In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
April, 2011
Regional Report

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3752

Oro Blanco grapefruit blossoms and fruitset are plentiful in third year.

Late Spring Tree Care

The weather from now through June is ideal for planting citrus, avocados, and other tender trees such as kiwis, kumquats, and pomegranates. In frost-free areas, also try cherimoya, guava, mango, and passion fruit. For containers, be sure to choose dwarf types. For the best citrus, choose trees with many strong branches, a smooth graft union, and deep green leaves.

Prune frost-damaged wood once the plant or tree has completely leafed out and you can easily see just what wood is truly dead. If you're in doubt, wait another month to avoid pruning wood which was just late in leafing out. By mid-summer, any remaining deadwood will be obvious.

Feed all trees heavily but slowly for strong growth and good fruit production. Topdress them with compost and organic fertilizers high in nitrogen (fish emulsion, chicken manure, cottonseed meal, blood meal), and phosphorus (bone meal and rock phosphate). Keep composts, manures, and fertilizers at least a foot away from touching tree trunks.

Be ruthless in your thinning of fruit set: the fruits are small now but will take lots of energy to mature, and you don't want to stress the tree to produce fruit you won't eat because there's too much ripening at one time. This is especially important for those trees bearing fruit for the first or second time. Starting at the branch junction, leave only a few on each branch so mature ones won't touch or bend the end of the branch down -- once the fruits have been picked, the branch will stay "stuck" bending down. Allow a spacing of five inches between peaches on opposite sides of the branch, and three inches between plums and apricots. Thin peaches before the fruit reaches almond-size for the greatest benefit in size and flavor for the remaining fruit.

Paint trunks of newly-planted and deciduous trees with light-colored indoor latex paint to prevent sunburn damage. Although it seems counterintuitive to use indoor paint on outdoor trees, it's imperative: oil-based outdoor paint will suffocate the tree's pores! Use an inexpensive brand, or thin down an expensive one to a solution of half water and half paint. This is the one time when "cheap" is best. Paint trunk and branches thoroughly, paying special attention to the sides facing the south and west since this is when the sun's rays will be the strongest and potentially most damaging.


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