Ruth gives her fruit trees some mid-season TLC
The June drop has largely finished dropping by now so if your fruit trees are still overladen with fruitlets you can start thinning them by hand.
This is also peak time for pruning trees that are susceptible to silver leaf disease – plums, ornamental and fruiting cherries, nectarines, peaches and apricots.
We have a young container cherry that has two main branches shooting out at strange angles.
Each year it produces blossom and a few cherries but this was its first season of generous cropping. It needed a prune afterwards but I wasn’t sure how to go about it, so I asked AG’s John Negus and he suggested reducing the leading branches by a third to half and then smearing the cut ends with Vaseline.
This, he assured me, waterproofs the cuts and will prompt the production of new shoots along the branch next spring, leading to a better-shaped and gloriously fecund tree.
I did as instructed and fed the tree afterwards and will let you know how things develop.
Then I set about thinning the fruits on our crab apple, ‘Victoria’ plum, greengage, ‘Bramley’s Seedling’ and ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ apples and a ‘Conference’ pear. They are relatively young trees and most have cropped amazingly so I don’t want them to exhaust their resources nor lose branches under the weight of fruit.
Also, reducing fruitlets means the remaining ones get more sunlight and grow bigger and sweeter – what’s not to like?!? Fruitlets are easy to remove; either snip them of with scissors or give them a firm twist by hand. So, how many fruits should you remove when thinning your crop?
Apples: Cooking apples should be thinned to one every 6-9in (15-23cm), while eaters and crab apples are reduced to one or two every 4-6in (10-15cm). Also remove mis-shapen, blemished or sickly looking fruitlets.
Pears: These are less prone to over-cropping so reduce to one or two fruits per cluster.
Plums and gages: These are the worst offenders when it comes to over-cropping and in years of gluts you may need to support branches to prevent them breaking. Be ruthless and leave one fruit every 2-3in (5-8cm), or a pair of fruits every 6in (15cm).
Peaches, nectarines and apricots: Thin peaches to one every 4in (10cm) when the size of a hazelnut, then again to one every8-10in ( 20-25cm) when the size of a walnut. Nectarines should have 6in (15cm) between each fruit and apricots 2-3in (5-7cm) in between, though they should only need thinning in years of very high cropping.
Let’s keep gardening!
One of the great things about lockdown was that more people discovered the joy of gardening and growing things and we greatly hope that this won’t wear off now that ‘normal’ life has resumed.
This blog is an insight into what the AG team is up in their gardens, what we like to grow, what we pick and harvest, what’s worked for us and what hasn’t – because like everyone, things go wrong for us too!
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