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So, it’s flaming hot in July and your orchard seems to be humming along just fine.  It’s too hot to do anything, and nothing needs done out there anyway, right?  Well, it’s not quite that simple if you want optimum results.  What needs to be done in June-July-August?

June:  Make sure all trees are heavily mulched and receiving water.  Feed 2x this month with a high-nitrogen ORGANIC fertilizer, such as diluted fish emulsion, blood meal, soybean meal or chicken manure tea. This fuels the heavy shoot and leaf growth happening now.  It’s important not to miss this opportunity to fuel the trees’ growth right now.  Keep weeds down with lots of mulch and scything/string trimming.  Keep those tree bases protected with hardware cloth tubes or plastic pipes!  Spray trees with compost tea and/or kelp extract/fish emulsion.  Peaches and plums will need some sprays of Pyganic, compost tea and Serenade to stay in optimum shape.  Early June is time to thin fruits.  Thin peaches and apples to 6″ apart.  You may need to remove 75-90% of the fruit if fruit set is very heavy.  Potted trees can still be planted.  Remember to keep trees heavily mulched and weed free!  Time to top blackberries at 5 FT tall to start them making lateral branches, that are later pruned to 18″ long each.  Keep suckers removed and all tree rootstocks free of shoots and branches below the scion-graft union.  Start tree training on all trees, selecting for strong branches and spreading them to 45-60 degree angles with spreaders, clothespins, ropes, etc.  Remove excess shoots or bad branch angles.  Enjoy mulberries and early berries such as Goumi, bush cherries, black raspberries and Kiowa blackberries.

July: Keep trees mulched.  Harvest early apples, peaches, blueberries, blackberries, red raspberries, plums and pears.  Last fertilizer applications by mid-month.  Fertilize blueberries heavily.  Harvest berries.  Remove year-old red raspberry and blackberry canes after harvest is complete.  Cut at the base and burn. Also, make sure new primocane berry shoots are trellised properly.  Remove excess or small berry shoots emerging from below ground, leaving only the biggest and best ones. Continue spraying 2-3x per month.  Do not spray fish emulsion after mid-month. Keep suckers removed and all rootstocks free of shoots and branches below the scion-graft union. Japanese beetles are heavy right now, so spray Pyganic, hand-pick or shake branches into buckets of soapy water to dislodge and remove them.  Make sure trees and berries stay moist and weed-free. Watch out for Zebra Swallowtail larva on pawpaw trees.  Enjoy the harvest!

August:  Keep trees mulched.  Continue harvesting.  Remove old berry canes and make sure new primocane shoots are trellised properly.  Remove excess berry shoots emerging from below ground.  Continue spraying compost tea/kelp extract.  Make sure trees and berries have enough water. Begin harvesting more apples, pears, later peaches and grapes.  Early pawpaws, such as Nyomi’s Delicious are ripening.  Red raspberries are heavily producing now.  Keep berries picked and clean to avoid SWD fruit fly infestation.

All in all, the work load is light in summer (unless the orchard is large!)  However, some light maintenance and care, as detailed above, will go a very long way to keeping your orchard healthy, productive and gorgeous for many years to come.  You get out of the orchard whatever you invest into it.  Enjoy the maintenance, fresh air, exercise and sweat equity, which makes the harvest that much sweeter.

Blake Cothron