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Early Summer Fruit Calendar and Maintenance

Strawberry patch
Strawberry patch
Strawberry patch

Most soft fruits–strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and currants–are bearing or nearing maturity by early summer.

Tree fruits–apples, pears, plums, peaches and nectarines–in early summer are developing fruit. Attention should be given to thinning, pruning, and watering.

Here is a fruit-by-fruit growing guide for early summer:

Support fruit trees. Support heavily laden branches with stout stakes that are deeply forked at the top.

Summer pruning. Trees being grown in restricted form–as espaliers, cordons, or headed back–need summer pruning. This will keep the plant to size and encourage new growth. Prune trees to open up the centers. Prune bushes to make spraying and picking easier. Pruning will let light and air into the leafy center of the plant so that the color of the fruit is improved.

Apple and pear. The spring growth of apples and pears is now giving way to fruit production. Support heavy cropping trees with a stake for each branch or by ties from a center post.

• Complete fruit thinning as soon as the natural drop is over. (Natural or June drop happens in early summer when acorn-sized fruitlets fall to the ground; the tree’s way to ensure that it is not overloaded with fruit.) Hand thin the number of fruits to one in every flower cluster with a final spacing of 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) for dessert fruits. Larger fruit and cooking varieties should be spaced more widely, 6 to 9 inches (15-23 cm) apart.

• Look for codling moth damage–tunneling; remove and destroy damaged fruit. Paper or nylon bags in place to protect fruit should be securely banded. Larvae can be trapped in tree sticky bands and destroyed.

• Watch for red spider mites that live and lay eggs on the undersides of leaves. Release predatory mites as a biological control or spray with soapy water or neem oil.

• Wooly aphis which appears as a white wooly covering on the undersides of leaves can become thick as the season proceeds. Aphis will cause leaves to curl and distort. Ladybugs and lacewings are natural predators.

• Apple and pear scab–brown, scabby fungal growths caused by humid conditions–can leave fruits small, distorted, cracked, and rotting. Remove and dispose of infected fruit. Apply a fungicide, and prune for increased air circulation next winter. (Scab also attacks nectarines, peaches, and plums.)

• Check for pear psylla; infested leaves will be yellowed from insects that suck on plant juices. Spray with insecticidal soap.

• Keep weeds or grass under trees cut back.

• Summer prune cordon, espalier, and dwarf pyramid trees. Prune pear trees first and later apple trees as harvest is completed for the next month or two. Some summer pruning is essential to control trained trees.

• As new shoot wood hardens–test by bending them between your thumb and forefinger, cut back to about five leaves. Do not prune back leaders of branches selected to extend the tree’s framework until the tree has filled its allotted space.

• Check to make sure wire or plastic ties on trained trees are not cutting into stems and branches.

Cherry. Harvest early-season cherries now. Cover trees with nets to protect against birds.

• Hang pheromone traps to prevent peach tree borer and oriental fruit moth damage.

• Rub out unwanted buds on standard trees to produce a good shape.

Peach and nectarine. Thin out fruit as necessary. Thin to one fruit per cluster. Peaches should be 8 to 10 inches (20-25 cm) apart; thin nectarines to 6 inches (15 cm) apart.

• Protect fruit against birds, earwigs, and wasps by placing muslin or paper bags on individual fruits.

• Tie in new growth on espaliered trees.

Plum and damson. Support heavily laden plum and damson branches to prevent breaking and splitting. Breaks that result in large wounds are susceptible to infections such as silver leaf fungus. (Silver leaf fungus also attacks cherries, peaches, nectarines, apples, and pears.)

• Keep the centers of bush trees open. Remove dead, broken, and diseased limbs. Remove crossing and rubbing branches.

• Shorten the leaders on dwarf and semi-dwarf trees that lack vigor; prune laterals to about 6 inches.

• Prune fan-trained and espaliered trees by cutting back by half laterals which have already been pinched to six or seven leaves. Remove dead and diseased wood. Tie new shoots into the support frame to fill available space or replace worn out shoots.

• Spray against mealy plum aphis or other pests as necessary. Hang pheromone traps to prevent peach tree borer and oriental fruit moth damage.

Apricot. Thin out young apricot fruitlets. Leave 3 to 4 inches (8-10 cm) between each fruit. Remove diseased and damaged fruit first.

• As fruit ripens net trees or individual fruit clusters to protect against bird damage.

• Water trees regularly and feed lightly with a general blended fertilizer.

Fig. Summer prune established fig trees. Pinch out new shoots to encourage the growth of new fruitlets.

Raspberry. Pick the raspberry fruit as it ripens. Water plants once a week especially if weather is dry. After harvest, cut off old canes close to the ground leaving room for new growth to bear next year’s crop. New shoots can be tied off as they reach support wires or frame. Cut away weak new shoots to avoid crowding. Remove suckers (shoots rising from roots below ground) which are too far from the row itself. Control weeds.

Blackberries, loganberries, boysenberries and hybrid bramble berries. In dry regions, water generously at least once a week, especially when berries are turning color. Hybrids may need nets to keep birds away, more so than blackberries. Train in new shoots. Keep new shoots separate from fruiting shoots to avoid the spread of disease. Control weeds. More on blackberries.

Black currant. Pick fruit as soon as it ripens. Fruit does not hang long on the bush once ripe. Next year’s fruit-bearing shoots will be breaking ground and making growth now. Allow new shoots to make substantial growth before deciding which to remove. Keep weeds under control by careful cultivation. Water regularly.

Gooseberry. Fruitlets are swelling now. Pick ripening fruit quickly to allow other berries to ripen. Watch for sawfly attacks. Control weeds. Look for larvae of imported currantworm; pick off and destroy.

Strawberry. Harvest early- and mid-season summer fruiting varieties. Keep beds clean. Trim away old leaves. Remove runners, unless you want to establish new plants. Older plants that have produced three or more crops and begun to lose vigor can be removed to make way for new plants. Certain varieties can be encouraged to produce a fall crop by removing all of the plant’s leaves; new leaves will be produced in 10 to 14 days. Apply a complete fertilizer at the rate of 2 ounces per square yard. Control weeds by shallow cultivation.

Blueberry. Harvest early- and mid-season fruit now. Place nets over plants to protect against birds.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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