I live in Colorado on the Front Range which means to the east of the Rocky Mountains at the base or foothills of the mountains. My USDA hardiness zone is 5B. However we get a lot of extreme weather this time of year. We have had a week or so of temps in the 50-60 degree range and the trees are already thinking it is spring. I see the neighbors Maple tree getting buds already, and I see some signs of activity on my apple trees. I have deep mulched them to insulate the root system/ground from the sun to try and delay the ground warming under those trees and hopefully delay any early blooming. Last year we had snow on May 1st! So this is really hard to do. I had one apple tree that lost all the blooms, and a second one that managed to keep some blooms. There is an apple tree across the street that I saw had apples last year so it also must have managed to keep it's blooms. So if you live someplace where the early bouts of warm weather have your trees thinking it is time to come alive here are some tips.
Ways to improve your chances to get fruit:
1. At the planning stage when your buying trees look for varieties that bloom later naturally. Trees most affected by these extremes are peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries. So look for later blooming varieties. Of course look to see if they are cold hardy for the zone you live in, and beyond that look for varieties that are noted to bloom later to improve your odds.
2. Insulate the root systems of the trees. I use heavy mulches, wood chips to bury the root systems deep and provide some insulation to the ground and possibly delay the warming of the soil and setting the trees into motion. This will mean slower ground warming in the spring, will keep the ground cooler in the summer, and preserve your moisture in the ground. And will protect the root systems from extreme cold that could kill your trees.
3. For trees sensitive to the warming cycles that might cause them to bloom early look for northern locations where these trees will be sheltered from the sun during these late winter or early spring warm spells that might normally break your trees dormancy period long before the last of the freeze cycles. By placing the trees in the shadows of a northern shade of other trees or buildings that location will stay cooler much longer, the ground will stay colder, and you will even see snow or ice still in those shaded areas long after you have seen warm temps for some time. These colder temps in that northern shade should help keep your trees from blooming early.
If you follow these steps you can increase your chances of delaying your trees from blooming, possibly dodging a bullet with late frosts, and improving the reliability of trees that historically are spotty in their ability to produce in these extreme climate swings.
I am buying a lot of fruit trees this year and I just went through the process of trying to understand what trees will grow in my zone, and then went further and looked for info on what people say will grow in Colorado specifically. Using this info and leveraging what we know from our planting site we can determine how much area we have where we might be able to shelter these trees from the winter sun and help us have a more reliable harvest.
I already have a couple of apple trees in my urban landscape. This year I am buying a peach, plum, nectarine, apricot, 2 pear trees(due to cross pollination requirements), cherry, paw paw, mulberry, serviceberry. So I will be transforming my little postage stamp yard into the beginnings of a food forest this year.
Why talk about trees now?
Nurseries are taking orders now, and shipping soon. Spring time is not the best time to plant trees actually. The best time is the fall, but we have to work with what we have. So now is the time to do your homework. Figure out what trees will work for you, will delay blooming if that is appropriate for your climate. By ordering you can specifically select the trees you are looking for. If you wait and buy whatever shows up at your local big box store your selection is much less. And rarely do they order their trees based on the climate of your local area. So your cannot be specific about the trees and how they will perform. So the choice is yours. There are some local nurseries around my area, but I find my choices there are many times as restricted as buying at the big box store. Secondly the prices can be quite high. If course if you have a local nursery please do check them out before you run off and order some trees. You might get lucky and find exactly what your looking for. However the time is starting to run short before we will want to start putting those trees into the ground. We prefer to plant these trees before they start to come out of their dormant phase. So for my area they recommend the second half of March for planting your trees.
One last note, when choosing your trees we need to keep in mind cross pollination requirements for specific trees. Some are self pollinating, some require a different variety of the same tree to cross pollinate. So if you choose trees that need a second tree of a different variety make sure you know when they will be blooming so that both varieties will have blooms on at the same time. If the trees bloom at different times then your not going to get the cross pollination you need. Unless you happen to have someone else in your area with another variety of the same tree that the bees can carry the pollen to you. So keep that in mind. Most of my trees I am ordering this year are self pollinating with the exception of the pears. So I had to order two different varieties. The nursery where I ordered from actually gave recommendations of the varieties that are recommended as pollinators for the variety your considering. Which is very helpful. I chose to order online from a nursery called Stark Brothers.
Ok, So my tree order is in for my fruit trees. I had already ordered a bunch of saplings for a property in MO that I was planning to go out and plant trees on this spring. Sadly I cannot make it out there to the property so I have a bunch of small trees that will be showing up that I have to try and figure out how to keep alive until I can get out to our place. In the mean time I will plant some of those trees here at our urban homestead in Colorado. We will be planting some paw paw, mulberry, serviceberry, and possibly a dogwood. I will have some dogwood, pecans, black locust to try and keep alive until I can road trip out to MO. So this will be interesting! Wish me luck!
This year will be a HUGE learning year as we plant trees, berries, bushes, and extensive garden beds using Back to Eden methods, permaculture methods, and planting lots of varieties of things I have never grown. So it is going to be an exciting year. I will be making some video and showing you what we are doing. Right now I am still prepping garden beds with deep horse manure mulch and deep woodchip mulches. We will show you what we are doing and how we do it. Stay tuned!
Take Care, and God Bless,