Fall weather is here!  October is our last big month of orchard harvests, with late apples, pears, persimmons, chestnuts, kiwiberries, and more.  And still a few late figs coming in as of this week…

Link to POP’s handy Monthly Orchard Task List here and see below for key tasks for the month of October.

Fall is planting time! 
Fall is actually the best time of year to plant most perennial plants, including trees, shrubs, vines, and perennial flowers and herbs!  Planting in fall allows for two seasons of cooler weather for plants to get established before the heat of summer.  Our preferred planting time is early October through mid November.  Fall plantings should be watered twice a week until they go fully dormant.  

The only orchard plants we generally prefer spring for planting are tender ones (like figs, pomegranates, rosemary, etc) that don’t like the cold and evergreen ones (stone pines, for example), which can dry out in winter conditions. (Photo: POP)

Orchard Watering

New plantings (from spring or the previous fall) should be watered thoroughly once per week until they drop leaves and go dormant.  In most years in our wet climate, established orchard plantings don’t require much in the way of supplemental watering except in the case of extended drought conditions. 

Fall Weeding
At this point in the season, weed growth has slowed down considerably,  but many are now setting seed.  Organizing one last fall weeding session can help reduce new weeds for next year! Weeding at least once a month throughout the growing season is generally advisable for orchards and food forests.  POP’s weed identification guide is available for sale on our website and we always have free copies to distribute to community orchard partners. Check out POP’s guide to Ramial Wood Chips and Weeding in Place.  

Emergency Pruning
As summer comes to an end, it becomes increasingly important to limit pruning to emergency pruning only.  Fall pruning can result in new growth that doesn’t have time to harden off before winter temperatures hit.  

Keep an eye out for any diseased, damaged, or dead wood that should be pruned away no matter the season. 

Apple fire blight on stem with bacteria seen oozing out of infected tissue. (Photo Credit: Amara Dunn, NYS IPM)

Fall pruning should be limited to emergency removal of dead, damaged, and diseased wood.  In particular, prune out diseases like Fire Blight, Black Knot, and cankers that can continue to spread and cause further damage.    

Remember: use sharp, rust-free hand tools and sanitize between every cut for disease prone trees during the growing season. For easy disinfecting, we recommend carrying a spray bottle with you of rubbing (isopropyl 70%) alcohol or a bleach solution (1 part bleach: 10 parts water) to wipe down tools.  

Pest and Disease Monitoring & Identification

Many orchard pests and diseases continue to be active into the fall.  It is important to continue weekly monitoring of your plants to identify and manage challenges.  Some of the most common insect pests to contend with in October include: 
Plum Curculio
Codling Moth
Tree Borers
Spotted Lanternfly
Apple Maggot

Observe your orchard regularly throughout the year for pest and disease problems, identify and respond appropriately.  We’ve begun distributing physical copies to community partners, but in the meantime you can check out our POP’s Scouting Guides for pest and disease management available for download on POP’s website: 

These guides are intended to help properly identify the insect pests and diseases that affect the following common fruit trees: 
Plums (& Apricots)
Pears & Asian Pears

Apples showing late season damage from codling moths (which also target pears and walnuts). Remove affected fruits and dispose of all dropped fruit to help reduce pest population levels for the following year. (Photo Credit: Patrick Clement)

The guides include lots of photos and a description of how to identify the particular pest or disease and the damage caused by it.  Proper identification is essential to treating these problems, as each has its own unique options for management!  Once you have identified a pest or disease, you can then consult our website for management recommendations by using our search function: 

Remove Damaged and Dropped Fruit
For fall fruits, it is advisable to continue to monitor your developing crops for insect and disease damage and remove the affected fruit.  Similarly, it is best to gather any fallen fruit to avoid the further spread of pest and disease challenges.  All fruit should be disposed of by adding to a hot compost system, feeding to poultry, or bagging up to remove from the site.  

October Harvests!
Look out for ripening pears, figs, apples, persimmons, chestnuts, jujubes, quince, che fruit, kiwiberries, everbearing raspberries, gojiberries, perennial herbs and greens, and more!  Record your harvests using our handy POP Harvest Tracking Sheet.  

Enjoy the October harvests and cooler weather! 

Ripening persimmon at the POP Learning Orchard at The Woodlands. (Photo Credit: Sharon Appiah)

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia: phillyorchards.org/donate.