Though it’s technically the dead of winter, this is what I always think of as California’s secret spring. The hills have turned green from recent generous rain and the trees are just beginning to stir, with a few showing flowers but most displaying fat flower buds beginning to swell. Though there’s a scarcity of fruit to glean, only a bit of citrus and guavas, the promise of the summer harvest can be detected by the perceptive eye.
Feed Your Trees So That They Can Feed You
The end of winter is when I generally fertilize our entire orchard. Some locations are lucky enough to have innately fertile soil, especially old riverbed valleys, but most places and trees can do with an annual nutrient boost. The first step is to figure out if a particular tree actually needs fertilization, for there is no point in wasting nutrients and money on them. The chart below, from Peaceful Valley (www.groworganic.com) outlines how much your fruit trees should grow every year.
Figs and citrus should show 12” of growth as well. If your trees show less than the growth in the chart, then they need fertilization. Use a high nitrogen fertilizer. I like Gardner & Bloome fruit tree fertilizer which is available at many local nurseries as well as online. Apply in late February or early March in a donut shape around the tree, so that no fertilizer touches the tree trunk or 6 inches around it. Then create a ring of fertilizer between that empty center and the drip line, which is the outer edge of the trees branches. Work the fertilizer lightly into the soil with a rake and water in if there is no rain in the forecast for the next few days. How much fertilizer to use depends on the age of the tree. A good rule of thumb is a pound of fertilizer for every inch of tree trunk diameter. Peaches and cherries are particularly heavy feeders, so they can take a pound and a half per inch of trunk diameter. Citrus trees are the hungriest fruit trees of them all, so they can be fed 3-4 times a year, instead of just once.
The Best Fruit Tree Varieties for the California Central Coast
I will be giving a free presentation, open to the public, about the best fruit varieties from our over 200 varieties in the orchard at Birdsong Orchard. It’s on Saturday, February 15th, from 4-6 pm at Whiskey Hill Farms, 371 Calabasas Road, Watsonville, CA. I am going to discuss the fruit trees that have thrived in our orchard and produced the best fruit, covering apricots, peaches, plums, pears, persimmons, apples and figs.