Improving Apple Tree Fruit Production

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

            Have you ever waited in great anticipation for that first juicy apple to bite into only to feel terrible disappointment at your tree’s lack of blossoms or fruit? Having an apple tree can produce many rewards, but there are a few challenges as well. Here are some considerations to keep in mind for your apple trees to produce a healthy annual fruit crop:  age, cross-pollination, pruning and training, over-fertilization, and pest and disease management.

The age of an apple tree can affect how much fruit production occurs. Newly planted trees take time before they set fruit. During the first year, trees put more energy into establishing their roots instead of producing fruit. New apple trees start to bear fruit anywhere from 2 to 5 years of age, and some don’t produce a substantial amount of fruit until they are aged between 5 and 10 years.  

Apple trees need cross-pollination to produce fruit. This means that more than one apple variety or a crabapple tree is needed for pollination. However, different apple tree varieties blossom at different times, so it’s important to make sure that their bloom times overlap for pollination to be successful.  Apple tree varieties that are self-pollinating also benefit from having another tree nearby.  

To keep trees healthy and productive, pruning and training branches on a regular basis should be implemented. This allows branches to have ample space and light requirements needed for maximum fruit production. Prune apple trees in late winter or early spring. Avoid pruning older wood as much as possible because apple trees produce fruit on old “spurs”. Train the branches to grow at 60-degree angles for maximum fruit production. This is done by manually manipulating the way a branch grows by spreading, tying, or weighing it down. While annual pruning is necessary for a healthy tree, be sure to avoid heavy pruning as this can cause overly vigorous branch growth thereby inhibiting flower and fruit production.    

Over-fertilization can create problems as well. Excess nitrogen in the soil causes the tree to produce excess wood and fewer blossoms. If you haven’t been fertilizing your apple trees but suspect that this may be an issue due to excessive branch growth, consider the fact that lawn fertilizer can unintentionally reach the tree roots through rain water.  

            Pests and diseases should be monitored all year long and can be managed in a preventive or curative measure. Apple scab and fire blight are the most common diseases of apple trees. Cedar apple rust is a common fungi and various insects can affect apple trees. There are numerous methods of managing pests and diseases, ranging from trapping insects to spraying organic insecticides or fungicides.

Bloch’s Farm is now closed for the season but feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Don’t forget to visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and our Facebook page!

Preventing Tree and Shrub Winter Damage

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

Damage inflicted to trees and shrubs during the winter can drastically stunt their growth during the following summer. Oftentimes winter injury goes unnoticed until spring or even late summer when it’s often too late to remedy the situation. The key to solving these problems is prevention. You can promote healthy trees and shrubs by anticipating the damage that can be caused by weather and animals and taking preventative steps in late fall.

One type of weather damage that can occur is known as sunscald or frost cracks. This is when the rapid changes in temperature from cold nights to sunny winter days cause cracks to develop on the trunks, usually on the southern sides. The expanding and shrinking of the bark and the underlying wood is often accompanied by a loud noise, similar to a gunshot. Cracks usually heal over during the growing season, but sometimes they remain partially open and may even reopen further the next winter. This in turn, can cause cankers, or sunken areas on the trunk where the bark eventually sloughs off, exposing the wood underneath.

For healthy trees and shrubs, start by choosing varieties that are well-adapted to your climate. In late fall, you may also want to consider wrapping the trunks of young trees with tree wrap, especially those with thin dark bark. Make sure to remove the tree wrap for the spring and summer months to prevent disease. 

Animal damage is another very common problem during the winter, especially when other food sources for these animals are scarce. They can chew or gnaw bark from the trunk and lower branches. In some cases, the trunk is entirely girdled. Various methods may be used to exclude or control animals, such as deer, rabbits, and mice. These methods usually involve protecting the plants with repellant sprays, fencing, and tree guards, or controlling the animals with traps.  Bloch’s Farm is now closed for the season but feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Don’t forget to visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and our Facebook

Hydrangea WInter Care Part2

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

Now is the time to determine the best course of action for helping your hydrangeas weather the winter. Last week’s article discussed the level of winter protection required for your hydrangea. This week, I have provided a few tips that, no matter the variety of hydrangea you have, will help it survive winter better.

One of the most important tasks in preparing your hydrangea for winter is to make sure to keep watering it until the ground freezes. Winter winds have a drying effect on plants. All shrubs, including hydrangeas, need to be moist going into the winter. Hydrangeas have shallow roots and need adequate watering but be careful not to overwater because they don’t like constant wet feet. 

