In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
June, 2008
Regional Report

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Thinning these ripe peaches when they were tiny could have resulted in twice the amount of flesh and half the number of pits!

Early Summer Fruit Tree Care

If you already thinned those tiny fruits on trees and vines and left only what you realistically expect to consume, your trees will be ripening a decent crop that isn't putting too much stress on the trees, and there will be little waste. If you didn't, now you see how many more fruits you could have relieved the tree of having to develop! Resolve that next year you'll not feel so reticent about removing up to 85 percent of all those cute tiny fruits! You'll know to thin tree fruits to opposite sides of branches for balanced and more complete development with less strain on trees. You'll leave at least 3 inches between apricots and plums, and 5 inches between peaches, nectarines, pears, and apples.

For the health of your trees and their developing crops, take time every week for some routine care. Here are some things to keep in mind:

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 loose ends of the netting so birds don't get trapped inside.

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.

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.

Keep citrus and avocados well-watered. Water deeply every two or three weeks and spread 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 it a larger basin area.

Feed fruit trees about 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.

Irrigate peach trees deeply but less frequently to reduce the chance of peach brown rot. It can result from overwatering close to harvest.

Prune away some of the foliage on grapes to prevent fungal and bacterial mildews and rots. When grapes are pea-sized, remove leaves about 6 inches away from bunches. Better air circulation won't let the rots get started. Keep some leaves on the sunny south side of the clusters, however, to shade the fruit.


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