Fruit trees

Training Branches to go where You Want

Many people associate pruning with changing the structure of your tree to fit a different shape or style. However, this is not the case. Altering the structure of the tree is known as “Tree Training”. This is a much better way to develop an alternate form for your tree. Pruning should be used to prevent diseases, prevent lopsidedness, and encourage healthier fruit growth.

Pruning is also used to maintain the proper shape for the tree. For example, if you have an abundance of branches on one particular side of the tree, then you will use pruning to get rid of the larger segments which weigh down the tree to one side. Think about it more in terms of maintaining rather than altering. While pruning is useful occasionally, most of the time you can use training as a healthier and more efficient alternative.

Training has not been around for very long. Through tying down branches or propping them up from the ground, one can direct the growth of the tree to take whatever shape they want. This theory is usually used in the early days of the tree to encourage it to develop fully. If you direct the tree and get it started off on the right foot, you’ll save yourself a lot of pruning time later.

Usually, training occurs during the summer. Rather than just cut off all the branches that aren’t going in the right way, you try to redirect them. The mechanisms you use can be thought of as orthodontic braces for your fruit tree. They pull or push the branches, like teeth, in whatever direction you want them to go. Eventually they naturally grow that way due to your training.

It can be hard to decide how exactly to train your tree. There are many different forms and shapes to choose from. Some are meant to allow a high density of trees in one orchard, and some are meant to provide maximum fruit bearing per tree. Depending on where your tree is and how you want it to function, you will have to look for different types of forms that will perfectly fit your situation.

The theories of training can also be applied even if you are growing a tree in the traditional (natural) form. Sometimes branches will grow too close together and block each other out, so training them to grow away from each other can prevent the need to prune them later. This is highly beneficial even if you are just growing a tree in your backyard, in a non professional environment.

To train a tree, you will need some sort of outside brace to push or pull a branch. Alternately, if you want to push 2 branches closer together or further apart, you can place something in between them or lash them together with rope. Successfully training your branches just takes a little imagination in deciding what to tie things to and what to push things off of. I have found that stakes, fences, or simply an upright two by four leaning away can work wonders.

There is no tree grower that couldn’t benefit from using a little training in their tree growing escapades. Whether you have decided to give your trees a completely new form, or just optimize the branch placement for healthier fruit, there is surely some way that training can benefit you.

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The Many Types of Cherry Trees

One of the most pleasant trees you can possibly maintain is a cherry tree. The word Cherry is derived from the name of an ancient city in Turkey. It describes both the tree and the fruit it produces. A cherry fruit is classified as a “drupe”. In the center it has a single hard core that holds the seed. The outside of the fruit is smooth and might have a small groove down one side. There are hundreds of different varieties of cherry.

There are two main groups that cherries can fall under. It is either a wild cherry or a sour cherry. Wild cherries are generally used for plain eating, and originated in Europe or western Asia. Usually if you buy a bag of cherries from the store, you can guess that they are wild cherries. The other type, sour cherries, also originated in Europe and western Asia. These are less pleasant to eat, and are used more in cooking situations, including the production of jam or jelly.

Cherry trees aren’t just known for their delicious fruits. They are also popular for their beautiful flowers or blossoms. The clusters of flowers that appear in the spring are rather breathtaking, and have inspired many a song or poem.

If you’re looking to plant a cherry tree, you might consider black cherries. It is best known for being the tallest tree available, and producing beautiful white clumps of flowers. The fruit, which becomes ready to pick in the summertime, is small and black. The only negative aspects about this tree are its vulnerability to certain caterpillars, and the tendency for the fruits to fall on their own and stain concrete. That’s why it is best to keep them over grass rather then near a sidewalk.

Another one of the most beautiful types of trees is the purple leaved plum. Contrary to its name, it isn’t a plum but rather a larger type of cherry. Its tree is most recognizable for its strikingly purple flowers. Through the course of its flowering season, they usually change from deep purple to light pink. Either way, you’ll probably be the only one on the block with such a colorful tree. One of its strong points is that it is particularly resistant to pests.

