POP TIPS: January Orchard Care

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Phil Forsyth

Jan 3, 2024, 1:36:24 PMJan 3
to Philadelphia Orchard Group
Dear Philly Orchardists,
Wishing everyone a joyful and bountiful new year!  

Orchard care is a year round undertaking and January is the kickoff to pruning season in our climate.  Please check out our POP Monthly Orchard Task List for recommended maintenance activities for this month (the January list is also attached below).  To learn more, you can also check out our 4 part POPCORE workshop series on POP's youtube or plan to join us for our just posted hands-on pruning workshops this winter.  

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

Orchard Tool Evaluation and Maintenance

With pruning season getting started, this is a good time to evaluate your tools and equipment.  What's missing?  What new tool might make your life easier?  Order replacement saw blades for any that have dulled.  Sharpen your pruning blades with a hand sharpener like this: 

pruning tools.jpg
The basic orchard pruning toolkit includes pole saw, pole pruner, loppers, handsaw, hand pruners, bowsaw, blade sharpener, and spray bottle of alcohol for sanitizing blades. Not pictured: pole loppers and tripod orchard ladder! 

Winter pruning

Check out our complete orchard pruning video series on  POP's YouTube Channel!  Hands-on is the best way to learn pruning and we just posted our winter workshop series: 

The calendar and the cold tell us that it's time again for pruning fruit trees, berry bushes, and fruiting vines.  It is important to prune most fruiting plants every winter, regardless of their age!  Essentially everything except peaches are best pruned while dormant, between January and early March.  

Guild House West pruning.jpg
Annual pruning of almost all orchard plants is best accomplished during dormant season from January to mid March! 

Here is a quick list of the reasons for annual pruning:

1. open all parts of tree to sunlight
2. increase air circulation
3. improve quality, quantity & consistency of harvest
4. prevent infection and spread of disease
5. create good structure to support fruit
6. avoid breakage from poor branch angles
7. control size for easier harvest
8. ensure penetration of sprays
9. stimulate vegetative growth

You can find POP's full fruit tree pruning guide on our website (revised version coming soon!):

And here's our guide to pruning berry bushes and fruiting vines:

A printable version of the POP Pruning Guide is also attached below and don't forget our video series!  

Winter pruning season is also a good time to remove any remaining mummified fruit on trees, which can be a source of disease spores if left until spring.  

Pest and Disease Monitoring & Identification

Many orchard pests and diseases have gone dormant at this point in the season. During winter pruning, we also look out for and remove any mummified fruit still hanging on the trees (pome and stone fruits primarily).  And keep an eye out for overwintering Spotted Lanternfly eggs! 

Spotted Lanternfly egg masses can be found on tree trunks and pretty much any other hard surfaces.  Scrape them off and dispose of them. 

Orchard Education Opportunities
Winter is the season for ag education and farming conferences!

Join us at the PASA conference in Lancaster- POP staff are teaching two sessions and there is plenty of other orchard-related content this year! 

This year's conference is in person at Rutgers University and features 30+ workshops on a wide variety of topics. 

3. Also check out POP's new list of learning opportunities, including both local and virtual options. 

Hope springs eternal- wishing all a bright 2023! 

Phil Forsyth, Co-Executive Director
Philadelphia Orchard Project
Pronouns: he/him
POP-Monthly-Orchard-Task-Sheet JAN.pdf
POP Pruning Guide.pdf
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