No fruit is as closely associated with July as the iconic apple. This sweet staple is a focal point of all 4th July celebrations (kissed with sugar and baked in pastry, naturally) and is reminiscent of garden parties and sun-drenched picnics from our childhoods.
While our gardens' apple trees are not likely to bear ripened goods until early fall, it is important to give your apple trees plenty of attention in July to ensure a healthy harvest – according to Monty Don.
The horticultural expert has established a reputation for his expert garden ideas – many of which he shares on his blog (opens in new tab). In his latest post, Monty shares his apple and pear tree pruning secrets, which he emphasizes are especially relevant in July.
However, we have the perfect reminder to follow Monty's advice: as we all enjoy one-too-many slices of apple pie this weekend, we're going to prune our apple trees – and make this our new yearly ritual.
So, why prune apple trees now? According to Monty, the main reason is to ensure a better crop down the line because pruning 'allows light and air onto the fruit that is ripening and stops your trees becoming too crowded with unproductive branches.'
This is particularly useful, he says, because overgrown mature trees become easily crowded and – unlike winter pruning which is carried out when the tree is dormant – hard pruning now 'will not stimulate vigorous regrowth'.
And this is also why summer pruning 'is very useful for trained forms like espaliers, cordons or fans'.
So, how hard should you prune your apple – and pear – trees in July? Monty Don continues sharing his kitchen garden ideas and how to ensure a healthy fruit crop. He encourages us to crop back all this year's growth so we are left with a 'couple of pairs of leaves' which is usually around 2 to 4in.
However, he warns us not to cut any ripening fruits in the process. 'If you are training the fruit to a particular shape, tie desired but loose growth in as you go,' Monty adds.
'Almost all apples produce their fruit on spurs, and the spurs only develop on wood when it gets to two or three years old,' Monty adds.
Monty's book Down to Earth (opens in new tab) explores more fruit and vegetable garden ideas, including the art of apple growing. In it, Monty urges us to 'reduce the size of the apple tree' in July but adds that you should also do it in winter 'if you want to stimulate it to grow bigger.'
As we enjoy all the glorious tastes of the 4th of July, we're following Monty's tips and ensuring our apples remain sweet once fall arrives.