The Amur Chokeberry is most recognizable for its golden bark on the trunk and branches. When its flowers bloom in the middle of spring, they are very small and white. These trees specifically require moist, but well-drained soil. If your yard can’t supply that, then this is probably a tree you should skip. This tree is one of the most susceptible to pests and diseases unless you live in a very cold climate. It is one of the most high maintenance trees, but the cherries are delicious and the flowers are some of the lushest.

No matter what your yard or soil situation is like, you should have no problem finding a cherry tree that will do well in your area. They are a great thing to add to your yard, and when it flowers it will take the breath away from everyone that looks at it. It works great as a focal point for any garden. So go to your nursery today, and enquire about what types of cherry trees are known for doing well in your region. You’re bound to find something you like.

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Starting an Orchard

If you have a large amount of land that you have not put to use, you may consider planting an orchard. If you’ve had previous experiences with planting and maintaining trees, that is an added reason why you would be perfect for maintaining an orchard. It might seem like an overwhelming thing to undertake, but it is actually fairly simple. All it takes is some commitment.

If you’ve never grown a tree on your property, you might not want to make the time and money investment of buying lots of trees. If you are inexperienced, you will want to start with just one or two trees so that you can get a feel for the growing process. Once you have seen one tree along all the way to adulthood successfully, you are probably experienced enough to handle multiple trees. You should never plant so many trees that you are going to be overwhelmed, though. Only plant what you can handle.

Generally if you are getting started on a large amount of trees, you will want them to all be the same type. If they all require the same amount of water and nutrients, you won’t have to spend as much time catering individually to the different types of tree. As an added benefit, you will become very familiar with the process of growing that specific tree. You won’t be overwhelmed by having many different types, but instead you will become a master of that specific type.

If you already have a tree growing on your property that you have maintained from its childhood, then you know that the soil is acceptable for that type of tree and ones similar to it. Since you’ve already been through the process of growing that type of tree before, you shouldn’t have any problem testing all of the soil to make sure it is similar to the segment you already planted on. Then it is just a matter of growing more trees and causing the process to be the same as it was before. Since you’ve already dealt with the same problems in the past, you probably have a good idea of how to deal with any pests that might come about during growth.

Generally in an orchard, the trees are planted in a row, then pruned to be in a two dimensional shape. This is known as either a fan or an espalier shape. There is one main branch in the center that is completely vertical, then multiple branches that go off to the side. If the side branches are horizontal it is known as an espalier. If they are sloped, it is known as a fan. Generally these 2 shapes are used in orchards because of how compact they are. By using them, you allow for many more trees to be in the certain amount of space. However, if land conservation is not an issue or you’re not looking to be efficient, you should probably stick with the traditional tree shape.

To aid in the watering of your trees, you should install either a sprinkler system or an irrigation system. The sprinklers require more maintenance, but if you dig an irrigation ditch then it is really easy to just run the faucet for a few minutes every day and reach all the trees. It’s just a matter of what you would prefer.

Once your tree collection starts to bear large amounts of fruit, you can consider starting a fruit stand or participating at the farmers market. Instead of letting the fruits go to waste or trying to eat them all (which can lead to some bad stomach aches), you can let the rest of the world enjoy the product of your intense labor. If you become a popular vendor, you might even make back a decent return on your investment. However, you can’t count on making very much money. Starting an orchard shouldn’t be a capitalistic investment. You should only start one if you have a passion for trees.

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Staking a Young Tree

When a tree is in the young stages, one of the most vital things you need to provide for it in addition to water and nutrients is support. If you don’t hold up the tree somehow, it might end up bending in a certain direction and growing extremely crooked for the rest of its life. So no matter what, you should always have some kind of support.

The most popular method of keeping young trees upright is to put long stakes into the ground on either side, and tie loops around the tree. Each loop should be fairly loose to allow for further expanding of the trunk. Lots of people just have a stake on one side of the tree, but this is not a good practice because it generally doesn’t allow for further growth of the tree.

You should only be staking your tree if you think that wind and other forces might be literally moving the ball of roots within the ground. Your staking should prevent all of this movement, because this is the most harmful thing that can happen to a young tree. It causes the roots to be in motion too much and not be able to properly get a hold on the soil so that the tree can develop normally.

