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It's summer. Should I prune my fruit trees?

Cherries ripen on the tree during the Pick and Gather Festival 2018 at Riverdance Farms in Livingston. Cherry trees can be pruned in July and August, experts say.
Cherries ripen on the tree during the Pick and Gather Festival 2018 at Riverdance Farms in Livingston. Cherry trees can be pruned in July and August, experts say. akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

Q: I just purchased my first fruit tree and I read about pruning fruit trees in summer. Is this advisable?

— Samantha T. Paso Robles

A: Take time to inspect your fruit trees thoroughly during the summer and identify areas for improvement.

The main reasons for summer pruning include correcting an overproduction of fruit, overall tree size, safety concerns and the presence of older, non-producing branches.

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Standard pruning in winter or summer requires removal of dead, damaged or diseased wood for sturdier branch development.

Focus on minor cuts. Eliminate crossing/rubbing limbs and limbs that grow toward the center of the tree. Remove long weak growth, suckers and water sprouts.

Additionally, the extra time spent correcting your trees is an opportunity to check for pests and diseases.

Some fruit trees fair better if pruned in the summer.

For instance, the University of California book “The Home Orchard: Growing Your Own Deciduous Fruit and Nut Trees” recommends pruning apricot and cherry trees in July and August. Time this activity to ensure six weeks of dry weather after pruning.

These trees are susceptible to eutypa, a fungal disease that is aided by rainfall and readily enters at the site of pruning cuts.

Other candidates for summer pruning include peaches, nectarines and Japanese plums. These fruit trees tend to grow vigorously and put on a lot of vegetative growth.

Thinning vegetative growth allows more sunlight to penetrate the canopy and help ripen fruit. Thinning also allows more air circulation, reducing the risk of fungal diseases.

Learn more about pruning fruit trees in the summer at the UCCE Master Gardeners’ next Advice to Grow By workshop, 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at 2156 Sierra Way in San Luis Obispo. Docents will be available after the outdoor workshop, which includes handouts and a demonstration, to answer additional questions.

Sturdy shoes, hats, sunscreen and water are recommended.

Got a gardening question?

In San Luis Obispo, call 805-781-5939; Arroyo Grande, 805-473-7190, and Templeton, 805-434-4105. Visit us at http://ucanr.edu/sites/mgslo or email us at anrmgslo@ucanr.edu. Follow us on Instagram at slo_mgs and like us on Facebook. Informative garden workshops are held the third Saturday of every month at 2156 Sierra Way in San Luis Obispo. To request a tour of the garden, call 805-781-5939.

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