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Owning a fruit tree is more than just planting it and sitting back to let nature produce the fruit, warned Wade Hutcheson, an agriculture and natural resource agent with the Walker County Extension.

Hands-on work starts the moment you plant the tree, he explained.

Hutcheson and the Walker County Extension are hosting Fruit Field Day at Mt. Pleasant Community Center in Rising Fawn on Friday, Jan. 24.

Running from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the class is focused on caring for apple, peach and pear trees. Attendees will learn proper pruning, planting, spraying, site considerations and disease and insect management, both in the classroom and on-site at a local orchard.

Walker County is perfect for a myriad of apple varieties, including Gala, Red Delicious, Fuji and Granny Smith, said Hutcheson. But fruit trees are prone to insects and diseases, he added, with peach tees being the worst.

"There are quite a few [diseases] that you have to stay in front of with regular sprays [of insecticide]," he said.

There are some disease-resistant apple varieties that'll be discussed, like Redfree, Liberty and Gold Rush.

Hutcheson said the class will also debunk some common misconceptions about organic fruit trees.

"Organic doesn't mean you plant and walk away," he said. "Many people may overlook proper care. Be prepared for monthly tasks."

Trees are not only more difficult to care for than many realize, but also more difficult than other fruit-bearing plants, said Hutcheson. He suggests blueberry shrubs and muscadine as a good first step for those who are interested in ultimately caring for trees.

Hutcheson, who co-hosts the class, has an apple tree in his yard that came with his house. To prep for the class, he plans to prune his tree the weekend before.

"It had one apple last year, so pruning it this year will help it have a healthy life this season," he said.

Last year, a similar event was held in Dade County with a full class. Registration for Fruit Field Day is $10, which is due to the Walker County Extension by Jan. 20. For more information, call the office at 706-638-2548 or stop by at 102 E. Napier St. in LaFayette.

Email Sabrina Bodon at sbodon@timesfreepress.com.

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