In your organic fruit garden in June 2013
Strawberries are late but promise to be sweet and bountiful following the long cold winter. The fruitlets on fruit trees are swelling fast. A late spring and cold weather has meant a difficult time for pollinators, making fruit set unpredictable in many parts of the country so keep checking trees and bushes for signs of setting fruit and thin accordingly.‘June drop’ is the aptly named term for nature’s way of thinning fruit. Many tiny fruitlets will shrivel and fall naturally to the ground. Now is the time to join in and give nature a helping hand by removing damaged and diseased fruit first and then carry out a later thinning after the tree has finished its shedding of fruit. Thin to recommended rates for each type of fruit, see directions below. It is essential where plums have set a heavy crop. To ensure good root establishment, keep watering newly planted fruit trees and bushes through the summer months even after it has rained.
FREE Fruit growing manual
For a good basic guide to fruit growing, why not check out our Fruit Growing Manual? Produced as part of our work with the Food For Life Partnership, it is designed for schools to use – but it is suitable for everyone. You can download it HERE free of charge.
Things to do in the fruit garden
Spread straw under
strawberries to help
retain water in the soil
and prevent soil splash
that may spoil the fruit.
- Apply netting over ripening soft fruits to keep the birds from getting it before you do. A special fruit cage is great, but a temporary structure covered with netting will do just as well!
- Pick fruit to eat fresh, or for juicing, jellies and jams.
- June can be a dry month. Give fruit bushes, canes and trees a good soak if the weather has been dry for a week or more as water stress can cause fruit to drop. Newly planted, and wall trained, fruit especially will need water. Apply up to 25 litres/sq m (4.5gall/sq yd) every ten days in dry periods. Water the soil round the base of the plants. Mulch if you can to help conserve moisture in the ground.
- From June onwards, strawberry plants will start producing ‘runners’. This is the name for the tiny plants produced on long stems (stolons), which grow from the main plant. Use some to produce more plants for next season. Remove the rest as they may sap the energy of the mother plant and reduce the crop.
- It is easy to make new strawberry plants as the runners root very easily. Either:
- Cut runners off the main plant and put them in a pot to root and grow.
- Use a length of bent wire to staple the runner, still attached to the plant, down to the soil to root
- Cut them away from the mother plant in late summer and use the rooted runners to plant a new strawberry bed .or grow them on in pots outside over winter, then bring into a greenhouse for a very early spring crop.
A second year rhubarb crop
- If your rhubarb is still growing you can continue to harvest it until the end of June. Harvest the stalks with a gentle ‘twist and pull’ motion, rather than cutting the stalks. The leaves are poisonous to eat, but quite safe to put in the compost heap. Don’t pick from first year plants, and only take a few sticks from second year plants.
- Keep rhubarb well watered in dry spells, particularly younger plants.
- Loosely tie in strong new raspberry canes as they grow. To obtain the maximum yield of fruit, thin out the number of new canes to approximately 8 to 10 canes per metre of row. Cut off or pull up the excess.
The new raspberry
canes are green in colour.
- Train in new shoots of blackberries and hybrid berries, such as tayberries and boysenberries. Train the young shoots to wires against a fence or wall in one direction and the older fruiting canes in the opposite direction. This method makes picking and pruning simple.
- Apply a seaweed extract foliar spray to achieve fruit with enhanced colour and storage quality. Seaweed extract contains natural growth stimulants and a variety of trace elements. Besides improving the quality of your fruit the plants become stronger and healthier so are less susceptible to pest and disease attack. Liquid seaweed is available from The Organic Gardening Catalogue.
- Trained peaches, nectarines and acid cherries
Rub out buds that are growing directly towards the wall. Tie in the selected shoots and thin the fruits. Acid cherries (Morello) are treated similarly but there is no need to thin fruit
- Fan trained sweet cherries and plums
Remove any shoots growing inwards towards the wall. Badly placed shoots also need removing. Pinch back other lateral branches to five or six leaves and tie in.
