As the City Fruit pointed out on their Facebook page, now is a good time to rake up the leaves under the apple and pear trees. Do this if you had any evidence of apple or pear scab on your fruit. This scab is something that you would recognize if you saw it as it leaves blotches on the fruit. It may be said that this condition is unsightly but totally cosmetic only and not at all harmful to eat, nevertheless, if you wish to improve the appearance of your apples and pears, raking up the leaves now will reduce the chances of overwintering spores coming back to haunt you in the Spring. A suitable compost spread over the leaves in a suitable quantity is another alternative.
What I really want to talk about here is the weather, though. Ordinarily December is a good time in which one can prune your apple and pear trees, but the last couple years we have had a La Nina pattern with unusually cold and wet winters and that has made for a little caution.
The La Nina pattern is the single most dominant pattern affecting the Northwest weather. There are even some who believe the overall pattern has indeed been global warming the past few decades but that it is precisely the warmer temperatures East of the Cascades that is drawing air masses over the mountains in such a way as to produce cooler and wetter temperatures here West of the Cascades.
Whatever the reason for the abysmal weather patterns we have had the past couple years, let’s hope we have a more congenial winter this year. So far, during this Autumn of 2011, there have not been any unusual weather patterns of concern and so it certainly looks as if it okay to begin pruning the apple and pear trees without risking any minor damages to the tree whatsoever. The trees should be sufficiently “hardened off” now so that as they drop their leaves they have become ready to be pruned. Wait a month or two for the stone fruit trees, cherry and peach and plum, later until it is definitely clear that the harsh part of winter is over.