Fall tasks for apple orchards

Have a to-do list ready for downtime between harvesting apple varieties.

While everyone feels very busy this time of year in apple orchards and the crop potential is huge, there might occasionally be a few open days between harvesting varieties as you wait for fruit maturity. If you have a need to guarantee hours per work week for employees, it would be prudent for apple producers to plan ahead to have a few to-do tasks ready to fill the time void. Michigan State University Extension offers the following suggestions to consider.

Catch up on tree training

Perhaps there are a few blocks you weren’t able to limb train in the summer that you can come back to, such as:

  • Tying limbs down to trellis wires.
  • Tying trees to posts, conduit or wires.

Get a jump on pruning

There are some do’s and don’ts you need to pay attention to if pruning in the fall. Of course, pruning prior to full winter hardiness comes with some big warning signs, but there are some limited pruning tasks to consider in September and October after harvest is complete.

  • Consider pruning only in processing blocks that have been harvested.
  • In low density blocks only, removing large limbs can be done. You will need to think through brush placement or removal if there are trees in nearby rows with fruit yet to be harvested.
  • Pruning root suckers.
  • Pruning vegetative suckers on limbs.
  • Avoid early pruning to known cold-sensitive cultivars such as Fuji and McIntosh.
  • Avoid early pruning in any high density, high value dwarf blocks.

Repairs, etc.

If you are growing any high density apple systems, you know there is always something that needs to be fixed:

  • Repair trellis – anchors that have pulled up, loose or broken wires than need fixing, eyc.
  • Inspect and repair deer fencing.
  • Bin repair.
  • Trunk painting to prevent southwest injury.
  • Put on tree guards for rodent management.
  • Set up baiting stations for future post-harvest rodent management.

Work on irrigation systems

If the early harvest shortened your time to get over your irrigation systems, keep workers busy with:

  • Irrigation line repairs – send workers through to identify problems row by row and follow up with necessary repairs.
  • Winterizing irrigation lines or systems (with all the rain recently, you won’t need irrigation any more in 2016).

Fall weed control on solid variety blocks

There are some fall herbicides that have rather lengthy pre-harvest intervals, so you might only be able to treat in your solid variety blocks at this time.

Clean out ditches and fence rows for air drainage

The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a treacherously cold winter once again, but it’s always a good idea to keep open air flow in orchards to help with winter cold and spring frosts.

A note of using H2A workers

With the higher utilization of H2A workers in Michigan apple orchards, and the need to guarantee their hours per work week, having a few tasks on a “to-do” list is a good plan, but some special considerations are needed:

  • Before you assign jobs, go back to your H2A contract and make sure you listed that task on the contract. You cannot ask H2A workers to do tasks outside of what the contract states.
  • If you are working with a farm labor contractor, make sure they understand what you need workers for on any given day so they aren’t in violation of their contracts.
  • Make a list of possible tasks to be included in a future H2A contract – when you fill out the paperwork in February, these minor jobs don’t always come to mind, so take some notes now.

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