Mid-summer Orchard and Garden Tasks

In between the main planting and the harvest seasons, take the opportunity for some basic garden and orchard care.

Feeding

Spring plantings of annual flowers and vegetables have used most of the nutrients you gave them at planting, so fertilize again to finish the season strong.

Perennials and shrubs can also be fed now.  You’ll see the most results from plants that flower later (like asters and chaste tree) and plants that are already setting buds for next year’s flowering (like lilacs and rhododendrons).

Many fruits are best fertilized now too.  Fruit trees make most efficient use of fertilizers applied in the summer.  Everbearing strawberries should be fed small amounts throughout the summer, but June-crop types need a big dose now, right after harvest ends.  Caneberries (blackberry and raspberry) and blueberries are due for another feeding too.

Pruning

While most orchard pruning is done in the late winter, there are some benefits to summer follow-ups.

In tree fruits, careful thinning of over-producing branches results in better overall yield and quality of fruit.  Summer is also a good time to remove sucker growth from the crown and roots, and also to gently thin vertical or excessive new growth from the canopy – light pruning now won’t result in the vigorous new growth response that winter-to-spring pruning does.

Most canefruits produce on year-old canes, which die back after fruiting.  After these crops finish harvesting, remove all of these older stems to allow and encourage vigorous new growth for crops next year – or in the fall for everbearing raspberries.

Remove all suckers from everbearing strawberries as plantlets form before they root in.  For June-crop strawberries, direct the spread of runners into the bed area but keep them; after harvesting is over, remove older crowns from the patch, and then shear the leaves off just above the crown.

Grapes can be thinned now also.  First, remove any very weak bunches; then thin new growth vines to improve air and sun exposure.  Be careful to leave enough canopy to protect bunches from sunburn.

Planting

Your fall and winter garden starts now.  Plant cole crops like cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli; leaf crops like kale and chard; or root crops like carrots, rutabagas, and parsnips to enjoy year-round vegetable production.

It’s also not too late to fit in some late plantings of fast maturing crops like bush beans and lettuce.  Take advantage of the shade of taller crops like pole beans or corn to protect young or heat-sensitive plantings. And remember to be aware of crop rotations – don’t plant your fall cole crops where you just harvested your spring cauliflower!