Why Thinning Your Fruit Creates a Better Harvest

It’s summer. Your fruit trees are already brimming with young fruits, ready to eventually give way to a delicious crop to enjoy at the end of the growing season. But if you want to get the most from your harvest, you will need to start removing some fruits. It may feel like you’re taking a step back, but it’s the way to go if you want your crop to reach its full potential.

Read on or watch the video to find out why thinning your fruits is best for your harvest not just this growing season, but for future seasons too.

Why Thin Fruits?

Selectively removing young fruits is called thinning. Some trees already do this naturally, like apples and pears, during what is known as the June-drop. But additional thinning can benefit your crop for a number of reasons:

  • It creates less chance of the tree fruits rubbing together, which can lead to diseases like rot.
  • It stops trees from biennial bearing – where the tree crops heavily one year, only to produce very few fruits the next.
  • It stops the branches straining and snapping under the weight of excessive or heavy fruits – particularly a problem with plums, which are notorious for over-producing.
  • It gives the remaining fruits the space they need to grow into bigger, healthier fruits. They will benefit from more airflow, sunlight and energy from the tree, meaning a more even ripening.

How to Thin an Apple Tree

You will need a sharp pair of pruners, however if the fruits are very close together you may find it easier using a pair of scissors so you can really get in between them.

Apples generally produce clusters of between two to six fruits, but the aim is to thin them down to just one or two fruits per cluster.

When you’re ready for cutting, start by targeting all the misshapen, damaged or scarred fruits. This usually includes the odd-shaped ‘king’ fruit, which lies at the centre of the cluster. After that, remove the smallest fruits and any that are awkwardly positioned and going to get in the way of your better fruits. Continue thinning until the fruits are evenly spaced, leaving only the biggest and healthiest.

Aim to leave about 4-6 inches (10-15cm) between individual apples of eating varieties. For larger cooking apples, aim to leave around 6-9 inches (15-23cm) between your fruits.

Pears need less thinning than apples, but will still benefit from it as well as give more consistent harvests.

Thinning Other Fruit Trees

Pears

Pears don’t need as much thinning as apples, but your crop will still benefit from having the young fruits thinned and in turn will give you consistent harvests. Aim to thin fruit cluster to two fruits, leaving around 4-6 inches (10-15cm) between fruits.

Plums

Thinning plums is important as they are notorious for over-producing. More often than not, you can thin the smaller fruits by using just your thumb and finger to detach them. Aim to leave one fruit every couple of inches (5-8cm), or one pair of plums every 6 inches (15cm).

Peaches

Thin your peaches in stage. Once they reach the size of  a hazelnut thin them down to one fruit every 4 inches (10cm). Thin again once they are the size of a golf ball to their final spacing of 8-10 inches (20-25cm).

Nectarines

You should thin your nectarines just the once to 6 inches (15cm) apart.

 

These are just some guidelines for thinning your fruits to help create a better harvest. If you would like to share any thinning tips or tricks with us, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

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