Learning how and why to thin fruit trees is crucial. Have you ever thought… “My peach tree only produces small hard fruit.” Or… “My apple tree’s fruit tastes good, but all the fruit is so small!”
Properly thinning your fruit trees can change the tree from one that’s nice to look at to one whose fruit you look forward to and enjoy!
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Why thin fruit trees?
Thinning fruit trees plays a vital role in promoting larger, healthier fruit production. By removing excess fruit, you allow the tree to focus its energy on fewer fruits, resulting in bigger and better-quality harvests.
Thinning also helps prevent limb breakage due to heavy fruit loads and encourages proper air circulation, reducing the risk of diseases.
Why thin fruit trees? Most fruit trees set more fruit than they can support
Why thin fruit trees? The answer is simple: most fruit trees set more fruit than they can adequately support. While pruning before the season begins helps reduce the potential fruit load, it’s still necessary to thin the remaining fruit on most trees. Thinning ensures that your tree can allocate its energy to a smaller number of fruits, resulting in larger, healthier harvests.
Thinning the fruit helps produce the large, delicious fruit we like to eat.
Why thin fruit trees? Thinning trees supports the overall health of the tree
Too much fruit uses up all the tree’s stored energy, which depletes the tree and makes it more susceptible to damage from disease, pests, and sunburn.
Reducing the fruit load of the tree by thinning can prevent limb breakage to branches that cannot support the weight of the fruit.
Why thin fruit trees? Thinning trees produces larger and higher-quality fruit
Too many fruit on a tree will compete with each other for the energy that was stored by the tree. When there isn’t enough energy (carbohydrates) to go around, the fruit will be small.
Also, fruit that touches each other can quickly spread diseases like brown rot because air circulation is limited. Fruit that has been thinned will have better air circulation and prevent this problem.
Thinned peaches grow larger than those that were not thinned.
Learn more about how to plant and grow peach trees in this article.
What about thinning fruit on newly-planted trees?
Remove most (if not all) fruit on most trees for the first two or three years. Wait to see which blossoms set fruit and then remove the fruit rather than removing the blossoms. This allows the energy to go to the structure and root system of the tree rather than the fruit. Heavy fruit can also damage branches on young trees.
Some trees naturally thin themselves to some extent
Unpollinated blossoms wither and fall off, and fruits infested with disease or insects often drop early. Natural fruit drop usually occurs during the spring when fruit that the tree cannot support naturally drops from the trees.
Check the load on the young tree’s branches to ensure the branch can support the weight of the growing fruit.
Types of fruit trees that require additional thinning
Stone Fruits – (plums, peaches, cherries, apricots, etc.)
Pome Fruits – (most pears and all apples)
When is the best time to thin fruit?
The best time to thin fruit is within a month after full bloom. By thinning during this crucial period, you maximize the chances for the remaining fruit to grow larger in size. Waiting too long to thin may result in less significant improvements in fruit size.
The fruit should be thinned before it is an inch in diameter, if possible.
How much fruit should I remove from the tree?
- Larger fruit like nectarines and peaches should be pruned to 4-6 inches apart.
- Thin smaller fruit such as plums and apricots to 2-4 inches apart.
- Apple clusters should be pruned to no more than 1-2 fruit per cluster. Choose the largest fruits to retain on the branches.
Remove fused or double fruit, as well as disfigured or damaged fruit.
Invest a little time thinning your tree at the beginning of the season, and your tastebuds will thank you later! Happy thinning, and enjoy the delicious rewards!