4. Root Suckers and Water Sprouts
While it may be our initial impulse to allow plants to keep as much new growth as possible, it is important to recognize that not all growth is good growth. The production of flowers and fruit require a huge investment of nutrients and energy from your plants so you want to be certain that these resources aren’t being wasted where they aren’t needed. Root suckers and water sprouts are two such wastes.
New shoots that grow from the rootstock of a grafted fruit tree are known as root suckers. These growths often look like a new plant that has taken root at the base of the existing parent. Seems like a good thing, right? Unfortunately the rootstock and the fruiting graft (the upper portion of the plant) are actually two different trees which have been joined together for their mutual benefits (ie: disease resistant roots paired with a tree that grows sweeter fruit.) Allowing root suckers to continue growing is an enormous waste of nutrients which the upper graft could be using to produce fruit. Learn more about removing root suckers.
Water sprouts are vertical shoots that grow straight up from the established limbs of trees. While these growths aren’t nearly as undesirable as root suckers, they can still be a waste of nutrients if they aren’t properly controlled. An overabundance of water sprouts can block sunlight and air circulation from the more mature fruiting branches. They also tend to be weak and easily broken by the elements which is an open door for disease and parasites.
5. Know Your Soil
Plants are a lot like people in that different varieties and species have different tastes. It is important to know what balance of nutrients and trace minerals is best for each plant. Soil pH can also play a big part in maximizing fruit yields. If you aren’t sure what kind of soil you have, it’s always better to test samples from around your trees and shrubs. Once you know what’s missing, you can amend the soil to boost future fruit production. Also, you need to know the physical composition or texture of your dirt in order to grow the best plants. An easy way to test this is to scoop a small soil sample into a clear glass jar, fill the jar with water, and shake vigorously. Let the resulting muddy water settle completely. Once the water on top is clear and all of the dirt rests at the bottom of the jar, you should be able to see distinct layers of clay (bottom), silt (middle), and sand (top).