So, I took all of your advice and now have the mini-orchard of my
dreams. Thanks for all your help.
Okay, so now I am hovering between excitement over what I hope will be
a nice garden/orchard and horror over what we have bitten off, so to
This is what we got: Babcock peach (semi-dwarf), Panamint Nectarine,
Washington/Robertson orange, sweetheart cherry (semi-dwarf, low
branches, ez pick), and a pomegranate shrub.
My question is: what is your advice on how to keep the nectarine and
the orange on the small side? We got advice from the nurseries, but
nothing beats hearing from experienced folks. So, please, how about
it? Can it be done?
Julie in SFBA
I have a 'Robertson' navel orange that is a semi-dwarf. If yours is not
semi-dwarf, there might be little you can do to constrain its growth
without harming the tree. Citrus is not pruned for fruit production.
It's pruned to remove dead growth, crossing branches, and branches that
sweep the ground. You can also prune for aesthetics. Just be careful
that enough foliage remains to complete shade the trunk; it's necessary
to protect the trunk's bark from sunburn.
Note that citrus is self-thinning; you don't have to remove any immature
fruit to increase the size of the remaining fruit. Also ripe citrus
will remain fresh on the tree for a few months. You might actually get
oranges this coming year.
Don't forget to feed the tree with a commercial citrus food that
contains zinc; zinc is vital to citrus. I feed my citrus monthly from
March to September; I need to do frequent light feedings because they
are in large pots from which nutrients leach and drain away. In the
ground, feeding every 2-3 months should be sufficient; stop feeding
about 60 days before frost might be expected and resume about 30 days
before the last frost is expected.
Your nectarine requires special pruning during the first two growing
seasons. If it is a whip (a single shoot), cut it back to about two
feet above the graft to promote branching. If it has branches, remove
any leader. The point is to promote 3-4 main limbs growing away from
the center; thus, cut the leader low enough to eliminate excess side
branches. Where they join the trunk, the crotches should be U-shaped
and not V-shaped. (This latter is good for most trees.)
A mature nectarine can be pruned the same way as a peach; it's merely a
fuzz-less peach. Your nectarine should be severely pruned each winter.
Remove about 2/3 of all new growth, keeping some new growth and
removing an equivalent amount of old growth. Also, each remaining new
branch should be tipped to prevent it from growing longer. Finally,
eliminate any V-shaped crotches; they will be weak and might split. I
remove all tall growth from my peach, keeping the tree low enough that I
can pick all the fruit without a ladder.
You probably won't get nectarines for 2-3 years; you might have to wait
that long for peaches, depending on how mature a plant your 'Babcock'
was when you planted it. (It's hard to tell with dwarf and semi-dwarf
trees.) Peaches and nectarines need to be thinned. When the fruit is
still not larger than an almond in the shell, I remove half or more of
the immature peaches from my tree. I try to leave about a foot of
branch between peaches. This will cause the remaining fruit to grow
larger, but their pits will not be any larger. Thus, I can actually get
more usable fruit by thinning. Thinning also prevents the weight of
ripening fruit from breaking branches.
I only feed my peach once, in the spring as it starts to bloom; I use a
house-brand lawn food. I spray my peach with copper sulfate right after
pruning and again when flower buds start to swell; this prevents
shot-hole and leaf-curl fungus diseases, which also affect nectarines.
(I have also seen shot-hole but not leaf-curl on ornamental cherries.)
I have no experience with cherries or pomegranates, so I can't advise
you about those.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
on youtube there are videos of experts trimming fruit trees. and more
to thin the fruit. dwarf trees are precocious and will set a huge load of fruit
basically kill itself trying to feed the fruit. Ingrid
Somewhere between zone 5 and 6 tucked along the shore of Lake Michigan
on the council grounds of the Fox, Mascouten, Potawatomi, and Winnebago
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