Recommendations for thinning your fruit trees
The removal of fruit may seem counterintuitive, but it will actually give you a better crop and will help prevent biennial bearing (producing fruit every other year). Thinning will help prevent limb damage, improve size of the remaining fruit and discourage early fruit drop. Another important reason to thin trees that are infected with peach leaf curl, is to divert the energy from fruit production into fighting off the disease and regrowing leaves. Watch our video on Summer Pruning and Thinning, where Tricia gives helpful advice.
When is the best time to thin
You want to observe your fruit development and start to thin when the fruit is about an inch in diameter (but not larger). June is a great time to thin as the trees have aborted the fruit naturally (June drop) and the fruit has sized up nicely. In southern climates, thinning may begin earlier than June, just keep an eye on the size of the fruit on the tree.
Do I thin all my fruit trees the same way?
Fruit trees will bear fruit along the branch, in clusters, or both so you will want to thin according to the guidelines for your type of tree. Thin the fruit in the clusters, then thin between the fruit. With peaches and nectarines you can just twist the fruit around and it will come off easily. With apples, pears, and some plums it is best to use small clippers to remove the fruit.
- Apricots - typically are very productive so thin any clusters and leave about 6 inches between remaining fruit.
- Nectarines and Peaches - usually overbears so thinning is very important. Thin the clusters to 1 fruit and leave at least 6 inches between remaining fruit.
- Japanese Plums - usually overbears and will drop fruit. Thin the clusters to one fruit and leave about 4-6 inches between fruit.
- European Plums - do not need as much thinning as the Japanese varieties. Thin single fruits every 2-3 inches or pairs (don't need to thin cluster) every 6 inches.
- Cherries - generally do not need to thin
- Pears - typically do not need to be thinned but if your tree is a heavy producer, thin and clusters, keeping only 1 to 2 per cluster and thin about 6 inches between fruit.
- Apples - thin clusters to one fruit (the best one). The large center bloom is called the "king bloom" and will usually develop the largest, healthiest apple. Thin to 6-8 inches between fruit. Spur bearing apple trees, thin from the trunk outward leaving fruit every 6-8 inches. Pick up any fruit on the ground that has been aborted or was thinned out. You can put it in your compost bin (as long as it has no signs of disease), feed them to your chickens or add them to your worm bin.
More fruit is not always better, last thing anyone wants is a broken branch on a lovely fruit tree.