Summer has arrived, the lush growth of spring and early summer surrounds us; here are some tips to guide that growth where you want it:
Put spreaders in narrow crotches of well placed new shoots on your young fruit trees. A wooden clothes pin is effective for smaller shoots, the 4” pointed spreader (T610) will work for branches larger than ½-inch. A sandwich bag of sand or rocks tied to the branch just far enough out its length to pull it down also works well. An ideal angle is about 30-50° from the main trunk.
Remove suckers growing from the rootstock on younger trees.
Tie in growing branches on your espalier to keep them in your desired form as you develop the new tree. Remember to allow shoot tips to remain pointed up when you are training horizontal branches in the espalier until the branch has extended to the desired length.
Maintain a more compact size in your upright growing blackberries, such as Apache or Triple Crown. As the new shoots grow to your desired height (4-6’) snip out the growing tip. This will encourage lateral branching that you can cut back to 2’ next winter.
Trailing blackberries will be sending up their new canes as well. Train them on the wires, preferably next to, rather than mixed up with, the current year fruiting canes. I like training them on two wires strung about 2.5-3’ apart on the posts. Coil the canes over the top and under the bottom wire, with one year’s growth going one direction (i.e. left) and the next year’s growth going the opposite direction (i.e. right). Another method is to train them on a 6-7’ high mesh, such as concrete reinforcing wire. Plants can be spaced at about 4’ apart, and each season the canes are trained vertically in a 2’ wide swath up and over, separate from the previous years’ canes. If the cane tips start reaching for the ground either prune them back or bend them back upwards to prevent unwanted rooting.
Cut off old leaves and unwanted runners of summer-fruiting strawberries after the last of the fruit has been harvested, or mow with the lawn mower set in the high position. Burn the leaves and runners with the straw and weeds to control the spread of fungal disease. Train in new canes of blackberries.
When summer-bearing raspberries have finished fruiting remove the spent canes to make room for this season’s new canes.
Control weeds and keep grass short around bushes and trees and among recently planted ground covers. Maintain a minimum 3’ diameter circle for each tree or shrub that is free of competing weeds. If there are a lot of weeds coming up in your new groundcover planting, lay multiple layers of newspaper, or a layer of cardboard, between plants to smother weeds and retain soil moisture. A layer of bark or compost on top will keep the area looking nice. Invasive perennial weeds, such as quack grass, ivy, or morning glory will not be controlled as readily in one year with smothering. Avoid using broadleaf herbicides or weed and feed products near your new plants, they can cause significant damage or even death.
Protect ripening fruit from birds. Protect fruit trees (up to 10’ wide) or grape vines with our 17’ wide heavy duty Bird Netting (#T433) or 22′ wide heavy duty Bird Netting (#T431). Construct a cage for berry bushes to support the wide bird netting or drape with the lighter weight black nylon mesh. Close the netting securely under the plant canopy to keep birds from sneaking under. Bird scare tape, a shiny metallic ribbon, will help deter birds from munching on your fruit when the flashy movement in the wind startles the birds.
Support heavily laden branches of your fruit trees to prevent breakage of main limbs. Thin the fruit from the terminal end of the branch to reduce leverage that could cause damage. Over bearing of fruit can result in an excess energy drain on the tree. The tree may then set fewer flower buds for the next year, to allow time to recover from the heavy energy out put. Thinning the fruit, by the early part of the summer, will increase the size of the remaining fruit and prevent excess energy drain on the tree.
Do not tie ropes or chains around tree trunks when you stake them. They can cause serious damage by chafing and constricting the trunk. Monitor newly planted trees and remove staking as soon as the support is no longer needed.
Inspect your fruiting plants; look for dead branches, changes in leaf appearance (raised bumps, color other than green, fuzzy or warty growths), ant trails in your trees or shrubs, etc., to help catch problems while they are still treatable. If you are not sure if what you are seeing is a problem contact your local co-operative extension service for assistance in identification, or publications with identification and control information, for the typical pests and diseases in your area. Oregon State University also offers on-line guides to help with plant insect and disease identification and control. See Useful Links in Gowers Info (top tool bar) to find your local co-operative extension service or OSU’s web sites.