Do These 8 Things to Your Fruit Trees Before Winter

Don't neglect your fruit trees just because the growing season is winding down. Here are 8 things to do for your fruit trees this fall.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

1 / 8

Protect Young Fruit Trees Against Rodents

Place tree guards around the trunk of young fruit trees to protect against nibbling by rabbits, field mice and other rodents. You can use a section of flexible white plastic drainage pipe or these spirals made of coiled vinyl. Make sure the tree guard extends an inch below ground and up to the lowest branches of the tree.

Photo: Courtesy of Amazon

2 / 8

Protect All Fruit Trees Against Frost Cracking

In cold areas of the country, fruit trees and other thin-barked tree species are prone to frost cracking, or southwest injury. It happens when sap warms up where sunlight hits the trunk on a warm winter day, only to freeze suddenly when temperatures drop. This causes unsightly trunk cracking that hurt the tree’s ability to take up moisture and nutrients and leaves an opening for insects. Protect the bark with tree wrap and remove the wrap in spring after the last frost. Here are our best tips for growing fruit trees in your own yard.

Photo: Courtesy of Amazon

3 / 8

Mulch Around Trees

Add a base of woodchip mulch around fruit trees to discourage competing grass and weeds. Wait until after a hard frost to spread the mulch so moles and field mice don’t take up residence in the woodchips beforehand. Add 2 to 3 inches of woodchips, spreading the mulch as far as the dripline (the outer reach of the tree-branch canopy). Keep woodchips several inches away from the tree trunk to avoid causing issues with insects and disease. Learn about different types of mulch in our Mulch Guide.

4 / 8
Iris photo/Shutterstock

Clean Up Around Trees

Some insects and diseases overwinter in plant debris. For example, apple scab is a common disease found on apple trees and is caused by spores released from dead apple leaves and fruit left on the ground. And apple maggots overwinter in fruit left on the ground for more than a few days. By removing and destroying the fallen leaves and fruit in a timely manner, you can break the cycle without using chemicals. Here are some awesome tools to help with cleanup, harvesting and other yard duties.

5 / 8
Mykola Mazuryk/Shutterstock

Harvest Fall-Bearing Fruit Trees

Pick pears before they mature (they’ll be firmer than pears ripe for eating) and let them ripen indoors in a cool room such as a basement. When picking apples, grasp the apple from the bottom and gently twist the fruit upwards to one side. Save the “cleanest” fruits (those without cuts or blemishes) for storage, eating the imperfect ones first because those would be the first to turn. Keep fruit refrigerated in cold storage for longest shelf life.

6 / 8

Water Well

Keep fruit trees well watered until late fall. This is especially important if rainfall is in short supply. Water deeply—1 to 2 inches at a time—so moisture penetrates fully into the root zone. You can set up a timer and either a soaker hose or drip irrigation system. If overhead watering, set out a pan to measure how much water has been dispersed. See how to install a drip irrigation system yourself.

7 / 8

Wait to Fertilize

Fall is not the time to fertilize most fruit trees. Fertilizing in fall may cause the development of new growth, which won’t harden off in time for winter. In cold climates, it’s best not to fertilize fruit trees after July 1. Exception: in warm climates, young citrus trees can be fertilized every 2 to 3 months in fall and winter.

Photo: Courtesy of Amazon

8 / 8

Thwart Insect Pests

Fall is a good time to apply an insect barrier, such as Tanglefoot, for such pests such as gypsy moths, cankerworms, weevils, ants, caterpillars, moths and cutworms. The sticky solution is long-lasting and weatherproof and traps bugs as they crawl up the tree to find winter hiding spots.

Photo: Courtesy of Amazon

Luke Miller
Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.