud of the amount of information we provide our customers in our catalog. If you are sitting in an easy chair and looking through the Raintree catalog, you are probably wondering how you should go about deciding which of the myriad of choices you should choose for your yard. Answering the following questions will help you in making decisions. Knowing the answers to some of these questions will also allow Raintree’s horticulturist to better help you. Our horticulturist can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
How will I use the fruit? If you will process the fruit, i.e. make jams or can, it is valuable to have the fruit ripen over a short period of time. If you are looking primarily for fresh eating, then selecting for a longer harvesting season will probably work better for you. For example, if you want to grow strawberries, choose a June or July bearing variety for processing, or an everbearing for all summer fresh eating. Choose both for the best of both worlds.
Evaluate your location. Find out what the typical temperature patterns (summer and winter) and rainfall patterns in your local area are. Neighbors who have lived in the area a while, members of local garden clubs, or your local co-operative extension office are good resources. In our catalog and our web site you will find a USDA Hardiness Zone Map (Growing Info, home page), which provides information on the average minimum winter temperature. Most of our plants will have a hardiness zone rating, sometimes listed with the variety, sometimes listed in the ‘How to Grow’ box in the catalog, or select Plant Care under Growing Info. This rating only tells you the minimum winter temperature the plants typically survive when properly hardened off. We do not have a good rating system at this time for summer patterns, but if known, individual descriptions will indicate if a particular plant tolerates hot or cool summers well. If you live in the south then you also need to know about chill hours, view our Chill Hours Chart (Growing Info, home page) for an explanation and more information. Contact your local co-operative extension service to find out how many chill hours typically accumulate each winter in your area. Find your local co-operative extension office in our Useful Links page, found in Growers Info.
Find out what insects and diseases are typical in your area. If you ask your local co-operative extension professional what varieties they recommend for your area, you will usually be told commercial varieties, because that is what they are familiar with. Instead, ask them what the typical insect and disease issues are in your area. Then you can make selections based on resistance or tolerance information available in our catalog, or, make a plan for controlling problems you can expect with the susceptible varieties you prefer to grow. If you see resistance information about a particular disease for one variety but not another of the same kind of fruit in our catalog, either that variety is susceptible, or it has not been tested so is unknown.
Determine pollination and ripening time of the fruit you want to grow. Use the Pollination and Ripening Charts (under Growing Info, top tool bar) on our web site to find out what the pollination requirements are of the type of fruit you are interested in, then choose specific varieties that will pollinate each other (if needed). The same information is also available in our catalog, in the How To Grow section for each type of fruit, or the pollination charts. I like to make selections that will allow for a long picking season of a particular kind of fruit. For example, I know I need at least two varieties of blueberry for best pollination. If I choose one variety each from the early, mid, and late season ripening columns I know my pollination needs are met, plus I can pick fresh blueberries for about 3 months.
You can find more helpful hints on choosing plants in Choosing Which Plants Will Work for You .