As winter nears and fruit production has come to an end, preparation for the cold weather is in full swing. Our employees are hard at work ensuring the orchard remains healthy through the dormant season, increasing the chances of a successful and bountiful fruit harvest in the upcoming year. Continue reading to learn what actions are being taken to prepare for the winter season!
What's juicy, red, and delicious? Kimmel's strawberries! To ensure it stays this way, hay is laid around and on the strawberry plants to prepare them for the harsh winds and low temperatures winter brings. Strawberries are classified as perennial plants meaning that they will produce fruit for many years after planting. This is why it is so important to keep them protected from cold weather. Strawberry plants are also classified as forbs. Forb plants do not have a significant amount of woody tissue or bark resulting in not much protection from environmental conditions. Without added protection like hay, the strawberry plants can die or become injured affecting the amount of fruit produced in the next season. Adding protection is usually done in mid to late November, as this is when the plants become fully dormant. As the USDA hardiness zone decreases, the amount of hay or other material needed increases. Other material that can be used includes straw, mulch, chopped corn stalks, evergreen branches, or pine straw.
Of course, the fruit trees are being prepped as well! This includes general cleaning of the orchard by disposing of fallen branches and other material to keep the area around the trees clean. Light pruning may also occur if needed to remove suckers (shoots from the base of the tree), water sprouts (upright shoots that grow off the large branches or trunk), and/or diseased/damaged wood. However, heavy pruning to prepare for next season usually occurs in late winter to early spring, around January through March. All of the same parts of the tree mentioned above may be pruned in these months as well. Late winter is when the fruit trees are fully dormant, which means no leaves remain on the tree. By pruning the trees of unnecessary branches, sprouts, or suckers allows the tree to put more energy into new growth in the spring. If heavy pruning occurs too early, during late fall to early winter, winter injury could occur. This is due to the tree's pruning cuts being exposed therefore weakening the tree causing weather damage to happen.
Without added winter protection, there could be detrimental effects on all the fruit crops at Kimmel, as well as many other locations in the Midwest! This is why careful consideration is taken before and during the winter months to prepare the orchard for successful fruit production. However, many other factors can still affect the growth of the fruit, and winter preparation doesn't guarantee a successful crop, but it can definitely increase the likelihood of healthy fruit trees and plants.
Alyssa Rosenbaum - Education and Food Safety Intern