The temptation is great to let newly set fruit plants bear fruit the first year, but it's a no-no. Whether they're trees or tiny plants such as strawberries, these plants need that first year to become established and store food in preparation for bearing.
It's especially important that all blooms are removed the first year after planting.
For strawberries, allowing the newly set plants to fruit will delay daughter plant formation and can cut short the expected yields next year. On fruit trees such as apples and pears, a single fruit can sap the limited resources of young trees and delay their development. Even if new shoots develop, they're stunted and produce a mis-shapened tree.
Fertilization is an important practice in growing all fruit crops. When properly used, fertilizers help achieve better plant growth and increased yields. Improperly used, it may be wasted or result in more damage than benefit. Fertilizer cannot compensate for poor plants or cultural practices. Give your new fruit plants a break, remove all flowers for the first year and take a soil sample to determine fertilizer needs.
Soil samples can be taken at any time but this time of year is probably the best time. You really need to know now if lime is needed. Lime applications made during the next several weeks will have ample time to react before the spring growing season begins. Generally it takes about 3 months for lime to react in the soil.
The winter months are a good time to study and improve your gardening knowledge. Stop by the Extension office and pick up information on the fruits and vegetables of your choice. Sometimes a little time invested in learning can pay big dividends with increased productivity. In this busy world we live in today, time is too valuable to waste. Get the most out of the time you spend gardening by being well-informed about the subject.