I’m not sure about you, but my best gardening ideas often occur after it is too late.
“Boy, it would have been nice if I had planted strawberries last year.”
“I bet that pear tree would have grown better without that branch that should have been removed in the winter.”
“Whoops, I guess that plant did need water…”
In this season of New Year’s resolutions, there is no better time than now to make a plan to change. For gardeners, the summer tends to be a whirlwind of activity, so to avoid some of the problems listed above, it is important to take time to study up on gardening techniques before the weather warms. If growing fruit is a topic of interest, then you are in luck.
Two years ago, employees with University of Wisconsin-Extension and UW-Madison created the Wisconsin Fruit Website (fruit.wisc.edu). Previously there were many fruit-related UW publications online, but they weren’t easy to find. This website brought together publications about growing fruit from UW-Extension as well as a number of other universities with similar climates.
The site is easy to navigate and provides information about a wide range of fruit crops. On the homepage, there are tabs for different fruit crops: berries, cranberries, grapes and tree fruit. Within the berry category, there are subcategories for raspberries/blackberries, strawberries, and other berry crops. Within the tree fruit category, there are subcategories for apples/pears, cherries/other stone fruit, and hazelnuts. After selecting the desired crop, there are publications on topics including general crop information, varieties, pruning and training, nutrient management, and disease, insect and weed management.
Along with the website, the UW-Extension Fruit Team also launched the biweekly WI Fruit News. This free, electronic publication runs throughout the course of the summer and includes information about a number of fruit crops. The articles are mostly geared toward commercial fruit growers, but backyard growers can glean information from them as well. All previous editions of the newsletter are available on the website under the “WI Fruit News” tab on the homepage.
In Fruit News, articles are written and published to provide relevant, timely information for fruit growers around the state. Examples include pest reports, insecticide profiles, different pruning or training techniques that could be performed at that time, weed management strategies, fruit physiological disorders, and when to harvest fruit. Additionally, looking back at the topics covered in old editions, can help give an indication of what types of issues may occur around a specific time of the summer.
Even with categorized publications, it can be overwhelming to begin to tease through all this information. If you are attempting to grow a new fruit crop this year, a good place to start is one of the general publications and then switch to more specific topics once you understand how that information fits into the larger picture. Some questions to consider before planting are:
- What do I like to eat and what plant(s) would I enjoy growing and caring for?
- Do I have a good site for planting a fruit bush/tree/vine where it can thrive?
- What is the best variety for this area and will it survive our winters?
- How is the plant pollinated and does it need a cross-pollinator?
- What are some insect pests or diseases that may attack this plant and do I want to do what it takes to manage them?
Rather than being disappointed next fall thinking about the things you could have grown, spend a bit of time this winter looking through all these resources to see what you would like to plant come spring. If things don’t turn out as intended after the first year, learn from the experience, change your approach and try again. And, of course, if you have any questions stop by or call the UW-Extension office at 920.746.2260.