Before you stake a tree, you should be completely sure that it needs it. If you constrict the movement and growth of a tree that doesn’t need to be tethered down, you could harm it beyond repair. For example, the staking mechanism you use could cause abrasion or “rashes” on the trunk. This will happen anyways, but why have it happen needlessly? Also, staking gives your yard an unnatural look and can present a hazard for people walking or running across the yard.

The staking process is actually rather simple. Just take 3 stakes and tie each one separately near the base of the trunk. If you use some sort of tether to prevent rope burn on your tree, that would be an even better solution. These can be purchased at any gardening shop, and are designed to be friendly to the bark of the tree. It is much better to stick with these instead of bare rope, to minimize the amount of friction the tree endures.

When you think your tree has been staked long enough to stand on its own, you should remove the stakes from the ground as soon as humanly possible. Every moment the tree is constricted it is losing some of its vitality. As soon as it seems like the wind is dying down around your area, look on the weather reports and see how much wind is forecasted. If the skies will be pretty clear for a while, you should at least temporarily take off the stakes.

To wrap it all up, you should never deny your tree a good staking. It is a completely necessary thing to do in certain situations. It is very crucial to understand when those occasions are, though. Staking a tree that doesn’t need it can be as damaging as not staking a tree that does need it. It might be beneficial for you to consult an expert, and get their opinion as to whether your tree should be staked, and for how long.

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Shaping Trees for Different Situations

Through the use of pruning techniques, it is possible to shape your tree to a certain style. There are seven main tree shapes that all have their own benefits for certain situations. During the growth of the tree, simply cut off the unneeded branches, tie the wanted branches into the proper shape, and you will be able to shape it however you want. However, for some of the more advanced shapes, equally advanced pruning techniques are required. There are many books written on this subject.

Usually, if you’re trying to get your tree to a certain shape, all the tying and pruning should occur in the fall. This will encourage the shape to stick, since no fruits will be produced at that point in time. Each of the different shapes is very useful in certain situations. So, here are some different types of shapes you are able to choose from.

Standard trees hardly need any explanation. These are the varieties that are most common, and probably what you picture when you think of any tree. No specific shaping is required to get the shape to take this form. Just let it go and prune it as you would normally, and unless you have a strangely deformed tree then it should end up being a standard tree.

It is possible to turn a standard tree into a bush tree through pruning. The branches take the same shape, but the stem or trunk of the tree is noticeably shorter. This can be beneficial if you want to grow trees, but don’t want to block the view. For example, my house has a great view of the Rocky Mountains. I didn’t want to sacrifice this gorgeous view, so I grew my trees up as bush trees.

Cordons are a type of tree that you might not be familiar with. It consists of one stem with no branches. It is planted at an angle so that it arches up over the ground. Through the course of its growth, all branches are removed. These are beneficial because they take up very small amounts of space and more can be fit in a certain square footage. The only negative aspect is that they produce smaller amounts of fruit per tree.

Espalier trees grow with a single vertical stem in the center, and several horizontal branches on each side. These allow for long rows of trees, while still producing large amounts of fruit. If you operate an orchard, you probably use this shape to fit as many trees as possible into the area you have.

Fan trees use the same theory as espalier trees. However, the shape is slightly different. The same central vertical stem is used, but the connected branches are not horizontal; they grow in the same pattern as a standard tree, only they are two dimensional rather than three dimensional. They are also used to save space, and are used instead of espalier trees for certain types of trees that do better with sloped branches.

Another type of espalier is the step-over espalier. They are like a normal espalier, but with just one horizontal branch very close to the ground. They are particularly interesting because they still produce delicious fruit while providing a border for whatever you want. I have used step-over trees to fence of my garden. They are definitely my favorite shape of tree, mainly because they are like a fence that bears fruit. What’s not to love?

As you can see, each of these shapes has its own benefits and negative aspects as well. If any of these sounds like they would be a good fit for your garden, you can ask your local nursery employees for advice on reading material that will help you achieve your goals. Most of the time, getting the tree into the desired shape is a very easy process and just requires some guidance at the beginning.

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Selling at Farmer’s Markets

Usually the main motivation for planting a fruit tree is just the joy of maintaining a tree and eating the delicious fruit that comes from it. However, in my personal experience it is possible to go on a quite lucrative venture with fruit trees by operating a fruit stand or participating in a farmer’s market.

