Get The Best Top-Fruit Harvest – Thinning Fruit Trees
Known as June drop, fruit trees naturally drop some of their fruitlets in early summer. To help improve size, quality and uniformity of ripening, it is best to hand thin more fruit from the tree in July. Remove cooking apples to one fruitlet every 15cm to 25cm, dessert apples, pears and peaches to 10cm to 15cm. Plums often overcrop, so will need thinning to one fruitlet every 5cm to 8cm. Remove the king fruit that sets in the centre of the cluster as this is often mis-shapen, although perfectly edible.
Thinning fruit on young trees will help them establish well before bearing their first proper crop. If you want to encourage good, strong growth of young fruit trees, it is best to remove all fruit in the first two years after planting. This is hard to do as we all want to taste the fruit of the new tree and two years seems a long time to wait, but you can get up to two or three times the growth rate on branches with no fruit compared to branches with fruit left on. Thinning is much better for creating a strong tree for the future. However, if you can’t bear to remove all the fruit, then the next best thing is to thin out most of the fruit, just leaving a few.
Correctly thinning fruitlets of an established tree will also help to spread the crop over the tree, making it easier to harvest and eliminate clusters of fruit forming and bunching together. If bunching happens, fruit is lost as it grows and pushes its neighbour off the branch, or dropping when trying to harvest 4 or 5 apples in a bunch.
Using small secateurs helps to make a clean cut, rapidly sealing over the wound, thus reducing the incidence of disease.