Good fruit the result of good practices

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 28, 2014

SALISBURY — Growing fruits can be very rewarding if they are cared for properly. If fruit trees, shrubs or vines are neglected, it can be hard to get the plants and trees in the shape they need to be. Below are some questions we received on helping keep the fruits in shape.
Question: Do you really have to prune fruit trees, vines and shrubs? We were always able to get our grapes in the trees and they never needed any pruning.
Answer: I would not like to climb trees to get a handful of grapes. That being said, the main reason the fruit were at the top of the trees is because that is where they were receiving the most sunlight. If you do not have your fruit in the proper location, receiving at least six hours of sunlight, your fruit production will be very small. If you choose to not prune, you are also helping reduce the sunlight, which will, in turn, reduce your fruit yield and help increase the possibility of disease. With all fruit trees, shrubs and vines it is almost always a necessity to prune unless you don’t mind poor fruit and yields.
Question: Why should I take a soil sample before I plant my fruit trees?
Answer: Soil sampling is the most important thing a gardener should do before he or she plants. Fruit trees can last for many years if they have the best location and the best soil. If you plant before taking a soil sample, you run the risk of having issues with your soil. It is much easier to amend the soil before you plant than after. For example, if you plant a peach tree that prefers soil to be around 6.5 pH and you did not take a soil sample till after you planted and the soil was a 5.0 pH, it is going to be extremely difficult to get the pH up to where the tree needs to be since it has already been planted.
Question: I want to have an orchard but I do not want to use any pesticides, how can I do that?
Answer: If you prefer extra protein from worms in your fruit, scars, holes, disease, poor yields, etc., then you will not have to spray pesticides. It is very difficult to have an orchard where you do not spray any pesticides. As much as we love fruit so do many insects and diseases, which cause problems for anyone starting an orchard and not wanting to apply any pesticides. Most orchards are on a spraying program to limit disease and pest problems. Most fruit connoisseurs are not happy when they bite into fruit and find a half-eaten worm or black spots on a juicy peach.
Question: When should you start pruning and training your fruits?
Answer: You need start training almost as soon as you plant them. Starting early helps ensure a long, fruitful life for your trees, vines and shrubs. They are all trained in different styles, so it is important to know what to do before you plant.
For more information on growing, training, and producing your own fruit contact local Extension agent Danelle Cutting at 704-216-8970, or visit some of the websites below:
Muscadines: http://www.smallfruits.org/Muscadines/production/MuscadineGuide2003.pdf
Fruit trees: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/ag29.html

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