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Fruit clusters of a grape vine

Fruit clusters of a grape vine.

Backyard fruit requires care tips for the summer season. Some are:

How to manage overgrown grapes: By mid- to late summer the grapevine smothers out the fruit clusters and tends to outgrow beyond its trellis. This leads to poor air circulation around the plant, blocking light penetration and paving the way to fungal diseases like downy mildew and powdery mildew that decimate the fruits. Selective leaf removal around the fruit clusters by mid-growing season is an effective way to open up the canopy that reduces disease pressure and enhances fruit quality.

Leaf removal around the clusters can be done any time after fruit sets and well before the onset of ripening. Typically one to two leaves around the fruit clusters per shoot are stripped to increase the fruit exposure to sunlight. However, removing too many leaves around each fruit cluster can lead to sunburned fruits. Ideally 60-70% of fruit exposure to sunlight is good enough to enhance the fruit quality. Prior to leaf removal, secure any lateral shoots around the fruit clusters to the trellis or, if needed, prune those lateral shoots.

How to set a trap for spotted wing drosophila: Spotted wing drosophila (SWD), an invasive fruit fly from Southeast Asia, is a problematic pest for many fruit gardeners. It attacks many soft-skinned fruits like raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, grapes, peaches, and cherries close to its ripening stage and makes the fruit non-edible. The affected fruit contains the maggots of SWD and results in fruit rot. It is critical to monitor raspberries and other soft-skin fruits for SWD by mid-summer by setting traps and taking preventive measures.

To set traps for SWD, drill about 10 holes (3/16-inch diameter) on the lid of a 32-ounce clear plastic container. Pour some yeast-sugar mix (one tablespoon active dry yeast and four tablespoons sugar in 12 ounces of water) as bait in the container. Another effective bait mix option is apple cider vinegar (2-inch deep in container) with a few drops of unscented dish soap solution. Set the trap in a shaded area near the fruited canes. Make sure to check the traps daily for SWD, and once a week add some fresh bait in the container. If you’re not sure on what you caught in the trap, bring some samples to your local UW-Extension office for diagnosis.

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When to prune water sprouts in apple trees: Water sprouts are tough to manage in apple trees and it can be a huge time-consuming process to prune them in cold winter periods. These upright shoots are vigorous in their growth and are formed on the main and lateral branches and quickly dense up the apple tree canopy by late summer.

Ideally, major pruning in apple trees is done between late winter and early spring when trees are still dormant, but you can stay ahead of the annual pruning operation and ease up the work load by removing the water sprouts in late July. This helps in opening up the dense canopy and allows more light penetration to enhance fruit quality. It is critical not to prune the water sprouts after early August as it can delay the tree’s dormancy process and makes it vulnerable to winter injuries. Also make sure to disinfect your pruning tools with 70% rubbing alcohol before and after pruning each tree.

For more gardening information or plant health related questions, contact:

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Vijai Pandian is a horticulture educator for UW-Extension Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee.

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