Adding organic compost material supports healthy soil. When applied after the ground has frozen, the nutrient-rich compost breaks down over time and once spring arrives, provides your hydrangeas with an extra boost after their long winter’s nap. It’s important to keep in mind that compost and fertilizer are two different things. Fertilizers should not be added at this time, because it stimulates the shrubs to produce new leaves. Hydrangeas should be slowing down growth above the ground and continuing to grow roots below until the ground freezes and they enter complete dormancy.

A layer of mulch should be added near the base of the shrub to insulate the soil and protect hydrangea roots from temperature fluctuations. Mulch also helps shrubs retain moisture. If you don’t have mulch, leaves or straw work just as well. 

Depending on the variety and location of your hydrangea, as discussed in the previous article, the next step would be to provide a covering. For smaller hydrangeas, covering them over with leaves or straw works well. For larger hydrangeas, use stakes, a tomato stand, or chicken wire, and burlap to create a covering. It’s important to use material that will allow air to circulate. Plastic is not recommended because the moisture trapped inside can encourage disease formation. Once the covering is established, tuck leaves or straw inside to act as insulating material surrounding your hydrangea. 

Bloch’s Farm is closed for the season but feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Don’t forget to visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and our Facebook page! 

Hydrangea Winter Care – Part 1

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

With the air turning chilly and the snow beginning to fall, it’s time to tuck your garden in for a long winter’s nap. As you are checking off some of the winterizing tasks I mentioned in last week’s article, perhaps this question crossed your mind: “How do I prepare my hydrangeas for the winter season?” With the unpredictable snowfall levels, temperatures, and the freeze-thaw cycles that commonly occur in our region, some of the following tips may help you determine the best course of action for helping your hydrangeas weather the winter. 

Even though most hydrangeas are hardy plants, there are a few factors that determine whether or not you need to provide extra winter protection. One of those factors is the hydrangea variety, so be sure to jot this information down in your gardening journal or keep the tag for reference. Other factors include the hydrangea’s location and its size.  

In general, hydrangeas that bloom on ‘old wood’ are the ones that need the most protection to make it through the winter months unscathed. Since the flower buds of the Mountain, Oakleaf, and Climbing hydrangea varieties have been forming since late summer, you’ll want to focus on protecting the buds through the winter. Definitely provide winter protection for the Bigleaf (mophead or lacecap) hydrangeas because they need it most. This is not the time for pruning ‘old wood’ varieties, although you may wish to remove dead canes.  

Smooth and Panicle hydrangeas bloom on ‘new wood’. They are some of the hardiest varieties and often don’t need winter protection. However, if you have these or other hydrangeas placed in an area of your yard that receives more exposure to winter elements, they will appreciate some added protection. In addition to the variety of hydrangea and its location in your yard, the size of the hydrangea needs to be considered. Smaller, less established hydrangeas may need to have more winter protection. Late winter or early spring is the time to prune ‘new wood’ varieties.

Stay tuned for next week’s article for more tips on hydrangea winter protection! Bloch’s Farm is now closed for the season but feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Don’t forget to visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and our Facebook page!

Garden Winterizing

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

As fall temperatures continue to drop, winterizing your outdoor spaces becomes the task at hand. Cleaning up around your garden can go a long way toward preventing disease and pest outbreaks the following year, and there are many other landscaping ideas you can take into consideration with winter just around the corner. 

Remove all weeds now as they can harbor a lot of diseases and insects. After perennials die back from a hard frost they can be trimmed down. Leftover plant debris can be tilled under to decay and enrich the soil, or it can be placed in a compost pile. Composting is normally a great way to deal with garden debris and autumn leaves. Adding composted organic material to flower beds at this time supports healthy soil and plants.  

Cover less hardy plants with leaves, mulch, burlap, or Styrofoam cones to protect them throughout the winter. Add another layer of mulch on perennial beds, trees, and shrubs. Once your perennials are cut down and all plant debris is removed it’s easy to add mulch. Mulch insulates the soil, protecting plant roots from temperature fluctuations.  It also hampers early spring weeds taking hold in the garden. 

Water all newly planted trees, shrubs, and perennials up until the ground freezes. Plants need to be moist going into the winter. Put on tree wraps, fencing, netting or green screen repellant bags now to prevent deer and rabbit damage throughout the winter. Make sure tree wraps go all the way up so no trunk is showing. 

Clean out and disinfect garden pots and tools, so they will be ready for next season. Bleach wipes work well for cleaning tools, and pots may be dipped in a bleach and hot water solution. Bring garden pots indoors to protect them. Drain and store garden hoses in a garage or shed. Unheated birdbaths can be brought indoors or tipped upside down so that water does not collect, freeze, and cause damage. To keep thirsty birds happy all winter, purchase a heated birdbath or insert a heated ring to keep the water from freezing. See to proper storage of seeds, fertilizer, and any other garden chemicals. A cool, dry, dark place in a locked cabinet or high shelf is best. 

