The first almond blossoms are usually my heralds of the spring to come and I delight in seeing them open up in the winter sunshine. Pruning trees should have been completed by now, although citrus are usually pruned after fruiting, so you can start on them now. When trees like almonds and pecans put on about half a metre of growth a year they can quickly reach gigantic proportions, making maintenance difficult, and fruit or nut cropping almost impossible. You need to lop off some of that growth each year. Pecan trees can reach 20-25 metres in their natural habitat, but they can be dealt with more easily if they are not so tall. Pruning is a vital part of the success or not of your fruit and nut trees. Other than that, what is its purpose? Primarily it is to get rid of any dead or diseased branches and to keep the centre of the tree free of any stems that cross, allowing air to pass through the branches. Almonds, apricots, peaches, plums and cherries belong to the prunus family, all of which can suffer from canker. You can spot this easily as the bark oozes gum and large parts of the tree fail. Some suggest spraying with ‘Cuproxat’, a copper-based fungicide, but we have had little success with it. By cutting branches off above the ‘ooze’ it may be possible for the tree to grow on for a few more years, but once the tree has canker it is almost certainly doomed. At this stage there is really not a lot that you can do about it, other than fell the tree and grow something else instead. Some areas in Cyprus are prone to canker, like the valley in which I live, so we have given up growing these trees and are concentrating on citrus and figs instead. You may find that some citrus leaves have mottling between the veins of the leaves at this time, which usually means that they are short of zinc. This can be remedied by spraying the leaves with 5 litres of water into which a level dessertspoon of zinc chelate has been added.
Ripe citrus fruits in the orchard are a haven for Mediterranean Fruit Flies. They will lay their eggs inside any members of the orange family and grapefruit too, although lemons and limes seem to escape this fate. The way to spot whether a fruit fly has been at your fruit is to look for soft patches with a little hole in the centre, from which the grub will drop out when it is ready to pupate, which it does in the ground – so don’t bury infected fruits because you are giving them the ideal spot to hatch out loads of Med flies, as they are commonly known. Don’t bring infected fruits indoors as the warmth will encourage the grubs to fall into the fruit bowl, which will quickly turn into flies in the warmth of house! The whole cycle from egg to fly takes only 20 days!
Although the ground should be very moist after all the rain we had in December, it is relatively cold and it would be better to wait until late February until you plant any new trees and shrubs. Ideally late October and November are the best times for this as the earth is still warm then and there may be some rain to help things along. Seeds of last year’s annuals may have germinated already, and will probably last the winter, but hold off sowing any new seeds for a while as they may just rot in the cold ground or provide food for ground feeding birds, which are deprived of other nutrients at this time.
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