Monday, June 21, 2010

Year of added fruit tree maintenance

In many years untimely freezes leave fruit trees with little or no fruit on the tree. Not this year. Even though the first half of May was cool and had two more days than normal below freezing (7 total), the temperature on those coldest nights only dropped down to the 28 degree F limit during bloom and early fruit formation.

Limit because 28 degrees F is the lowest temperature that fruit trees generally can withstand before damage to the crop occurs. This year proved that right as there are bumper crops of most fruit including apricots, peaches, cherries, plums, pears and apples.

With a heavy fruit set come responsibilities. June is a good month to consider fruit thinning if the tree hasn’t taken care of this itself through the “June drop.” Peaches, apricots and apples should be thinned to 6 inches apart on the limbs when fruit is thumbnail sized. The photo right shows peaches in need of thinning (this should have been done when they were smaller). With apples, and pears this prevents codling moth worms from traveling between snuggled fruit and damaging two apples instead of one (photo below left).

Thinning helps fruit grow to a larger size and avoids later limb breakage from too heavy fruit loads. Cherries aren’t generally thinned. Be sure not to remove the spurs (short bearing stems) when you thin the fruit on pears, plums (not always thinned) and spur-type apples. Peaches bear directly on twigs with no spur involved.

For codling moth control to prevent wormy apples in apple and pear, thin fruit, trap insects and time insecticide applications appropriately. Insecticide applications should have begun right after petal fall. Permethrin and carbaryl (Sevin) are the most common homeowner treatments which are generally timed for 10 to 14 day intervals.

Click on this link for information on dealing with apple and pear insects.

Look here for information on managing peach tree borer, the most destructive insect of cherries, peaches and plums.

Photo credit: Heavy peach set, Apple cluster - both Carl Wilson

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