Remove the tips of laterals on grape vines three or four leaves beyond the developing fruit clusters. Any side shoots (sub-laterals) on the side shoots need to be pinched back to one or two leaves. Keep vines well trained or you will get a lot of lush growth at the expense of the fruit.
- Trained plums
In June, shoots with at least 6 new leaves - pinch back to 6 leaves
In early September - prune back those shoots to 3 leaves
Prune red currants, white currants and gooseberries. Prune bushes and trained forms once the plants have stopped growing for the year, usually in late June.
Identify the leading shoot on each branch, and leave it alone. Prune all side shoots growing from the main branches back to 5 leaves. This is not an essential task but will improve the size and quantity of fruit next year and remove mildewed shoots and other diseases along with quite a lot of pests such as aphids.
If fruit trees and bushes are laden with tiny fruit, now is the time to be cruel to be kind. If you don’t reduce the number of fruits, individual fruits will be small, branches can break under the weight of fruit, and you risk not having a crop at all next year while the plant recovers.
You may have to take several goes at thinning out fruitlets. It can be difficult to make yourself remove enough to make a real difference the first time round, and it is easy to miss a few clusters.
Thinning apples and pears
Apples and pears: Thin to 10-15cm (4-6in) between fruits. Ideally one fruit per cluster. If fruit is sparse, leave two per cluster.
Cooking apples: Thin to 15-22cm (6-9in)between fruits.
To increase fruit size, thin within 6 weeks of petal fall. The earlier you start the larger the individual fruit will be. If larger fruit size is not your aim, thin after the 'June drop'. This is a natural process that takes place around June - when trees, of their own accord, will shed small, diseased and pest-ridden fruits.
A peach ready for picking
Gooseberries ripening on the bush
Thinning plums and gages
Thin to at least 10cm (4in) between fruits.Plum branches are very brittle and may easily break under the weight of a large crop. Thin the fruits in two stages. Firstly, remove diseased and damaged fruit as it starts to swell. Then let the tree shed some of its crop. Once this has happened (usually in mid- July), thin again.
Where thinning is not practical - on a large tree for example - prop up branches to support them if the crop is heavy.
Thinning wall trained peaches and nectarines
Thin to 15cm (6in) between fruits
When fruitlets are grape-sized, thin to one fruit per cluster. When walnut-sized - thin to 15cm (6in) apart.
- Thinning gooseberries
Removing every other fruit will leave space for the rest to swell into a good dessert crop. You can cook and eat the thinnings.
Botrytis cinerea (grey mould). Inspect strawberry fruits regularly, removing any that are infected. Ensure plenty of air circulates around the plants and keep developing fruit off the soil by putting a straw mulch underneath. This stops the soil being splashed on the fruits by rain, which can also spread the mould.
Gooseberry sawfly larvae
- Inspect gooseberry bushes regularly. Concentrate on the centre of the bush looking for skeletonised leaves (already eaten!) and the tiny clusters of larvae of gooseberry sawfly as pictured above. Pick off and destroy the larvae
- See our factsheet, Gooseberry Sawfly.
- Check all fruit trees and bushes regularly for aphids.
- Apple powdery mildew Cut out shoots and leaves infected with powdery mildew. Put the diseased items straight into a plastic bag to reduce the risk of spreading mildew spores to other parts of the tree.
- Check apples and plums for faded, speckled leaves with a fine webbing on the surface. This indicates fruit tree red spider mite. Pick off and destroy the leaves if there are only a few. There are numerous predatory mites and insects in the garden that control them. Plant attractant flowers near to fruit trees to increase predator numbers in the vicinity. See our factsheet, GG44 Attracting Beneficial Insects
Continue hanging up codling moth and plum fruit moth traps. Codling moth larvae tunnel into small fruits, spoiling a lot of the flesh.
- Collect up and destroy all fallen fruitlets as these may be harbouring sawfly and pear midge larvae.
Hoe off or pull out raspberry suckers. This will help reduce overcrowding and avoid fungal disease.
- Net soft fruit before it begins to ripen to prevent it being eaten by birds.
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