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Orchard maintenance

Living the Country Life Radio Program with Betsy Freese

Trim and thin

Listen to this radio show (MP3 download) or read below.

Radio interview source: Dr. James Schmidt, home horticulture Extension specialist, University of Illinois

On my way to work each day, I drive by a grove of apple trees. They're heavy with fruit and it won't be long until fresh apples are sitting on my table. Whether you have a full orchard or just a couple trees in the backyard, summer is a good time to take care of important maintenance issues to ensure a good harvest.

The bulk of pruning is usually done in late winter or early spring, but you can knock off a few branches this time of year, too, especially to keep small trees from getting too tall. My sister, Molly, grows cherries and prefers pruning in August to correct issues with tree shape and crowding. Pruning in the summer doesn't invigorate the tree to stimulate new growth like dormant pruning does in winter and spring.

While you're giving the trees a makeover, the fruit should be thinned out as well, says Extension specialist Dr. Jim Schmidt at the University of Illinois.

"The reason is that the fruits do compete with each other for light and for nutrients," Schmidt says. "If you have too many fruits on a limb, they wind up being smaller and of poor quality, so it is very important to thin a fruit tree."

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