This has been a great year for tree fruit growth and maturity on the West Coast of British Columbia. Harvest started in July for stone fruit and will be continuing into November for some late maturing pome fruits. While you are harvesting your fruit is a great time to evaluate the growth and production of your trees and to plan for their future. Did they produce as well as you had hoped? How did they do compared to previous years? If they did not measure up in any way now is the time to sort out why and to start thinking about solutions. Late winter when the trees are about to start the next year of growth and you are about to prune them is a poor time to start thinking about ways to improve their growth and production.
Some of the things you should be evaluating at this time of year include:
- Where on your tree did the fruit grow? If it all grew in the top and outside edges of your trees, there may be too much shade in your trees reducing the health of interior branches. All parts of fruit trees need to receive direct sunlight for optimum health.
- Is this years crop a lot smaller or larger than last years? If it is, your trees are biennial (many apples and pears are biennial). Fruit trees are easier to manage and they produce more fruit over time if biennial cropping is eliminated.
- Are there a wide range of fruit sizes on your trees from very small to very large? This is usually caused by pollination problems or too much shade on the inside of the tree.
All of these problems can be corrected through modified pruning and some other practices. Future posts will provide more information about harvest season evaluation and ways to improve future harvests.