How to look after fruit trees in the month of May. Read our tips on the work to be performed on fruit trees in a garden or orchard in order to keep them in good health. May is a critical time of year for fruit trees. Newly-planted trees need special care and regular watering, and even established trees may need help with water and mulch. Fruit trees are now well into the various stages of flowering and or growth. Lots of new green leaves are forming. These are very important for the trees’ well-being. Parasites can be particularly problematic, particularly those that damage foliage. The leaves are excellent indicators as to how the trees are coping with various pests and diseases. Pheromone traps should be place in apple and plum trees.

Fruit tree management in May

  1. According to weather conditions, it may be necessary to supply young and newly-planted trees with extra water, a full watering can of 5 to 10 litres of water once a week, depending on the size and age of the tree. In that way new roots can be formed and at the same time plenty of moisture will be available for the rapidly increasing canopy of foliage.
  2. Make sure that the one-metre-diameter area of clean soil around the trunk of the fruit trees remains free from grass and/or weeds. This is to ensure that your watering is to the benefit of the young fruit trees, and not the weeds and grass.
  3. If you have recently planted some trees, they need special care, particularly now as we are moving towards summer. Young trees will do well with extra foliar feed during the period May to August.
  4. This is also the time – late May or early June – to reduce the number of fruitlets on freshly planted trees, if fruit set is excessive on apples and pears. Too many fruitlets will take away the energy needed to create healthy shoot growth and root growth. For plums, peaches and nectarines, it would be best to wait a little longer before thinning, performing the operation once the level of fruit set is clear. Watch a video tutorial on how to thin fruitlets on apple trees.
  5. If your trees are growing in a limited space and are showing strong extension growth and producing numerous shoots surplus to requirement, it may be just as well to slow the growth down now, rather than having to carry out a laborious amount of winter pruning. This will suit the trees well, because in the summer there is less risk of the trees catching infections from different fungi such as silver leaf and various forms of tree canker. The particular method of containing surplus growth that I describe here is nothing new. It has been well documented and carried out by tree specialists already a long time ago in many countries all over the world. Perhaps it would be better to refer to this particular form of tree training as young shoot pinching. Regrowth will occur, but the time needed to do this job is minimal. All that is involved is the cutting or pinching back of young forming shoots to the 3 or 5 leaf stage depending on variety, fruit type and strength of shoot growth. If carried out well, it may increase fruit bud formation on the 2 year old wood in the space available. However to achieve this effect, make sure lots of light is available. Strong shade will reduce fruit bud formation and therefore surplus shoot growth reduction may not be fully attained.

How to control pests and diseases on fruit trees in May

  1. If you have plum trees, make sure a pheromone trap is placed in the tree. This will reduce or eliminate damage by the plum moth. The same principle applies to apple trees, but in this case the trap to be hung in the tree is the codling moth pheromone trap. Watch a video on pheromone traps for plum trees.
  2. Look at the growing points of the rapidly expanding twigs and shoots. If greenfly or aphids are in the process of curling up the newly developing leaves it is important to remove the aphids with the use of non toxic fatty acid sprays or horticultural soap mixture. The garden centre stock various brands to deal with these problems.
  3. Various moths that cause damage to fruit trees are becoming active from about now over the next couple of weeks. For example the plum fruit moth, whose grubs will live in the plum and greengage fruits, will cause a lot of damage. Now is the time to hang a pheromone trap in the tree. The lure will need to be replaced by early July to make sure the plums stay grub-free.
  4. If there are lots of ladybirds, make sure you choose a method of control which does not kill them. Ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies are all beneficial, because they are very active predators of aphids. Caterpillar damage will be very easy to see this time of year. Remove if excessive numbers are present. Watch a video about aphids and how to control them.
  5. This time of the year the small song birds such as bluetits are consuming a large number of small caterpillars and feeding their young with them. These little birds are therefore a great asset to have around. Small nest boxes in the vicinity of the fruit trees encourage them to stay in the trees, just when you need them most.
  6. It is a very good routine to cut out and burn any foliage affected by peach leaf curl disease, apple mildew and scab. Do not leave it around on the ground as it will cause you even more trouble next year.
  7. Tree canker must be cut out now, as at the moment you can still see it clearly. The same applies to silver leaf. Affected branches in plums need to be cut out and the wounds painted to prevent new infections. Watch a video tutorial on how to cut out canker.

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