Photo by P.J. Perea
Pink Lady Apple
Five ways to improve mast production
Producing fruit and nuts requires a lot of time and energy, so anything a landowner can do to make the process easier can only enhance the quality and quantity of mast released for wildlife. Tree enhancements are not expensive. They benefit the health of the tree and make trees more attractive to and beneficial for hungry wildlife.
Here are five ways to improve the mast production in your fruit and nut plantings:
1. Reduce competition for light
Sunlight is the battery that powers the tree. Reduced sunlight may mean the tree only has enough energy to sustain itself and may not produce fruit. Look at the canopy above and around the tree to see if shadows or branches are reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the leaves. Remove overhanging branches from competing trees and prune dead branches off fruit trees. When planting fruit trees, plant at least 20 feet apart to leave room for the canopies.
2. Reduce competition for nutrients
A tree’s health dictates whether it will invest the time and energy to produce seeds or fruit. Below the soil surface, plant roots are in a constant battle to harness water and nutrients for photosynthetic sugar production.
Excessive competition from weeds, trees and brush can sap nutrients and water away from mast producing trees. Clear or treat brush, weeds and saplings growing in the drip line beneath the tree. Install weed mats after weed treatment. The mats allow water and nutrients to pass through while suppressing weeds.
3. Watch for signs of disease and pests
Visit your wildlife orchard regularly. Take note of any signs of stress such as leaf wilt, fungus, leaf loss, rot, as well as animal and insect damage to trunk, bark and branches. It doesn’t take long for a disease or pest to injure or kill a tree. Shelter young trees in tree tubes to prevent chewing and rubbing by mammals and enhance growth and mast production.
Photo by P.J. Perea
Proper ferlizing is crucial to increasing your fruit yield
4. Feed the tree
Trees need nutrients and minerals to spur trunk and limb growth and create seeds for fruits and nuts. Each tree has different needs depending on its age, size and type. Consult with your local nursery, cooperative extension or Natural Resources Conservation Service office for specific recommendations.
NWTF’s OutdoorDealHound.com offers slow-release fertilizer packs for planting and long-term maintenance. NWTF program partner Mossy Oak offers Tree-Paks, a 5-10-5-formulation fertilizer specifically for fruit and mast trees.
5. Quench the thirst
Lack of moisture can be just as much of a problem as lack of nutrients. Water is necessary for all functions from photosynthesis to leaf, branch and fruit production. Trees stressed by lack of moisture prioritize water to survival over fruit and mast production. Conserve moisture by mulching trees at least 3 feet around the trunk or supplement water using a drip irrigation system. — P.J. Perea