In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
June, 2006
Regional Report

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Thinning the fruits encourages better quality fruit and reduces the strain on tree branches.

Fruit Trees and Vines

Early summer is the time to tend to fruiting plants to get them on the path to producing the best crops possible. No matter what the summer weather brings, there are certain routines that can give these plants a good chance of staying healthy and filling our fruit bowls.

Thinning
The best crop is not necessarily the heaviest crop. In fact, reducing the number of fruits generally improves their quality. Thin fruits on trees and vines to what you realistically expect to consume. Thin tree fruits to opposite sides of branches for balanced and more complete development with less strain on trees, especially on those bearing fruit for the first or second time. Leave at least 3 inches between apricots and plums, and 5 inches between peaches, nectarines, pears, and apples. Thin grape clusters to produce bunches of fewer but larger individual fruits, rather than many tiny ones.

Protect Fruits From Birds
Put netting on trees two or three weeks before the fruit begins to ripen to discourage birds from making a habit of visiting the trees. (You know they decide the fruit's ripe the very day before you do, so they get them first!) Tie the loose ends of the netting so birds don't get trapped inside.

Sunscald
Paint tree trunks with a light-colored indoor latex paint to prevent sunburn damage, which then invites borers and fungus infections. Use an inexpensive brand, or thin down a more expensive one to a solution of half water and half paint.

Pruning
Finish trimming citrus trees. Fruit is produced on new wood, so remove entire branches (thinning) rather than shortening them (heading back). To redirect branches, trim them to a leaf pointing in the direction you want new growth to go.

You can prevent fungal and bacterial mildews and rots on grapes by pruning away some of the foliage. When grapes are pea-sized, clear away leaves about 6 inches from the bunches. This will improve air circulation and help prevent the rots from getting started. Keep leaves on the sunny south side of the clusters, however, to provide shade.

Watering
Water citrus and avocados deeply every two or three weeks, and add a 3-inch-thick layer of mulch to maintain uniformly cool temperatures. These trees are more tender than other fruit trees and cannot withstand the stress of alternate moisture and dryness. Citrus roots grow beyond the tree's dripline, so give them a larger basin area.

Peach brown rot may result from overwatering close to harvest, so irrigate these trees deeply but less frequently.

Fertilizing
Feed fruit trees approximately every three weeks during their growing season with a half or quarter dose of fertilizer to encourage them to produce fruit and grow strongly for next year's fruit.


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