University of Maryland Extension

May Fruit Tips

raspberry canes

Photo: Caroline raspberries

(More tips from HGIC)
 Also, see our comprehensive Grow It Eat It information on growing fruits.

  • Raspberries and blackberries -
    • The floricanes (canes with flowers) of June-bearing raspberries should be pruned back to a height of 4-5 feet to encourage lateral growth.
    • Thin out new bramble shoots (primocanes) so that there is at least a 3-4 inch space between shoots. Tip the laterals of the floricanes of bramble plants to 12-18 inches. The skinny growth at the ends of laterals will not bear good fruit and will create a dense, unproductive canopy.
    • Remove any bramble canes that show virus symptoms- small, curled, distorted or mottled leaves.
    • Blackberry and black raspberry plants with leaves exhibiting dusty, orange pustules are infected with rust disease and should be dug up, bagged up and thrown out.
  • Strawberries -
    • Pull the blooms off of newly planted strawberry plants for the first growing season.
    • Mulch under and around strawberry plants to keep the fruits off the ground.
    • Cover strawberry beds with bird netting or (PDF) floating row cover before the berries become ripe to exclude birds, squirrels, and other hungry critters.
    • Ripening strawberries attract sap beetles. Consider placing small plastic jugs in your strawberry rows filled with water, molasses, and yeast to attract and trap sap beetles.
  • Peaches -
    • borer on cherryPeach tree borer larvae that over-wintered in the lower trunks of peach trees are actively feeding right below the bark. Look for entrance holes with thick sap or gum at the opening. The feeding of only a few borers can girdle and kill a young tree. A vertical cut with a very sharp knife can be made around the entrance hole in an effort to locate and kill the borers. Inserting a sharp thin wire into the holes may also spear the borers. Borers are attracted to stressed trees so keep your trees healthy to prevent damage.
    • Peach leaves infected with peach leaf curl fungus will thicken, pucker and turn red, pink or purple. Rake up and dispose of fallen leaves. The affected trees will grow new leaves and should still produce fruits this summer. Spray your peach trees with liquid lime sulfur next spring when buds begin to swell to prevent infection.
  • Grapes - Be prepared to spray fungicides during bloom on grapes that were damaged by black rot last year. Always use a fungicide labeled for the specific purpose intended and follow label directions.
  • Blueberries -
    • Test your soil before planting blueberries. The desired soil pH for blueberry is 4.3-5.3. Use iron sulfate and elemental sulfur to drop the soil pH, a process that can take 6-12 months. These plants establish more quickly and are more productive in soils heavily amended with compost.
    • New blueberry leaves that are yellow may be suffering from a lack of iron, due to soil pH above 6.0. Apply a chelated iron product to affected plants and add enough sulfur to drop the soil pH to the 4.3-5.3 range.
    • Remove the blooms from blueberry plants the first year after planting.
    • Fertilize large blueberry plants each spring with 8 ounces of ammonium sulfate (21-0-0). Half should be applied during bloom and the other half when fruits begin to form.The nitrate form of nitrogen will damage blueberry roots.
    • Keep your blueberry plants well-watered during dry periods. They are very susceptible to drought stress.
  • Remember to keep all new fruit plants properly watered this summer. The first season is critical for their establishment.
  • Buy the smallest quantity of any pesticides that you anticipate needing this summer. Buy and maintain a separate sprayer for herbicides. Do not apply fungicides or insecticides with a sprayer previously used for herbicides.
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