Cultivators and gardeners can benefit from the slow season. They can structure the downtime into key life-support functions for their apple trees. They thereby will ensure the beauty, health, productivity and usefulness of their trees in spring, summer and fall months of the next year.
- Specifically, the first important autumnal task involves removing fruits and leaves from the ground below their apple trees.
Leaf litter may decompose into natural fertilizer for soils. But in terms of apple trees, fallen leaves also will attract unwelcome attention from avian, bacterial, fungal, insect, mammalian and viral pests in search of forage and/or shelter. These autumnal activities will compromise an apple tree at its most vulnerable when it is shutting down defenses and turning towards more passive, storage-related endeavors.
- A second important autumnal task is a soil moisture and temperature check.
This means making sure that the soil is not dried out when the desiccating winter months begin and the ground freezes. Prevention requires identifying and protecting the tree's drip line.
The drip line can be identified by plotting on the ground the reach of each of the tree's longest branches. The connected points form into a more or less perfect circle. The distance from the tree trunk to each drip point signals the tree's critical area in terms of beneficial or harmful impacts upon growth above and below ground. The ground will have to be kept clean throughout its entire area as well as moist 1 to 6 inches (2.54 to 15.24 centimeters) down, with the depth dependent upon:
- Atmospheric moisture;
- Environmental temperature;
- Soil drainage and fertility.