Fall Fruit Management
September 4, 2023
Fall foliar feeding can have a substantial impact on next year’s fruit and berry yield.
Bud initiation for strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries generally occurs in September for the following year’s harvest. At this critical point, plants have generally not rebuilt their post-harvest energy to a substantial degree which is why generous yield improvements can be achieved using foliar feeding at this point and time.
Bud initiation on peaches, apples, pears, and cherries may occur even earlier, as early as June, July, or August, which means that this year’s fruit is likely still on the tree. This can trigger an energy crisis that results in biannual bearing – unless nutrition and energy levels are managed well.
Whichever crop you are growing, it is important that plant energy levels are maintained during this critical bud initiation stage; that is, if you want to set the potential for large amounts of equally sized fruit for next year. For fruits and berries, this stage comes at a time when it is tempting to think that we can walk away; it yielded what it did, and hopefully next year will be better.
When we understand how critical it is to rebuild energy levels at this point, it should shift our perspective. We should realize that NOW is the critical time if we want buds that are evenly set, are filled with nutrition, and that will survive the winter and spring frosts.
There is another reason that fall nutrient and energy management is important in tree fruit. Many growers wish to adapt more natural practices from the perspective of disease and pest management, and find it hard to do. I usually say that growing organic vegetables is easy, especially when you compare it to organic tree fruit production. And from my perspective, it is because of mismanagement in the fall.
Take peaches as an example: In the fall, peach trees will lose their leaves and enter dormancy. Hopefully, the trees will survive the winter, and come spring when the weather is warm enough, they start to bloom. The problem is that almost no leaves are on the tree at this point, which means that little to no energy is being produced through photosynthesis, which in turn means that the newly developing buds are dependent on the energy that was put there last fall and stored during the winter.
If the energy was low last fall – and it usually is unless managed exceptionally well – these buds and trees are very susceptible to insects and diseases that come down the pike the next spring; and there are plenty at that time.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The solution is to develop a vibrant ecosystem in the soil, using some herbs and other diversity, and to make well-timed and appropriate fall applications to both the soil and the trees. When you do this properly, you will experience much healthier trees and fruit.
Those who want to, will make a way.
Source: Melvin Fisher | Sponsored by Keystone Bio-Ag LLC