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June is ripe time for picking Karina Hernandez | Mon, Jun 14 2010 02:05 PM

June means fruit tree overload for many yards and gardens as favorable spring conditions cause trees to produce more than they can handle. "June drop," the natural process by which deciduous trees automatically release diseased and immature fruits, is common among stone fruit trees such as peach, apricot, plum and avocado, as well as apple and pear trees.

The symptoms of June drop are straight forward: fruits approximately an inch in size lying on the ground or a heavy-looking crop that weighs down on the branches tell you it's time to thin that tree, harvest the crop and pick the fruit before it rots.

Though June drop is most concentrated in the first week of June, trees may let go of their bad and immature fruits anywhere between May and July.

Thinning peach, apple and pear trees in advance causes them to yield larger fruits; however, if you don't want large fruits, simply let the tree drop them on its own. Whether you thin before June drop or in reaction to it, some basic rules of thumb apply.

Leave two to three fruits per cluster on each branch. If the fruit is heavyset, leave just one. The fruit or cluster should be spaced at least four to six inches apart on the branch. Use a discriminating eye when deciding what goes and what stays.

Rid the tree of all fruit affected by pests or disease, then remove the fruit that appears otherwise damaged or distorted.

You may compost disregarded fruit from thinning and dropping if it's free of pests and diseases.

Frequently pick the fruit off the ground, even when it's healthy, before it goes bad and attracts foragers.

Make sure you have the right tools for thinning, mainly a quality pair of hand pruners or shears which can go for $10 to $20 at the local hardware store or online.

To thin large trees, consider investing in an orchard or "fruit-picking" ladder to avoid becoming part of the June drop.

The tripod design allows for maximum stability on turf and uneven ground where a regular ladder just won't do. These may be ordered through industry catalogs and select nurseries.

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