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The Green Thumb: it's time to begin preparing fruit trees for cold weather



  This program aired in September 2021.

The weather forecast for the next week predicts much cooler temperatures, fall is finally upon us. As fall progresses, fruit plants need some attention to help them prepare for winter.

During September and early October, the last of the peaches and apples will be harvested. At the end of the season, it is time to begin preparing fruit trees for the cold weather that will shortly come. The idea is to not do things that encourage growth.

Here are some ideas to consider.

Fall is not the best time to fertilize fruit trees. Fall is a great time to fertilize turf grass, but not a great time for fruit crops. When nitrogen fertilizer is applied in the fall, fruit trees are encouraged to grow. If they continue to push out new growth this time of year that new growth won't be prepared for the cold weather that is sure to come.

Fall is not the time to prune fruit trees. Wait until spring to prune fruit trees. Pruning is invigorating so pruning in the fall delays acclamation for cold weather. Fall was not the time to prune grape vines either. Wait until the plants are free dormant in the late spring or early winter of 2022.

Northern Utah has received spotty precipitation through the late summer. Even though we want trees to go dormant, drought stress is not the way to accomplish this. Continue to water fruit trees throughout the fall. A deep watering every week or so is preferable to more frequent shallow irrigations. Once the leaves turn color and begin to drop from the trees, irrigation can be slowed or stopped.

Following these strategies will help your fruit trees prepare for and survive the winter to produce a bountiful crop in 2022.