Peter Cun­dall:

Ad­vice on how to gain the cut­ting edge.

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - CONTENTS - writes PETER CUN­DALL

It re­ally takes an act of will power to thin some fruit. When we see these big, suc­cu­lent tight clus­ters of de­vel­op­ing peaches, plums or ap­ples, the thought of calmly pluck­ing many of them off can seem al­most un­bear­able.

Just the same, even if we re­move half the fruit from a heav­ily-laden tree, we’ll still get roughly the same weight at har­vest time be­cause those left be­hind grow so much big­ger.

In fact ap­ples are much tastier and sweeter when al­lowed to grow and de­velop in­di­vid­u­ally without com­pe­ti­tion. Same with pears, espe­cially Win­ter Cole which tends to carry enor­mous clus­ters of pears which re­main tiny un­less thinned. When faced with branches droop­ing with the weight of these pears I ruth­lessly re­move four out of every five pears, yet the fi­nal yields are amaz­ing.

Asian pears (nashi-fruit) also have a strong ten­dency to form tight clus­ters of very small, al­most round fruit and if left

Thin­ning veg­etable seedlings is among the more te­dious but nec­es­sary tasks in the veg­etable gar­den

un-thinned re­main too small to be of much value.

The ap­ples which need thin­ning most in­clude Lady in the Snow (Pomme de Neige) and Graven­stein both va­ri­eties which re­main taste­less and small un­less all sur­plus is re­moved.

Luck­ily these ap­ples have ex­tra-short stalks so re­moval is a quick, easy job. I should add that when choos­ing which fruit to re­move, make sure all these at­tacked by grubs or dis­ease are the first choice. Shove them straight into a large plas­tic bag and ei­ther put them out with the rub­bish, or seal the bag and place out in the sun so pests and diseases are de­stroyed.

Thin­ning stone fruit has a dou­ble ben­e­fit apart from im­prov­ing size and flavour. Our great sum­mer curse is brown rot dis­ease and right now it is strik­ing hard wher­ever stone fruit are ap­proach­ing har­vest.

As peaches, nec­tarines or plums be­gin to show signs of ripen­ing, they start to rot.

This sum­mer the dis­ease had struck early, prob­a­bly be­cause of a rainy spring and un­usual sum­mer show­ers.

This is a se­ri­ous fun­gal dis­ease that thrives in moist con­di­tions and where air cir­cu­la­tion is re­stricted. Early con­trol can be ob­tained by spray­ing with cop­per­based sprays such as Bordeaux or Bur­gundy mix­tures — al­ways in spring just be­fore blos­som burst.

This is when brown rot dis­ease or­gan­isms first gain ac­cess to stone fruit trees, at­tack­ing and killing blos­soms. The shriv­elled dead flow­ers re­main stuck to branches, car­ry­ing dor­mant spores of the dis­ease into sum­mer.

Cut­ting out these dis­eased branches early also helps give good con­trol.

Brown rot strikes again as stone fruit are ripen­ing — of­ten spread­ing from the moist cen­tres of large, tight fruit clus­ters where there is lit­tle air move­ment.

Mov­ing, dry­ing air is the great en­emy of all fun­gal diseases. That’s an­other rea­son why we prune our fruit trees.

When we thin tightly-packed clus­ters to cre­ate plenty of wide airy gaps be­tween in­di­vid­ual fruit, the chances of par­a­sitic brown rot spores sur­viv­ing are re­duced.

Sum­mer rains also cause the skins of de­vel­op­ing plums, prunes and cher­ries to split, open­ing up the flesh for in­fec­tion from brown rot spores. It is worth go­ing over trees to care­fully re­move all dam­aged fruit be­fore the dis­ease strikes.

It also pays to con­stantly rake up all fallen fruit, bag it and get it out of the way so it can­not re­in­fect vul­ner­a­ble trees.

Thin­ning veg­etable seedlings is among the more te­dious but nec­es­sary tasks in the veg­etable gar­den. Last week I sowed the seeds of but­ter swedes as sparsely as pos­si­ble. They ger­mi­nated three days later, far too close to­gether.

That meant an ur­gent job of thin­ning so those left in the ground were at least 200mm apart. Swedes grow­ing too close to­gether never de­velop but re­main small and use­less.

Car­rot seedlings take off like rockets within days of be­ing ruth­lessly thinned to 50mm apart. I also thin beet­root seedlings to the same spac­ing, which is too close. That en­ables me to se­lect small beet­roots, the size of ping-pong balls, for har­vest­ing in a few weeks. They are de­li­cious eat­ing, raw or cooked. The rest grow on to nor­mal, cricket-ball size.

with Peter Cun­dall

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