POP TIPS: April Orchard Care

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Phil Forsyth

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Apr 4, 2022, 9:25:36 AMApr 4
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Dear Philly Orchardists,
April is a key time for orchard care and efforts now will help ensure better harvests later in the year.  

Please check out our POP Monthly Orchard Task List for recommended maintenance activities to complete this month (the April list is also attached below). 

Here is some more detail on some of the key tasks for April: 

Spring Orchard Sprays 


Check out our brand new blog post about Effective Microorganisms (EM-1), including how to make your own mother culture and a full recipe for holistic orchard sprays!


Apply holistic orchard sprays. Holistic sprays are composed of compost tea, liquid fish/seaweed, neem oil, and/or effective microbes. For best tree health and resistance to disease, apply up to 4 times in the spring (after bud break, at first pink of flowers, after petal fall, and two weeks after petal fall).  


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Compost tea is one of the most effective ways to boost soil and plant health; early spring applications can help build resilience to pests and disease. 


Depending on specific pest or disease problems, some orchardists might also consider other organic sprays including the ones listed below.  In particular, plants that have suffered severe crop loss from fungal diseases (like brown rot, mildew, or scab) may be candidates for an early spring sulfur or copper spray.  This is best applied shortly before or after bloom, so the time is now if you want to do this.  


Check out POP’s guides to orchard applications of:

Compost Tea Sprays for Orchards

Effective Microbes

Neem Oil Sprays

Kaolin Clay Sprays

Sulfur Sprays and Early Spring Management Techniques

Pyrethrin Orchard Sprays

Bt: Bacillus thuringiensis Orchard Sprays

Spinosad Orchard Sprays



Spring Orchard Planting


It is safe to plant new orchard plants as soon as the ground can be worked.  POP's preferred spring planting period is between the beginning of April and mid May, so plants have some time to get established before the heat of summer hits.  Remember that fall is also great for planting most orchard plants, and fall plantings actually have better survival rates!  


Need some ideas on what to plant that will perform well in Philadelphia?  


Saturday, April 9
1:00pm - 2:30pm

Fruit for Your Yard Workshop @ Bartram's Garden

Learn about the different types of fruit & nut trees, berry bushes, and fruiting vines that can be grown in your home garden.

Residents of Southwest Philadelphia and other low tree cover zip codes can sign up to receive a free fruit tree (fig, pomegranate, or plum) via TreePhilly at the workshop!  


POP is also holding a Plant Sale and Open House event at our new orchard and nursery space at The Woodlands on Saturday, May 14.  




Spring Weeding and Compost/Mulch Application


Yes, spring weeds are already popping up and never too early to get ahead of them!  Also a good time to trim back any dead herbaceous material from companion plantings of flowers, herbs, etc.  


Building healthy soil is key to supporting trees’ health, resilience and yields. Weed around the base of trees, and spread at least one or two inches of chipped winter prunings, shredded leaves, and/or mulch or compost in the early spring. Check out POP’s guide to Ramial Wood Chips and Weeding in Place.  


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Wood chips, especially ramial ones (which include tips of branches) are actually great for soil building in orchards, helping to foster fungal networks of mycelium (white strands in photo) that support tree health and help transport water and nutrients in collaboration with root systems. 



Early Spring and Emergency Pruning


Check out our newly posted video on pruning raspberries and blackberries


While optimal dormant pruning season is now behind us, those of you who waited on your peach trees should prune them now (peaches are the only fruit tree typically pruned during or immediately following flowering).  


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Unlike other fruit trees, peaches are best pruned during or after bloom. 


For all other trees, most pruning should be limited to emergency pruning only: 


Keep an eye out for any diseased, damaged, or dead wood that should be pruned away no matter the season. Pay special attention to the base of trees - especially of the stone fruit varieties: apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines - and prune away root suckers, the quick upright growth that can be a cover for dreaded borers, which make a home beneath trunk wood.


Remember: use sharp, rust-free hand tools and sanitize between trees at the very least, and between every cut if the tree you’re tending has had previous conditions. For easy disinfecting, we recommend carrying a spray bottle with you of rubbing ( isopropyl) alcohol or a bleach solution (1 part bleach: 10 parts water) to wipe down tools.  




Pest and Disease Monitoring & Identification


Spring is when many pest and disease challenges show their first signs!  Observe the orchard regularly throughout the year for pest and disease problems, identify and respond appropriately.  We've been distributing physical copies to community partners, but you can check out our POP's Scouting Guides for pest and disease management available for download on POP's website: 


These guides are intended to help properly identify the insect pests and diseases that affect the following common fruit trees: 


The guides include lots of photos and a description of how to identify the particular pest or disease and the damage caused by it.  Proper identification is essential to treating these problems, as each has its own unique options for management!  Once you have identified a pest or disease, you can then consult our website for management recommendations  by using our search function: 


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Keep your eye out for the first generation of Oriental Fruit Moth, which attack branch tips, causing dieback called flagging!  This is usually first seen in late April or early May.  Prune out any branch tip flags and kill the larvae inside.     


Unwrap Figs and Pomegranates

It is safe to remove winter protection on these tender plants if you haven't already done so.  Despite a few extreme temperatures this winter, we aren't seeing much if any winter dieback thus far, although early Breba crops are unlikely this year.  Hopefully a good year for fig production! 


Wishing all a bountiful orchard this season.  Enjoy the spring orchard flower show!  


Phil Forsyth, Co-Executive Director
Philadelphia Orchard Project
Pronouns: he/him

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