Article: Time to Start Thinning Fruit



Why we need to thin fruit    While it is warming up, it is a thrill to see your trees starting to display the fruits of your labor. So why why would voluntarily remove this wonderful fruit we so desire? Thinning achieves a desired fruit size, enhances flavor and complexity of the fruit, great bloom for the following season, pest control, and it will help insure annual bearing which is often not in a fruit trees nature.  

Wild fruit trees naturally produce a crop every other year (biennial bearing). This is generally caused by “on” year overwhelming the “off” year. The on-year is overly bountiful which negatively effects the following year. This leads to limited return bloom for the next growing season. Thinning the crop within four to six weeks of bloom allows bud development for the next year. Later thinning is useful for fruit sizing.

Thinning will also assist the tree to focus its energy. Since seed production can exhaust nutrients and hormonal reserves, removing some of the fruit will help focus the trees energy on the remaining fruit creating quality flowering buds for the following season.  For younger trees, thinning may help the tree focus its energy to grow strong roots. By removing fruits in these young trees, its will lead to a more robust structural growth. 

When hand thinning, leave the largest, best looking fruits per cluster. Use 2 hands to prevent breaking off the entire spur. Grab the branch with one hand and remove the extra fruits with the other hand. You may pinch off along the stem or roll the fruits between thumb and finger. We usually begin thinning when fruit is about the size of a quarter (coin) or when slighlty larger than your thumb nail.

Peaches will benefit from some thinning. Plums and quince can be left alone unless you suspect a heavy crop load that will break branches. Apricots, cherries and berries do not require thinning.

Important to note; properly thinned trees will produce as many bushels of fruit as one that is not thinned, fruit size makes up the difference.