Caring for Fruit Trees in the Summer

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caring for fruit treesBy Catherine Morrison, City Fruit

New to Seattle earlier this year, I was surprised to find fruit trees everywhere I went. In my neighborhood, I’m often greeted by apple, pear and plum trees. I soon learned that, like many cities, Seattle grew as a small urban center within a larger agricultural landscape. However, whereas development in many cities led to the complete destruction of that landscape, in Seattle, it has been preserved. Today, the city boasts thousands of apple, plum, pear and fig trees in over 30 public parks and on residential properties across the city. At my own home, we have five cherry trees, including one giant 100-year old tree.

My organization, City Fruit, is dedicated to providing Seattle’s communities with fresh, nutritious fruit from the trees in our neighborhoods and parks. We promote proper fruit tree care and maintenance and harvest fruit that would otherwise fall on the ground and rot. By picking fruit and delivering it the same day to local food banks and meal programs, we play an important role in the emergency food system and in augmenting the supply of fresh, nutritious food to the people who need it most.

Healthy, fruitful trees are key to our work. Summer is prime time for fruit production and for maintaining trees. Here are some tips about caring for fruit trees this season.

Pruning to Promote Growth

Pruning fruit trees

August is the best time for summer pruning. We prune fruit trees in the summer to improve the health of the tree, protect against pests and fungal disease, and produce more fruit or flowers. To make room for more sun and air, consider these cuts during summer pruning:

  • Cutting back new shoots that crowd the larger, more established branches
  • Removing dead and broken branches
  • Removing some, but not all, suckers (branches that are growing from the base of the tree) and water sprouts (straight up horizontal branches)

Don’t prune too much – no more than a quarter of the total leaf surface in any one year. And don’t try to fix a tree in one year; if the tree needs a lot of work, do it over several years.

Summer Watering

Hot and humid weather means you need to water your fruit trees every week for the best possible fruit. Apply the equivalent of one inch of rain per week, or enough to saturate the soil one foot deep.

Control Weeds and Pests

Pick up dropped fruit to reduce the risk of overwintering pests. Mulch with deciduous tree wood chips to retain moisture around your tree’s roots. Be sure to make a hollow around the trunk of the tree so that the mulch doesn’t hold moisture against the bark of the trunk, which can also invite disease and pests.

Fruit trees are resilient – if you miss a year of maintenance, with some added attention, you can easily bring your tree back to productivity. Check out all of City Fruit’s resources on fruit trees. And if you have excess fruit, make sure to donate to your local food bank or find a gleaning organization to help.

About Catherine Morrison and City Fruit
Catherine (Kate) Morrison is executive director of City Fruit, a Seattle-based nonprofit organization that helps tree owners grow healthy fruit, provides assistance in harvesting and preserving fruit, promotes the sharing of extra fruit and works to protect urban fruit trees. Follow Kate on Twitter (@Kate_Morrison) to learn the latest about fruit tree care and maintenance, food justice and public health issues.

Note: This is a guest post; the views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Redfin.

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