There's no place for kind, tender-hearted gardeners this time of the year! Your mean streak must dominate if the harvest is to be worthy of the time, work and other resources you're putting into your crops.
Some parts of the state, like Utah County and other places where extreme cold affected fruit buds, may not have enough peaches to worry about thinning. But the rest of us will be faced with small peach removal or look to the possibility of major tree damage by broken limbs. Then there's the factor of fruit size. If you're happy with apricot-sized peaches, leave all of them on the branch. Most of us would rather have nice peaches to eat fresh or that make attractive halves in the canning jar.Grit your teeth and get after those excess fruits. Twist gently and remove the smallest, hail scarred or other defective ones first. You may have to take some that are normal and nice sized. Space them about 6 inches apart.
By this time, the "June drop" should have naturally removed those that Mother Nature has designated as unworthy to survive the season.
If there is a gap on the branch where there's no fruit, you might leave a couple closer than 6 inches. When you see the numbers of fruit on the ground tears may come to your eyes! But don't lose your resolve if you want to have those "bragging-type" peaches at picking time.
Apples are a little different in their fruiting habits in that they are produced in clusters on spurs along the branches. Thinning is vital because a spur that has a fruit this year will not produce blossoms or apples next year. This is the reason that some apple trees bear a tremendous crop and nothing the following year.
Part of the thinning operation should be to remove all developing fruit from about one-third of the spurs if this is the year for heavy cropping. Those spurs will bloom next year. Thin the rest of the tree as described below.
If apples are still very small, remove all but the two largest on each cluster now. Plan on another thinning operation that will leave only one if the June drop doesn't do that for you. Apple spacing should be about 6 inches, but like the peaches, a few may be closer if sporadic arrangement leaves some gaps.
One of the problems with apples enlarging to touch each other is that sprays to prevent worms can't cover that area. Codling moth larvae often enter the spot where apples meet.
Treat pears the same as apples and nectarines the same as peaches. An extremely heavy crop of apricots, if you want larger fruit, could be thinned to a 2-to-3-inch spacing, but it's too late to do it this year. Most people are not very enthusiastic about working over an apricot tree.
You don't have to do a lot of leaf counting, but one of the reasons for reducing fruit numbers is that large, sweet fruit requires 35-40 leaves each. That's a factor to consider if you think branches are too long and ought to have their growth pruned off during the summer. Those leaves are adding to, not detracting from, fruit development.
Vegetables, especially root crops, need that same liberating activity to ensure a useful harvest. You'll never get a 4-inch onion to slice on your hamburger if your plants are a half-inch apart. Nearly all of us plant seeds excessively thick. Then we get too emotionally attached to each of our little babies to render a logical decision about which should or shouldn't be removed for the good of those remaining.
Earless corn is common if stalks are too crowded. The most common reason for root crops such as carrots, beets, onions, radishes and parsnips "to go to tops" and not form good roots is crowding in the row. Those seeds are relatively small, but pay more attention to how thick they go in the row next time you plant.
Crowding early in their life will affect the vigor and potential production of plants. Get at the thinning process as soon as you see that a problem exists. The first of the excessive plants you take out are probably useless. Later, carrots, spinach, lettuce, onions, beets and some others can be eaten. Extra broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi and cauliflower can be transplanted into other parts of the garden or shared with neighbors.
Here are some suggested final spacings for vegetables:
Beets, onions - 3-4 inches
Carrots - 2 inches
Radishes - 1 inch
Spinach - 6-8 inches
Chard - 6 inches
Leaf lettuce - 6 inches
Head lettuce - 12 inches
Sweet corn - 10 inches
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower - 18 inches
June 20, 6-8 p.m., Granger High School. Duane Hatch. "Growing Tree Fruits and Berries."
June 27, same time and place. JoAnn Mortensen, USU Extension home economist. Latest update on safe food preservation techniques.
Add 1.5 inches to your lawn and garden this week.