Stella Otto: The Backyard Fruit Gardener

Today's Tip: Mow vegetation short around the base of fruit trees and bushes to reduce winter habitat for rodents.

Nine Steps to Winter-proofing Your Fruit Garden

As we enjoy the “Indian sum­mer” weather we are also aware that this is the time to pre­pare the fruit gar­den for the win­ter ahead. Up here in the north, as Octo­ber arrives we know that soon the white stuff is going to fly. Here are items not to be for­got­ten that will help your fruit gar­den sprout strong and healthy at winter’s end:

Autumn is the per­fect time to pre­pare a spot for next spring’s fruit planting.

1.  Take soil sam­ples.
2.  Spread lime as needed for soil pH adjust­ment.
3.  Add com­post.
4.  Turn in sum­mer green manures or cover crops to allow time for organic mat­ter break down and nutri­ent release into the soil.

Take proac­tive steps against pests and diseases

5.  Rake mulch back from bushes and tree trunks and mow grass short to reduce over­win­ter­ing habi­tat for rodents.
6.  Make sure rodent guards are rest­ing at ground level to pre­vent hun­gry voles sneak­ing under­neath to gnaw on tree trunks, canes, and branches.

Pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble plants in mar­ginal climates

7.  Bury ten­der grape vines and figs after leaves have dropped to pro­tect from cold in extreme north­ern cli­mates.
8.  Move pot­ted figs to a shel­tered loca­tion.
9.  White­wash tree trunks to pro­tect against sunscald.

Take time to enjoy the harvest

Most of all, remem­ber why you gar­den and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Har­vest the last of the fall fruit—blackberries, grapes, apples, and late pears. Unblem­ished, long keep­ing apple and pear vari­eties can be stored in a cool, humid loca­tion or an extra refrig­er­a­tor to enjoy now and in the months ahead.
Press cider. Freeze some to enjoy mulled for the hol­i­days or try your hand at hard cider making.