Source: Sherman Publications

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Bumper apple crop expected
Spring: Time to prep gardens, plant trees

by Susan Bromley

March 27, 2013

Brandon Twp.- Spring is here and even though the temperatures are still cold, the snow is gone and soon the earth will turn green again.

In anticipation of the growing season, Dennis Ashton recently hosted a fruit tree pruning and care seminar at Ashton Orchards, 3925 Seymour Lake Road. This week, the public is invited to attend "Wojo's Flowerbed and Yard Preparation," from 7-8:45 p.m., April 1, at the library, 304 South St.

The weather this month has been a sharp contrast from last March, when southeastern Michigan experienced 80-degree temperatures. While many enjoyed the warm weather then, it resulted in devastation to the state's fruit crops later, when buds bloomed early and then were hit with a hard freeze in April.

This year, Ashton is expecting a bumper apple crop.

"This cold weather isn't good for people who want to be out in their shorts, but it's the best thing for fruit trees," he said. "Everyone in the state is expecting a bigger crop, you always get a big crop in a year following a small crop. Last year when there were no apples on the tree, trees produced a lot more flowers for this year's crop."

During the fruit tree seminar March 23 at Ashton Orchards, he explained to roughly 50 attendees how to care for apple and peach trees. Although he said it is fun to try, it may be harder than they expect.

In Michigan, fruit trees will grow almost anywhere. They need bright sun and good black dirt. They will grow in clay and sand, but you will need to add organic matter or water more often for sandy conditions.

In order to have apples, you must have at least two trees, each a different variety such as Granny Smith and Red Delicious, because they will not self-pollinate. Peach trees are self-pollinating.

In the first year or two, growers will obtain a few apples, but in order to achieve a few bushels per year, apple tree growers must do consistent maintenance, which includes regular shaping and trimming of the tree, cutting out dead and broken limbs and "water sprouts," limbs that go straight up and down and not out.

Ashton explains too that you don't want an apple tree to grow too high, because you can't pick the fruit and you can't spray the tree, which is essential to having a successful apple tree.

"You have to spray a lot," he said. "You spray the trees with fungicide every week in the spring, sometimes twice a week, especially if it's raining a lot, if you want fruit. In the summer, you don't have to spray as much and then you spray with insecticide. You can not grow apples without spraying."

Ashton said fertilizer is very important in the spring, too. Trees can be planted as soon as the ground has thawed.

Kurt Batschke, annual retail manager for Wojo's Greenhouse, 2570 Oakwood Road, will present the library seminar on preparing your garden this Monday, as well as a second seminar on what flowers to plant in this area on April 22.

"(This Monday) we are going to talk about the things we can begin with outdoors," he said. "Even though the weather is not hospitable, ornamental grasses need to be cut, and there is pruning and cleaning that can be done. Get a rake in hand and some clippers. Primarily, you can do clean up to get debris out of the way that breeds disease and bacteria in things that will start growing."

Batschke recommends cutting back hardy grasses right to the ground and said now is the perfect time for softer pruning on select leafy shrubs, Spirea, wigelia, barberry and cottoneaster. What gardeners want to avoid pruning right now are hydrangeas and azaleas.

Once the frost is out of the ground, it will be time to apply fertilizer. Now is also a great time to start some of the early vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts indoors in small pots. Keep in mind, he adds, that indoor temperatures for these plants should be between 70-75 for good germination and light is very important. Keep plants near a window or suspend fluorescent lighting over the pots.

"It's a good time to tinker around in the yard and garden," noted Batschke. "Everyone has cabin fever, more so than in previous years. We are happy to help with your plans and and placement for your garden, as well as when and what to plant. If you would like to bring pictures of your yard and garden area, we can help you. It's never to early to plan your garden."