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Now is the time to winterize your orchard.

Fruit growers can take action now to eliminate or reduce problems their orchards will encounter this winter.

Those problems include excess moisture in the soil, rodents, and winter injury, said Gerald Brown, Extension horticulturist with University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture.

"Now is an especially good time to take a look at those problems because the harvest is in," said Brown. "Growers should take a look to see if they have an excess water problem in their orchards, and if they do, where the water is coming from. Maybe they can divert the water with a ditch or drainage tile."

A "saucer-like" dip in the soil around a tree should be leveled off so water won't collect there and freeze this winter.

Pests are always a problem, but growers can reduce the problem by taking away any diseased matter beneath the trees and removing any "mummies." Mummies are those dried up apples or peaches which remain on the ground after harvest. Leaving them there will attract mice, rabbits and moles, all of which can injure the tree by eating the bark.

"If they girdle the tree, it will die," Brown said. "Where there is a rodent problem, the best solution is hardware cloth. That's a heavy screen mesh 18 to 24 inches high around the tree trunk and buried an inch or two in the ground."

Rodents are reluctant to cross bare areas. Growers may remove mulch or grass from 18 to 24 inches around the tree.

"Winter injury is wood damaged or killed by cold temperatures or fluctuations of temperature which results in the bark splitting, causing black heart (dark wood inside the trunk)," Brown said. "You can avoid some of this by not stimulating growth in late fall before frost.

"In addition, the grower can paint tree trunks with an interior white latex paint. That will reflect the heat that would be absorbed by the tree. Heat from one side combined with cold on the other can contribute to splitting."

Most growers usually keep mulch around their plants to prevent winter injury. They need to be aware that that makes a nice habitat for rodents, which means they should inspect the area regularly.

How to store apples

If you have a bumper crop of apples this fall and want to preserve some for winter use, it isn't necessary to can, freeze, dry, or make them all into cider.

While some varieties are much better keepers than others, almost all can be kept fresh-like for several weeks at least. The keys are temperature and humidity.

Harvested apples take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. This leads to deterioration of quality. For every 18 degrees above freezing, the rate of the process doubles.

This means that if apples are kept at 68 degrees for four days, they will have lost as much freshness as if they'd been stored at 32 degrees for 28 days.

In addition, apples keep best in very high humidity - 90 to 95 percent.

So, for the best apple-eating for the longest period, use a good-keeping variety and store them at a temperature of 32 [degree] and 90-95% humidity, or as close to those as possible.

And yes, one bad apple will spoil the barrel. Sort through them periodically and use the deteriorating ones first.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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