Bloch’s Farm carries all the tools you need to get your garden winterizing done. Check out our great selection of trees, shrubs, perennials, mums, and bulbs that are still available before we close for the season! Call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and our Facebook page. 

Common Fall Leaf Problems

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

            As you are enjoying the autumn colors, perhaps you are also noticing changes that may concern you in the leaves of your trees and shrubs. Have you seen your evergreen needles turning yellow or spied black spots on your maple leaves? 

During September and October, deciduous trees are going through the process of losing their leaves and going dormant. Evergreens go through a similar natural cycle called seasonal needle drop. An evergreen’s oldest, innermost needles, the ones closest to the trunk, may turn yellow or brown and fall off, much like deciduous trees dropping their leaves. The discoloration and sometimes dramatic loss of needles can be alarming, but it is normal and not detrimental to the trees or shrubs.   

Have you noticed black spots on your maple leaves? This is most likely a fungal disease called tar spot. Black, tarry spots can form on the leaves of maples. While the spots may begin to appear in late summer, they are usually noticed more often in September or October when the spots are at their full size. As leaf raking begins, the bright fall colors make the spots more visible. This fungal disease is cosmetic and shouldn’t affect the entire tree. Once the infected leaves fall, a good cleanup and proper leaf disposal will help control the disease.

Bloch’s Farm still has a great selection of trees, shrubs, perennials, and bulbs. Colorful mums are also available to complete your fall look! Fall is a wonderful time to plant, so don’t wait, stop in today! Call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and our Facebook page.

Fall Is A Great Time To Plant

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

Autumn is upon us but that doesn’t mean that your planting season has to end. In fact, in some ways fall planting can be more beneficial than spring planting. 

Fall planting takes advantage of favorable soil temperatures and moisture conditions that promote the root growth needed to sustain plants through their critical first year in the landscape. During autumn, cool and relatively stable air temperatures prevail, which is less stressful on plants than during the extreme heat of the summer. Soil temperatures and moisture levels are usually in a range that promotes rapid root development. Top growth is suspended, and new root growth is encouraged when the air temperatures are cooler than the soil. This results in a stronger, more developed root system when the plants begin to grow next spring. Make sure to water the new plants well into the fall. Mulching will help to retain the soil moisture, as well. 

If you plant a shrub in spring, it must acclimate itself to its new home and begin growing immediately. At the same time, it has to produce leaves, flowers, and then endure the rapidly arriving summer heat. Plant the same shrub in fall, and it becomes happily dormant above ground soon after planting, but the roots have time to grow and become comfortable and strong in their new home. Then, when spring arrives, the plant is established and ready to put out strong leaves, new top growth, and lots of flowers. So, give your trees and shrubs a head start and plant them right now!

Some trees, shrubs, and perennials are better suited to plant in the fall and others are better in the spring. Those with fewer, larger roots are better to plant in the spring than those with shallow, fibrous root systems which can transition easier in the fall. While you can plant until the ground freezes, some trees and shrubs grow better if planted before certain times. Conifers do a little better if planted in early fall (by late September) because they prefer slightly warmer growing temperatures. Evergreens grow better if planted by mid-October. Most deciduous trees and shrubs can be planted until late fall. 

Bloch’s Farm still has a wonderful selection of trees, shrubs, perennials, and bulbs. Colorful mums are also available to complete your fall look! Fall is a wonderful time to plant, so don’t wait, stop in today! Call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and our Facebook page.

Planting for Winter Interest

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

Even when the winter months turn your garden into an all-white portrait, you can still add splashes of color. When choosing plants for winter landscape consider shapes, textures, evergreen foliage, exfoliating bark, and long-lasting berries. A combination of evergreen and deciduous plants brings out the best winter aesthetics in your landscape.  Consider a variety of these great selections.

There are many different types of evergreens that can add greenery and structure throughout the snowy months. Pine, spruce, fir, and hemlock are examples of evergreens with needle-type foliage. Juniper and arborvitae are examples of evergreens with scale-type foliage. Bloch’s farm has a large selection of dwarf, weeping, and specialty evergreens. 

Broadleaf evergreens such as holly (Ilex spp.) and euonymus (Euonymus fortunei) keep their color all year long. Holly is a very simple evergreen shrub with striking green foliage and bright red berries all winter long. The branches and berries are often seen in winter decorating and floral arrangements. Euonymus, also known as wintercreeper, is a small evergreen shrub that has large, round green leaves. Certain varieties have a golden-yellow edging that adds a touch more color. The broad leaves of holly and euonymus make them more susceptible to winter injury; therefore, it’s best to avoid planting these in locations with lots of wind and winter sun.

