Summer Practices

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. Training new growth on young fruit trees, blackberries, espalier trees, protecting fruit from birds, supporting heavily fruited branches, weed management (avoid using broadleaf herbicides or weed and feed products near your new plants, they can cause significant damage or even death),

Inspect your plants regularly, and more….

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”. 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).

 

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 ground cover 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. Drape fruit trees (up to 10’ wide) or grape vines with our 22” wide heavy duty bird netting. Construct a cage for berry bushes to support the heavy duty 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 below to find your local co-operative extension service or OSU’s web sites.

 

GRAFTING:

Are you planning to do some bud grafts this summer? Keep rootstocks watered and growing. They need to be actively growing in August when it is time to do your grafts.

 

IRRIGATION:

Adjust water rates as necessary to keep up with demand without keeping the soil constantly saturated. Always check the soil 4-6” deep, rather than on the surface, before irrigating. A finger poked into the ground does not sense wet or dry well, but does sense temperature. If the soil feels quite cool relative to the air temperature there is probably plenty of moisture in the soil, if it feels warm, or close to the air temperature, it probably needs water. Newly planted trees and shrubs will benefit from regular irrigation, especially during the dry part of summer, until their roots are well established. Plan on providing irrigation at least the first year or two. A drip irrigation system will provide water efficiently to help your new plants establish and grow well in their first two years.

PRUNING:

Trees and shrubs, keep pruning light this time of year, removing no more than ¼ of the live branches. Thin out water sprout wood before it gets very big, unless you are planning to do some grafting from the tree. Summer pruning has a dwarfing effect and is useful in controlling the size of trees that tend to get too big.

 

Prune vigorous grape shoots at 5-6 leaves past the last fruit cluster to keep the vine a manageable size and allow more sun onto the developing fruit. If you are using a cane replacement system cut side branches back to one leaf on your replacement shoots. Tie canes onto the support system as needed to keep them from flopping around. Thin out some of the leaves around the fruit clusters to allow more light in. On a mature vine thin out unproductive shoots.

 

TIPS FOR ESPALIER: Fruits trained as a cordon, espalier or dwarf pyramid (3-dimensional espalier) are best pruned in the summer to keep unwanted vigorous shoots controlled. If you keep up with the summer pruning, you won’t have to do any winter pruning, except winter damage. In all espalier forms remove unwanted vigorous shoots at the point of origin.

 

For apples, pears and other long-lived spur type fruits, vigorous shoots arising where you would like to have a fruit spur can be convinced to produce fruit buds by slowing down their vigor. Here at Raintree it has worked well for me to cut those vigorous shoots back to six inches when they are about 8-12” long. Over the rest of the summer regularly cut back to a couple leaves the new growth that arises from the top several buds of that shoot to reduce its vigor. Then in early fall you can cut the shoots back to the fruit buds that have formed near the base. You may need to use a different method where you garden; your local climate has an impact on how trees respond to pruning. Lee Reich’s book “The Pruning Book” S327  has an excellent section on how trees respond to pruning, in addition to an espalier pruning section. “RHS Fruit” by Harry Baker S170 uses line drawings to illustrate each seasons tasks and is based on the modified Lorette system of espalier pruning that works well in England.

 

Cut back laterals on fan-trained sweet and Duke cherries that are not needed for the framework to six leaves in late July. Pinch out the tip of vigorous laterals on fan-trained peaches at 18” to encourage small laterals for next years fruit production. Pinch out the tips of new shoots not wanted for the framework of fan-trained plums when they have made 6-7 leaves to develop fruit spurs. Refer to ‘RHS Fruit’ for more specifics on training espalier form fruit trees and bushes.

 

FRUIT PROCESSING:

Enjoy brambles, currants, gooseberries, cherries, early peaches, asian plums, apricots, and early ripening Raintree Select goumi. Everbearing strawberries are starting to ripen, and will continue to provide fresh berries through fall. I like to harvest my currants with a lingonberry rake, T300,  to get the job done neatly and quickly. Hold the shoot upright with one hand, and rake along the fruit racemes from bottom to top. Our recipe page gives you basic instructions to make juice and jelly from scratch.

 

CONTAINER PLANTS CARE:

 Summer is in full swing and plants are in active growth. Water often enough to keep plants from wilting with water stress, but not so much that roots start to rot from lack of oxygen. Water needs will vary from one plant to another. A small plant in a large pot does not remove very much water from the soil, so it is easier to over water and rot the roots. A large established plant dries out more easily because the soil does not hold as much water and the plant roots extract more. Check for soil moisture several inches under the surface, using the same technique described in the irrigation section above; or lift or tip the pot up to see how much it weighs. Allow citrus and stevia (sugar leaf) to dry out somewhat between each watering, but keep figs and bamboo evenly moist. If plants regularly wilt in the afternoon but the container always seems to have enough moisture in it move the container so it is protected from the late afternoon sun. Remember plants may also wilt if the soil is kept constantly saturated and the roots are starting to rot, in which case allow the soil to dry out before watering again.

 

New plants that started the season with a slow-release fertilizer are probably ready for a booster now. The frequent watering that is required to keep the container moist leaches nutrients from the soil. Fertilize regularly with an appropriate type of fertilizer for what you are growing. Some plants have specialized needs, such as citrus or blueberries. For best results use a fertilizer that indicates it is for the particular type of plant you are growing on the label.

 

Citrus trees may send up a few overly vigorous shoots, trim these back to where you would like to see branching to keep your plants more compact, or thin them out if they are not needed in your tree. Rootstocks may send up suckers also, remove them completely to keep the energy focused on your variety.

 

Sugar Leaf (Stevia ) may send up flower stems. Keep all flower stems removed, once they have a chance to set seeds the plants die.

 

PLANNING:

 

Vines and ground covers can offer tasty treats for the eye as well as the palate. Grape and kiwi vines with wonderful fruit, some with beautiful foliage color or texture, can be trained over sturdy arbors as ornamental features. Some strawberries produce fruit throughout the summer and into fall for a tasty ground cover; cover a south or west facing slope with heat loving tristar strawberries, or choose alpine strawberries with a clumping habit and no runners. Plant wintergreen for its aromatic red berries that persist well into winter on a low mounding shiny evergreen plant. Grow a patch of Lingonberry in a well-drained sunny location and harvest the berries just in time to make a delectable sauce for your thanksgiving turkey.

 By Theresa Knutsen