Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
April, 2001
Regional Report

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Be ruthless when thinning tiny fruits from plum, peach, cherry, and other stone-fruit trees.

Care of Fruit Trees

Once your fruit trees have been pruned and have bloomed, it's time to feed them and thin the young fruit. Fertilizing and thinning are critical to producing a harvest of big, tasty fruits instead of a million little bitty, tasteless ones.

Fertilizing Fruit Trees

Top-dress all fruit trees with compost and fertilizers high in nitrogen, such as fish emulsion, chicken manure, cottonseed meal, and blood meal, and phosphorus, such as bone meal and rock phosphate. Spread compost, manure, and fertilizer 1 foot away from the trunk and scatter it 3 feet beyond the drip line, where feeder roots grow. Water well so the nutrients will easily reach the roots.

Thinning Fruits

Fewer fruits on trees allow more energy to go toward developing those fruits with less strain on the tree--or vine. Thinning is especially important for trees bearing fruit for only the first or second time. Thin stone fruits such as peach and plum before they reach dime size for the greatest benefit. Allow 5 inches between peaches and 3 inches between plums and apricots. In a clump of five or more small fruits, leave the two that point outward in opposite directions from the branch. This will allow those two enough space to fully enlarge.

Painting Your Trees

To prevent sunburn damage to tree trunks, paint tree bark with light-colored indoor latex paint. Glossy outdoor paint will seal the trunk pores so the tree can't breathe, and it will die. You must use light-colored paint because you want the sunlight to be reflected from, not absorbed into, the bark. Thin the paint with water, half and half.

Paint only the portions of the trunk and branches that will receive direct sun, such as south-facing branches. Sunburn damage to the bark weakens the tree's outer defenses and invites attacks from borers and other critters. With a little effort and inexpensive paint, you can protect your tree.

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