Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Enjoy fresh fruit from trees

Boasting boughs of blossoms in spring followed by fresh flavorful fruit later in the season, it's no wonder why fruit trees are so popular. With dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties available, even an average-sized yard can accommodate a pair of fruit trees.

Notice that I said "pair" because many fruit trees, although not all, need to have a second tree to act as a pollinator and even trees that are self-fertile may produce better with another tree nearby.

Fruit trees will perform best when planted in full sun and well-drained soil. Adding compost to heavy clay soil or sandy soil will improve drainage. We also recommend using a plant starter for any new planting. This will help get your fruit tree off to a good start.

With consistent care and proper maintenance, your fruit trees will flourish. To control insects, spray trees in mid-March with dormant oil.

Trees younger than 8-10 years should have their trunks wrapped from October through April. This protects the young bark from splitting due to the heat created by the sun's rays reflecting off of the bright, white snow.

Any pruning should be done in late fall to early spring when the tree is dormant. Pruning during active growth disrupts the natural growth cycle and can expose interior branches to sun scald if pruning is severe. On the other hand, if you have a fruit tree that you wish would stop producing fruit, there are sprays that can be applied early in the season to prevent the blossoms from forming fruit. Although, you won't get your fresh apple pie or plum preserves that way.