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Why you should prune your fruit and nut trees this summer

When thinning pear trees, leave 1-2 fruit per spur.
When thinning pear trees, leave 1-2 fruit per spur.

Q: Do I really need to prune my fruit trees in the summer?

Lloyd from Atascadero

A: It is common knowledge that fruit and nut trees are pruned in the winter when dormant. However, it is not common knowledge that they benefit from summer pruning as well.

The purpose of winter pruning is to eliminate dead wood, crossing branches, and to restore the desired size of the tree while keeping fruiting wood for the following season.

The reasons for summer pruning are much the same, but also work to eliminate excess growth and open up the tree to air and sunlight. Summer pruning is also an opportunity to thin the immature fruit.

Here is a basic guide to thinning fruit.

First, it’s important to note that citrus, cherries, olives, quince, figs, almonds and pomegranates do not requiring thinning. Many stone fruits, however, do benefit greatly from this practice. Thin apricots to allow 3-4 inches between each fruit; plums 4-6 inches apart, peaches and nectarines 5-7 inches apart. For apples and pears, leave 1-2 fruit per spur. If left untouched, tree limbs can sag and even break under the heavy weight of excess fruit. Furthermore, the fruit size and quality will be subpar.

The topic for this month’s UCCE Master Gardeners Advice to Grow By workshop is summer pruning. The discussion will include choosing and preparing a planting site, developing a watering plan, choosing the right tree for the microclimate and how to mulch.

You will also learn which trees need pollinizers and how to protect the tree from gophers and disease. Master Gardeners will also discuss chill and sunlight hours and different shaping techniques such as modified central leader, open center, espalier and fruit bush. Each attendee will receive a two-page handout with a summary of the workshop information.

The workshop will be from 10 a.m. to noon June 18 at the Garden of Seven Sisters, 2156 Sierra Way in San Luis Obispo. Garden docents will be available after the workshop to answer questions until 1 p.m. You may want to bring sunscreen and a bottle of water. Come and join your fellow gardeners under the pergola in the garden.

Leonard Cicerello is a UCCE Master Gardener.

Got a gardening question?

In San Luis Obispo call 781-5939, Arroyo Grande, 473-7190 and Templeton, 434-4105. Visit us at http://ucanr.org/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, 10 a.m. to noon at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Garden docents are available after the workshop until 1 p.m. To request a tour of the garden, call 781-5939.