Early fruit drop

Bee class: Monday, July 18th at 6:30pm at the OSU Extension office in St. Helens. The talk will be given by the retired East Coast Extension bee specialist, Dewey Caron. He will detail the results of the 2017 honeybee survey which show the effects of various beekeeping practices in the Pacific NW on colony survival. He then will speak on “Darwinian Beekeeping” which describes the factors to keep in mind for those who bee-keep on the natural side and want to create locally adapted survivor bees. The class is free and open to all.

OSU Master Gardeners™ Demonstration Garden at the Columbia County Fair

The Columbia County Fair starts on Wednesday, July 18th and runs through Sunday, July 22nd. For 30 years, participants in the Master Gardener program have managed a demonstration garden out at the fairgrounds. This year is no exception. The flower beds, fruit areas, roses, and other special areas like the shade garden are wonderful. As always, there will be Master Gardeners there to answer your questions or guide to various areas. Plan on making a trip to the fair this year and stop by at the garden. It will be well worth your time.

Take your flowers and vegetables to the Fair

Fair is a great event that we all can enjoy. If you are a passionate vegetable or flower gardener, you should consider entering your prize plants, flowers or produce in the fair. There are lots of options and categories. For vegetables, the Extension office has a great bulletin that we can provide you on how to display your produce to impress the judges. In addition, go to the Columbia County Fair web site for the open class book to find out the exhibition criteria used here: http://www.columbiacountyfairgrounds.com/p/vendors/334 . Under Open Class Exhibits, click on Agriculture and follow the fair book information for the plants you want to enter. For information on preparing vegetables for exhibit, contact the Extension office.

Early fruit drop

There are several reasons that a tree may drop unripe fruit. Often it goes back to pollination weather in April when the fruit is set. If it rains a lot during bloom, bees don’t get around much to pollinate the flowers. Since it is the seeds that send out the “hormones” that direct the growth of the fleshy tissues we call fruit, few seeds leads to poorly developing fruit that the tree self-thins. Some fruit trees, like plums, can start producing fruit even with a poor seed (what is inside the “stone”) set. But as the season progresses, the tree sheds these seed-shy fruit. This if often called June drop. Dropped apples are often found missing most of their normal complement of five seeds. These fruits had one or possibly two seeds that were developing normally. The Bartlett pear is a notable exception. It can develop fruit with few or no seeds.

You can test this theory by gathering some cherries that dropped early. In addition, pick off a few that remain on the tree. Take a knife and split open the pits. The cherries that dropped should show a shriveled seed inside the pit while the ones developing normally show a large seed.

High disease pressure can also cause fruit drop. Sweet cherries can be dramatically affected by rain-provoked disease. Fruit was set but it couldn’t survive the fungal onslaught. But that should not have been a problem this spring.

Finally, if fruit set is heavy and May and June are hot and dry, a tree may thin some of its fruit load in response to moisture stress. This could be a significant part of the problem this year. If you need a reminder, soil moisture is very low. Trees that have strongly “dwarfing” rootstocks may need water soon. Their root systems are generally less extensive compared with semi-dwarf or “standard” trees. Fruit trees may need water this August onwards if the dry pattern continues. Young trees should be deep-watered once a week now.

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