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How and Why to Thin Fruit Trees

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!

How to Thin
Fruit Trees
(& why you should!)

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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.

How to Grow Peach Trees: Tips for Growing the Juiciest Peaches

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.

How to Thin Fruit Trees and Why You Should

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.

Peach trees should be thinned to produce the best quality fruit

Thinned peaches grow larger than those that were not thinned.


How to Grow Peach Trees: Tips for Growing the Juiciest Peaches

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.

How to Grow Peach Trees: Tips for Growing the Juiciest Peaches

Labeling your trees helps you to remember when the tree was planted. These are the labels I use from Amazon. Read this article for information about how to label your 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. 

Often, this is all the thinning that citrus trees, cherry, fig, pomegranate, persimmon, and nut trees require.

Citrus Trees often Self-Thin

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

Plum trees should be thinned to produce the highest quality fruit.

Stone Fruits – (plums, peaches, cherries, apricots, etc.)


Apple trees should be thinned to produce the highest quality fruit.

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.

Thinning trees produces larger and higher quality fruitHow to Thin Fruit Trees and Why You Should #fruittrees#howtogarden#howtogrowfruittrees#gardening##garden#thinningfruit

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.
Thin peaches that have fused together

Remove fused or double fruit, as well as disfigured or damaged fruit.


Thin apple clusters to 1-2 fruit per cluster.How to Thin Fruit Trees and Why You Should #fruittrees#howtogarden#howtogrowfruittrees#gardening##garden#thinningfruit
Apple clusters should be pruned to no more than 1-2 fruit per cluster.

Thinning peach trees helps ensure a tasty harvest

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!


If this post about how and when to thin fruit trees was helpful, please share it:


M

Sunday 8th of October 2023

I read this too late unfortunately. I was wondering why my trees didn’t produce fruit this year. This certainly would explain it. Any tips on how to rehabilitate the tree this season?

Angela Judd

Sunday 8th of October 2023

For this season it may be too late to get large fruit. Remove the fruit and be sure to prune the tree when it's dormant and then thin the fruit next spring. It should recover well.

Hamant

Wednesday 31st of May 2023

I’ve just started some new trees and follow the recommendations. In past my nectarine tree that was over loaded with fruit lost all fruit to brown rot This is simple article written for non professional….I like it Thanks will post updates after following recommendations

Sharon

Tuesday 27th of August 2019

We thought we had thinned our peach tree enough, but we obviously didnt because we now have major branches broken from fruit weight. Is there a specific way to cut off those branches and WHEN?

Angela Judd

Tuesday 27th of August 2019

It's heartbreaking to thin peaches, but a necessary part of growing trees. The best time to prune fruit trees in Arizona is when it’s cold and the trees are dormant. Avoid leaving large sections of the tree’s bark exposed to direct sunlight. Once temperatures dip a bit and the heat of summer is past, look for the collar of the branch you need to cut. The branch collar is the area around where the branch is growing out of the tree. To find it look for a ridge, an area where the bark is thicker. Make your cut there and then the tree can form a callous over the cut.

Kari

Thursday 26th of April 2018

this was so helpful! If my peaches are bigger than an inch in diameter, should I still thin them or is it too late?

Angela Judd

Thursday 26th of April 2018

Yes, I would still thin them a bit if you have plenty of fruit on the tree. If your tree has a small amount of fruit (like mine does this year because of the mild winter) I would just thin them lightly. Once they reach a certain size it isn't as effective to remove fruit.