Chokeberries (Aronia spp.) have dark green foliage and bare white flowers in May that turn into red or black berries (depending on the variety), which last into the winter months.  The bitter-tasting berries serve as a food source for birds and are also edible for humans when cooked. Bloch’s Farm has three varieties of chokeberries available: Brilliant Red, Glossy Black, and Viking. 

Trees can be aesthetically pleasing in winter providing their colorful persistent fruit, like crabapples produce. Exfoliating bark adds unique touches in your landscape, as well. ‘Persian Spire’ Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica), and certain birches and maples have distinctive peeling bark. 

Bloch’s Farm still has a wonderful selection of these and many other trees, shrubs, perennials, and spring bulbs. Colorful mums are also available to complete your fall look! Fall is a wonderful time to plant, so don’t wait, stop in today! Call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and our Facebook page.

Plant Now For Spring Color

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

If you want your garden to burst out of winter looking fabulous now is the time to add plants for bright pops of spring color! The following popular, low maintenance, and hardy selections provide an easy way to add spring color to any landscape area.

Spring Flowering Trees– Flowering crabapples (Malus spp.), weeping redbuds (Cersis spp.), and magnolias (Magnolia spp.) are the best and brightest spring bloomers with flower colors ranging from white to various shades of pink and purple. 

Spring Flowering Shrubs– One of the showiest spring shrubs is forsythia (Forsythia spp.). With its numerous sunny yellow flowers, it works wonderfully to brighten up a drab early spring garden. Lilacs (Syringa spp.) are a fragrant family of spring flowering shrubs. This old-fashioned beauty is such a low maintenance profuse bloomer that every garden should have at least one. Azaleas and rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp.) are some of the best spring flowering shrubs for shade. This group of 2-5 feet tall shrubs have bright flowers ranging in color from white, deep violet, and orange.

Spring Flowering Perennials– Bleeding hearts (Dicentra spp.) add a delicate lacy look to a moist shady garden. Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) creates a dense groundcover when grown in hot, dry, sunny sites. Its masses of bright flowers are a welcoming sight after a long winter. Flower colors range from red, purple, blue, pink, and white. 

Bloch’s Farm still has a wonderful selection of these and many other perennials, trees, shrubs, and spring bulbs. Colorful mums are also available to complete your fall look! Fall is a wonderful time to plant, so don’t wait, stop in today! Call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and our Facebook page. Don’t miss out on this weekend’s sale! October 2nd – October 4th: 30% Off Perennials!

planting Bulbs for Spring Color

By: Sue McConnell – Retail Team – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

One of the most welcome sights in spring are masses of beautiful, brightly colored tulips and other spring bulbs. Red, yellow, pink, and shades of purple, along with white, brightens our yards and landscapes after a cold, dreary winter.

            Consider planting tulips, daffodils, crocus, and allium bulbs before the ground freezes in late fall, between mid-October to mid-November. Bulbs planted too early in the season tend to sprout and may begin their growth process if placed in the ground while there are still sunny, mild days and before it has cooled down.

            Bulbs are easy to plant! Dig a small depression in the soil in a rounded or oval shape. Bulbs need to be between 4 to 6 inches deep, so make your ‘bed’ big enough for 5, 7, or 9 bulbs. When your bed is ready, arrange the bulbs inside, tall ones to the back, shorter to the front. You can arrange by color or type. Bulbs come in early, mid, or late season varieties. By planting some of each you can expand their bloom time from early spring until early summer.

            Once your bulbs are in place, sprinkle each with bone meal or a special ‘bulb booster’ that will help them thrive, then cover with soil. When all your bulbs are in place, gently tamp down the soil, then water.

            You can also plant bulbs singly. Follow the same procedure, selectively digging down 6 inches for each bulb. This planting method will allow you to scatter the bulbs across a larger area for a more naturalized look. The round or oval depression method creates more of a bed producing a bigger color bang.

            Either planting method you choose, you will be rewarded next spring with beautiful flowers to cut and bring indoors for bouquets or to enjoy while looking through your windows.

Bloch’s Farm spring bulbs have arrived! Stop in to purchase your own spring garden. We have a nice selection of single root bearded Iris, packages of Hyacinth, two varieties of large cupped Narcissus, Globe Master and Gladiator Giant Allium, and six different selections of mid to late season tulips in gorgeous color combinations. Find bulb booster and digging tools as well… everything you need to create a beautiful spring garden that will last for years to come.

  Many trees, shrubs, perennials, and colorful mums are also available at Bloch’s Farm! Call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and our Facebook page.  

Don’t miss out on this weekend’s sale! September 25th – September 27th: 50% Off Our Entire Selection Of Muck Boots!