When I moved to Florida, I was slightly depressed at the fact that I had just left behind years and years of hard work to get my lawn to the point it was. However, I was able to healthily channel this depression into the desire to get a new and more beautiful garden and lawn setup going. The house I moved into was nice, but the previous owner obviously had no gardening prowess. The lawn was barren of any features besides grass. Lots and lots of grass.

I decided that since I was now in a new climate that I had never experienced before, I would grow some trees that I didn’t have the opportunity to grow before. I decided to do the truly Floridian thing to do, and get a few orange trees. It was a lot easier than I had imagined. I’ve had some rather disastrous experiences with planting trees in the past, and planting the orange trees was no problem at all. I decided to go with Valencia oranges, just because they are the most popular orange to grow and almost everyone is able to grow them successfully.

After I picked out what type of orange I wanted, I decided to get three trees. It took me about 3 days to dig all the necessary holes and install the trees. It was a flawless operation, and I truly felt like an expert. The trees grew healthy and straight, and produced fruit at the time of year they were expected to.

For the three or four years, my orange trees didn’t produce very much fruit. Sure I never ran out of oranges for my own personal usage, and I drank almost nothing but orange juice, but I didn’t have the ludicrous amount that you might expect from 3 trees. I wouldn’t say I was disappointed with my trees. I was happy to be getting any fruit at all. But I had heard of people getting thousands and thousands of oranges from several trees, and I was slightly baffled as to why I wasn’t so fortunate.

About a year after that, my orange trees really took off. I walked outside one day to see about 5 times as many oranges as I had grown in any previous seasons. I thought I was seeing things, but they all stuck around. I harvested so many oranges that year, I hardly even knew what to do with all of them. That was when my neighbor suggested to me that I sell at a farmer’s market. I found out the time that they go on, and rented a spot for my truck (some farmers markets allow you to come and sell for free, but mind charged rent just to park your truck).

Within the first day at the farmer’s market, I had made back all the money I spent on the original trees. My oranges were truly a hit, and I was getting more customers than any of the other participants. After that week, I didn’t miss a day at the farmer’s market. It wasn’t enough money to live off of, but it was a good amount for just selling some oranges. Besides, what else would I have done with them? I certainly couldn’t have eaten them all by myself. So if you have an excess of fruit, you should never throw it away or try to eat it all by yourself. Take it to the farmer’s market and try to get some extra cash for your gardening labor. If your products are delicious, you might just be a hit with the consumers.

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Removing Old Trees

Sometimes a tree gets to the point where it is necessary to say goodbye to it. It can be a painful choice to make, but sometimes the tree gets too close to the house, gets too diseased, gets an incurable infestation of some pest, or grows too tall and gets close to a power line. If any of these things occur, its best to do the right thing and get rid of the tree. Although you might have spent hours and hours getting the tree to where it is today, it is almost dishonorable to the tree to allow it to suffer in bad conditions.

Once you have made the choice to remove the tree, you need to plan its removal. I can’t begin to count how many windows I’ve seen knocked out or cars I’ve seen crushed because of poor planning in the tree removal process. Decide what direction you want it to fall, and accurately measure to make sure it will fall completely clear of anything else that it could possibly cause damage to.

Once you have the falling direction planned out, you should climb up the tree and tie two long ropes near the top. Anchor them on the opposite side of the one that you want it to fall towards. This will allow you to adjust the direction the tree is being lowered in, just in case it starts leaning towards anything it could destroy.

Now that you’ve taken all the necessary precautions, you are ready to begin chopping. If you plan on using a manually operated saw or axe, please step back and consider how insane that is. Chopping down a tree by hand will take you forever, and will not even begin to be as accurate as using a chainsaw. If you don’t have a chainsaw, you shouldn’t even consider doing it without one. Ask around with your neighbors and see if anyone has one that you could borrow. If that doesn’t work, rent or buy one from your local home improvement store.

Before you start chopping away at the tree, you should wear proper eye and face protection in case any wood chips fly towards your eyes. I had a friend who blinded his right eye while cutting down a tree, so I hope all of my readers do not make the same mistake as he did. Whenever you operate a power tool, always be sure to wear proper protection for any exposed parts of your body.

