By Gary Jones
When deciduous fruit trees such as peach, plum, apricot and apple lose their leaves in the winter, they become dormant.
Around this time of year, they can be easily planted due to this dormancy. Not only are these trees perfect additions for the late winter season, but now is the best time to prune and care for them.
Here are some helpful tips to use that will give your yard a head start heading into the spring months.
First, consider how big you want your tree to be and how much space your yard allows. Most nurseries carry semi-dwarf trees, but trees vary by variety. You will need a minimum of eight feet between them.
Pick your variety based on your location within the county. Your local garden center will know which fruit trees are the best suited to your “chilling” hours.
Amend the soil with an organic planting mix and include a starter fertilizer at the same time. Make a soil “well” around the base of the tree to hold three to four inches of water.
Fruit trees should be planted in full sun. Once the tree begins to leaf out, feed it with an organic fruit tree fertilizer every three months until late summer.
Deep water it once every seven to 10 days, but do not keep the soil constantly wet.
Once its leaves have dropped in the winter, prune any dead branches, those that crossover others and grow toward the center of the tree or any branch not growing upwards in at least a 45-degree angle.
Otherwise, these will break when the fruit matures.
Be sure to rake up old dead leaves and discard them accordingly. There may be fungus spores or insect eggs that could harm your trees if left to compost.
After you clean up, be sure to use a dormant copper fungicide spray. Just follow the directions on the label. Do not use copper spray on apricots as this may cause fruit not to set.
—Gary Jones is chief horticulturist at Armstrong Garden Centers, which has locations on Friars Road and Morena Boulevard. Email your drought and gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.