A GROWING CONCERN: Have your pick of outstanding fruit

AS YOU HAVE been cloistered in your home for the last several months, you may have noticed that the weather pattern on the North Olympic Peninsula has definitely been interesting this year.

We have gone from tons of snow and freezing temperatures in March, to high temperatures and days of mixed clouds and cool breezes now.

Still, with all this variance and the unusual circumstances in our weather conditions, the Peninsula is still an extremely conducive place for growing plants, flowers, vegetables and fruit.

With that statement in mind, I have received a few questions concerning fruit trees.

I want to address those inquiries by first restating that we live in an absolutely ideal climate and topography for fruit production.

Those aforementioned record-setting hot days of July still dipped into the 60s at night. It is hot nights, with temperatures in the 80s or above, that stress out fruit trees.

Those couple of days in March with temperatures in the high teens, well that’s above zero — a tropical heatwave for a good Wisconsin boy like myself.

Temperatures must be in the single digits or lower to cause serious, long-term damage to fruit trees and that just does not happen here.

All of these factors mean our fruit takes longer to ripen.

This extended ripening enhances and consolidates the sugars, so our produce is juicy, not bitter or fibrous.

If you ever want great fruit, then here on the Peninsula is where you should have fruit trees or berries.

Please consider planting some new species or varieties this fall.

Time to prune

Now, as far as apples are concerned, August is a great time to perform several pruning tasks.

First, before the new sucker shoots leap forward and grow what could be actually a couple of feet, prune them away.

To do so now achieves several important benefits, most notably getting rid of those nasty energy purging suckers.

Our goal is to get as much moisture and energy as possible directed towards great fruit production and suckers are in direct conflict with this goal.

Because of the accelerated growth of suckers, what is now an easy job will become more difficult in years to come.

In addition, one should never prune away more than 30 percent of a fruit tree.

Pruning more will cause the plant to become vegetative as opposed to fruit-bearing and may take years to recover.

Pruning away suckers causes fewer suckers next year. Remove new suckers this week.

Next, seek out and remove any and all branches that rub against another branch.

Then remove crossover branches — those that shoot over other branches.

These are all undesirable and the sooner they are removed, the more energy is directed toward desirable growth and fruit production.

Then, as always, look for any dead, dying or damaged limbs and stems and prune them away, for these will foster and harbor disease and insects.

Finally, shape prune your tree by clipping off any errant branch here or there.

Again, the quicker you shape the tree while growth is new and small, the easier the task is and the less energy you have wasted.

The tree looks much better as well.

In addition, if you do these chores now, you will allow for more sunlight to penetrate the interior of the tree, which in turn means a far better chance to evenly ripen the fruit.

And with all these suckers gone, crossover branches removed and errant limbs cutaway, air movement will be increased, which greatly reduces disease, mold and mildew.

These pruning chores are great for apples, pears, peaches and nectarines.

But be very careful with cherries and plum trees — the sap bleeds very readily and any large cuts can cause great damage. Damage is never a good thing.

Our perfect weather here causes magnificent orchards. Take care of these prolific producers.

And take care of you and your family, because your No. 1 chore is to stay well all.


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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