When making the cut, you do not want to just cut a straight line into the tree. It is best to cut a sideways “V” into the tree. This is because if you cut the straight line, the tree will end up rolling to one side or the other. If you cut in a “V”, the tree will be able to fall in the exact direction that you want it to fall. Occasionally it might be a few feet off due to human error during the cutting process, but if you have some strong friends pull on the ropes you tied, you can line it back up with the path you wanted it to take. The entire process shouldn’t take more than an hour.

Removal of the stump can be slightly more difficult. You have several choices; you can rent out a stump chipper that will completely destroy the visible section of the stump. Or you can spend countless hours digging it out. Digging out the stump is much more thorough, but takes forever. If you have kids this shouldn’t be a problem. Kids often find the thought of digging fun, and are excited to go outside and dig all day long with their friends. This was the method I used, and I had the entire stump out within a week. Keep in mind that my stump was about 1 foot in diameter, and digging probably won’t work for stumps much larger than that.

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Pruning Your Trees

If you have just entered the tree growing world, you have no doubt heard the term “pruning” tossed around by the more veteran growers. Well, I have something to admit. For several years, I did not even know what pruning was. I heard the term a lot, but I never felt comfortable asking someone what exactly it was. Even though it would have benefited my gardening and tree growing, I was too prideful to ask. I’ve found that pride is the reason for the failure of many great endeavors; if I had just asked someone what pruning was, I wouldn’t have undergone a few of the disasters that occurred during my first years of gardening.

Pruning is the removal of dead or unneeded branches to encourage the growth of flowers. Usually a tree will end up devoting energy to branches that don’t need it, while neglecting branches which are bearing more fruit. If you remove the branches that are taking all the nutrients, you will begin to see a flourish in the other ones. Pruning also keeps the tree in shape by keeping the branches even. This prevents it from becoming weighed down on one side. Having too many branches on one side could cause the tree to become permanently crooked.

Many gardeners don’t even think about pruning their trees until they start to bear fruit. This is a big mistake, and you should never neglect to care for a tree just because it hasn’t yet begun to produce. During the entire process of growth, you should prune the tree in a way that it is even and uniform. Then, when it does start to produce fruit, the results will be significantly greater. It is very easy to tell the difference between a tree that has been pruned regularly during its growth, and one that has been neglected. Generally the shape of the tree is much more natural looking if it has been pruned.

The first thing to look for when you start pruning is any branches which are dead or diseased. These are quite easy to recognize. Usually they don’t bear any fruit, and might be misshapen or discolored. Don’t hesitate at all in chopping these guys off, as they are nothing but detrimental to the health of your tree. Sometimes a branch can be dead or diseased without making it too obvious. If this is the case, simply wait until the tree is flowering and it will become obvious by not growing anything.

The second type of branch to look for is the branch that is too close in range to all the other ones. If it grows at such a length and angle that the end is right next to all the other branches, they might end up crowding each other out. Take off the smaller of the two branches to allow the larger one to have the breathing room that it needs. This same rule applies to the weight balance of your tree. Sometimes, for reasons we will never understand, a tree will grow several branches on one side and weigh itself into being lopsided.

So hopefully I have provided you with a basic knowledge of pruning. There are more situations and types of branches that require pruning, but what I’ve outlined is the very basic parts. These can alter depending on how old your tree is. For example, for the first 3 years of a tree’s growth it requires pruning that follows more “formative” guidelines. After the tree is well established, you will need to use “regulatory” pruning to keep it where you would like it to be. There are entire books written on how to prune trees depending on how old they are. There are far too many techniques for me to go over, so if you want to use these advanced techniques then you should go to your local library and check out a book.

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Protecting Trees with Bird Netting

If you have a problem with birds, you have probably tried many solutions. Some of the most popular include plastic animals, scarecrows, wind chimes, or highly reflective tape. All of these things can do a great job of reducing bird problems. I have quite a few cherry trees in my backyard, and I used to struggle a lot with birds. After I applied all of these solutions, my problem went almost completely away. Unfortunately, the solution only lasted a few months.

Apparently, birds have a natural tendency to get bolder as time goes by. While at first my scarecrow scared them senseless, now I look outside and see them sitting on his shoulder. And munching on cherries from my tree. Those insolent little fiends! I’m not saying I mind birds. I love having them around my yard. But you see, I’ve already designated one tree specifically for allowing birds to eat off of. But it seems that birds can’t be content with what they’re given. They always feel the need to go over to my own trees when there is a tree just for them that doesn’t have any scary things around it.

