A new year has begun on the calendar and also in the orchard. The unseasonable temperatures of late November through mid-December here in the Midwest have put some kinks in the winter work schedule. Not only is pruning on hold but the peach trees are a little confused if this is Winter or if this is Spring. Some varieties of peaches are actually showing signs of bud swell. However, the apple trees are not showing any indications of bud swell and the forecasted colder temperatures for this week will be most welcome. We were fortunate that the recent precipitation came in the form of rain and not snow. These late season rains have helped rebuild the water table. Sometimes it is easy to forget the importance of having a sufficient natural water table. Most of the time many of us take water for granted. We turn on the tap and we always have water at our fingertips. Agriculture demands water. No water, no food. It is as simple as that.
The warm temperatures of late November and early December did, however, present an excellent opportunity for us to transplant our grafted trees. Our experiment this Spring in grafting some scions from heirloom trees onto new rootstock proved successful. These trees were planted into the established orchard. When transplanting these grafted rootstocks we also took a proactive approach to the rodent problems. Mice love to invite themselves to dinner at our expense in the orchard. These mice are field mice or voles. Technically different, but to us all the same, PESTS. Rodents tunnel around the base of the trees and munch on the roots. Hard to believe but trees actually succumb to these rodents. We have removed many more than one or two grown apple trees because of these uninvited pests. So knowing all this, we made an attempt to attract the pests away from the tender tree roots with an application of bait. Not one hundred percent effective but at least we feel we have made an effort.
Not looking forward to pruning, but it is a necessary chore. We try to give each and every tree a “haircut” each year. We will be spending quite a few hours doing this trimming or pruning when the weather changes and the trees become dormant.