Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Well, I did say it was windy...

This year is turning into a series of battles with the weather. The last month has been cold, wet and very, very windy. So as today turned out sunny, warm (shock) and with a mild breeze, I set out to thin the plums, only to find the wind had got there first. I first spotted one small branch of plums on the ground, thought "that's not good", then looked at the tree to see a gaping hole in the middle where the centre branch was hanging down limply. It was still attached, just, but it had to come off too.
Actually, I think both were attached to the same centre limb, it looks like the wet foliage and plums were caught by the wind, and twisted off. I didn't have the right tools with me to tidy up the damage, will have to go up later to do it. We should have a dry couple of days, so I have time. The trouble is, plums are prone to disease and this wound creates the perfect entry conditions for it. I'm crossing my fingers. Having said that, the gap in the canopy actually creates better conditions for the remaining plums, with more light and air able to circulate.
Given the damage and the fact that the increased warmth now means the plums are growing fast, I spent an hour thinning the fruit. This is necessary for a few reasons; stopping branches breaking under the weight, allowing air to circulate around each fruit to reduce rot and preventing the tree becoming a biennial bearer. It didn't produce much blossom or fruit last year, but did the year before so this is a risk. If I thin the fruit, it reduces the strain on the tree and should mean it flowers and fruits well again next year. Above is a picture of a sample branch before thining.
And here is that same branch after thinning - I used scissors to snip off the fruit. You remove all the small stuff, though some of it was starting to drop of its own accord, then reduce the remaining fruits to a suitable distance between each one. The books suggest 2-3 inches, mine are probably 1.5-2.5 inches overall. In some cases this means removing over 50% of the fruit on a branch. But none of the fruit left is crowded, so it should be better quality and it should suffer less from rot and the resulting wasp attacks. Let's hope it doesn't suffer because of the damage.
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