I saw many gardening stores marketing a type of bird netting. I decided to use it. Bird netting is basically a giant net that you throw over the entire tree. The holes are about one half of an inch wide. I purchased enough of this to cover one whole tree. It was quite a hassle to install, but it definitely worked after that. I didn’t have any more problems with birds taking cherries from that tree. But one day I woke up and made my daily rounds. On that day, I found 2 birds caught in the netting that had been choked to death. I felt absolutely terrible. I buried the birds and immediately took down that netting. I didn’t want to protect my tree at the cost of the birds’ lives! Sure, I’ll kill off a few bugs, but birds are a little too nice for me.

For a while I felt too guilty to prevent the birds from eating any more. I thought that I would make it up to them by letting them feast on my cherries. I even took down my scarecrow. But a few months later I saw something in a fabric store that made me rethink my generosity. Almost every fabric store sells a material called “tulle”. It is very fine netting with holes too small for any bird to fit its beak or head into. While it is easy to find, it is also extremely cheap. Buying enough to cover one tree ended up costing less than half of what it cost for the lethal bird netting.

I installed the tulle onto my tree (I’ll admit it was a lot harder to install than the bird netting was. I had to attach several large pieces together at the seams) and watched it for a day. I wanted to keep an eye on it every second, so that if a bird got caught I could quickly help it out. Fortunately, no bird ever got caught. Tulle is a much safer and cheaper alternative to bird netting, and I suggest it if you have any problems with birds. Just remember to let them have at least one tree for themselves! Sharing with birds is an essential part of being a good gardener.

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Preventing Diseases in Fruit Trees

If you maintain any pitted fruit trees such as plums, peaches, or cherries, I’m sure you know that those types of trees are much more susceptible to diseases than any other type. While the fruits are delicious, it can be rather hard to live with all of the maladies that can plague the life of everyone who has ever grown one of those types of fruit trees.

The main disease that you will hear about the most is known as “Brown Rot”. This is a fungus that attaches to many of the leftover fruits after the picking season is over. Not only does it look disgusting on the leftover fruits, but it also can come back on the newer fruits, rendering them inedible (unless you enjoy eating fungus). To prevent this malady, you should prune your trees often to encourage good air circulation. Buildups of moisture are the main cause of the brown rot. Also when you are done picking for the season, you should get rid of all of the leftover fruits in the tree or on the ground.

A cytospora canker is a disgusting dark, soft area on tree branches. Gum protrudes through the bark, along with a large callus. The pathogen which causes these cankers usually enters the tree through older wounds. If you prune all of the sprouts that occur in late summer, cankers will have a harder time making themselves known within your tree. When you prune, always allow the wounds to heal naturally rather than use the wound dressings that you can buy at gardening stores. I’ve found that these usually do very little to help any situation, and only serve to make the tree look unnatural.

Those planting plum trees might deal with something called Black Knot. The symptoms of black not are rough tumors or growths that can be seen on the tree’s branches. If you see any of these, you should immediately chop off the branch it has attached to. If you use branches for mulch usually, don’t for this one. This disease can easily re-enter the tree if it is within a certain distance.

Almost everyone who has ever maintained a cherry tree has dealt with the “Cherry Leaf Spot”. It usually shows itself when there are old dead leaves accumulated on the ground. Preventing this disease is fairly easy. All you have to do is be fairly diligent in raking up all of the leaves that fall from your tree. If you have already seen signs of the disease, you should destroy all of your raked leaves. If not, then you can use them as mulch.

When your fruits ripen and become ready for picking, you should always be completely finished with picking within 2 weeks. It is best to daily go outside and pick all of the new ripe fruits, along with any that have fallen off of the tree or are starting to rot on the tree. By doing this, you will prevent bees and wasps from becoming too dependent on your tree for nourishment.

Growers of fruit trees are constantly faced with diseases and pests to worry about. However, if you take the proper precautions then you can avoid most of them. You should also look for any diseases that have been affecting your local area, and try to take steps to prevent those as well.

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