Spring Tips for the Fruit Garden
by Leonard Perry
by Leonard Perry


In extension I serve as an advisor and consultant to the greenhouse and nursery industry, primarily in Vermont but throughout the region and beyond as well.

I give presentations on my research to the industry, and to home groups. In Research, my focus is "herbaceous perennial production systems".

His website is at  Leonards zone of gardening: home with my trials, generally USDA 4a. Campus in Burlington is 5.

March 18, 2007

Pruning, removing mulch from strawberries, and fertilizing blueberries are some of the activities in the fruit garden during spring.

Late winter and early spring is the time to order bare-root fruiting trees and shrubs if you haven’t done so already. They will be shipped before they start to grow, in time for planting in your area. They will need to be planted immediately upon arrival, so plan your spot now.

As soon as the buds start to swell, it's time to begin pruning apple, plum, and cherry trees. Plum trees should be pruned to an open center, while apple and cherry trees grow best pruned to a modified leader (center is more closed and tree is more upright). Remove any dead, diseased, or broken branches, as well as crossing branches and twiggy, nonproductive growth.

Spray horticultural oil on fruit trees, such as apples, plums, and cherries, to smother any overwintering insects. Choose a calm day when temperatures are above 40 degrees F, and be sure to cover all sides of the branches. You can also apply it to evergreens to control spider mites and other insects. Carefully follow the instructions on the label for proper usage and appropriate plants.

Check strawberry plants twice a week for signs of new growth in early spring. As soon as you see sprouts, remove the hay or straw mulch and spread it in the rows to help control weeds. A topdressing of an inch or two of compost will give plants a boost.

Check apple, cherry, and other fruit trees for nests of tent caterpillars. Blast low-lying nests with water to destroy them, or knock them to the ground and destroy them. A spray of Bt will kill emerging caterpillars but is not toxic to beneficial insects, birds, or humans.

Blueberries benefit from an acidic fertilizer each year. Apply one half pound of ammonium sulfate when the bushes start blooming, and another half pound four to six weeks later. If the leaves turn yellow with green veins, they may have an iron deficiency. Applying two to three ounces of ferrous sulfate or iron chelate around the base of the plants will help this.

If you have red raspberries and didn’t get them pruned after harvest last year, do so now. Keep in mind the summer-bearing varieties produce fruit on one-year old canes. So prune out those that fruited last year to direct plant energy into the newer canes. Wait to prune fall-bearing varieties until after their summer crop, as they produce fruits on new canes at the end of the first growing season, then again the following summer.

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