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.

Plums are promiscuous fruiters and need thinning to protect the branches from breaking

This is also peak time for pruning trees that are susceptible to silver leaf disease – plums, ornamental and fruiting cherries, nectarines, peaches and apricots.

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We have a young container cherry that has two main branches shooting out at strange angles.

I reduced the two leading cherry branches by up to a half

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.

Smearing the ends of pruned branches with Vaseline encourages new shoots to break along its remaining length

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.

Always feed trees and shrubs after pruning

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.

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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?

Thinning crab apples as this is the tree’s first cropping year

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 don’t need much thinning, just leave 1-2 fruits per cluster

Pears: These are less prone to over-cropping so reduce to one or two fruits per cluster.

Greengages and plums are prone to overcropping

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.

The team at AG have been here for you throughout lockdown and will continue to be

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!

Our gardening ‘agony uncle’ John Negus is also still working hard. Send him your problems and questions, with pictures if you can, and he will get back to you with an answer within 24 hours, as he has been doing for decades. Contact him using the AG email address at: amateurgardening@futurenet.com

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