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How much fruit will a mature tree bear?

This is a common question when people are trying to decide how many fruit trees they need in their garden. It’s usually a winter conversation because this is traditionally tree-planting season.

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Benchmarking your fruit trees

It’s good to get a sense of what is a reasonable benchmark. Any time you’re wondering if your tree is “normal”, it can be handy to have something to measure your results again.

However, it’s also important not to judge your tree’s performance too harshly! There can be many, many reasons why a tree will produce less than the optimum harvest (and it’s not usually the tree’s fault).

Tracking your harvest every year is the best way to keep track of how well your fruit trees are performing. It’s a key reason we recommend learning some harvesting pro-tips and keeping a diary for every single fruit tree in your garden.

Though the question of how much a fruit tree can produce is often asked in winter, it won’t really be answered until summer. This is when there’s fruit on your trees, and you have the chance to actually measure (rather than predict, or guess) your harvest volume.

In the meantime, we’ll share an example of what you might expect from a healthy, productive fruit tree.

Girl in a striped shirt picking peaches
Ella picking peaches

Tracking how much fruit your tree produces

This example from our orchard will show you how much fruit we expect to pick from a mature peach tree. Our method is quite accurate without needing to weigh every single piece of fruit.

In the photo above, Ella is picking white peaches from a 10-year-old heritage ‘Anzac’ tree. It’s a vase-shaped tree that is quite mature and at its full size.

Beautiful, ripe white-fleshed Anzac peaches ready to pick
Beautiful, ripe white-fleshed Anzac peaches ready to pick

You can’t see the full tree from this photo, but a vase-shaped tree normally has 6-10 limbs; this one has eight branches that are all roughly the same size.

Anzacs are notorious for being small, so they need really hard thinning. The trees had a touch of leaf curl early in the season because we had a wet spring. That slowed the growth of the peaches early on. Because Anzacs are such early ripeners, the result is that the fruit is quite small.

Lovely Red Briggs May peaches in the tray
Lovely Anzac white peaches in the tray

It’s a good idea to pick them into trays like this to protect the fruit after picking. We know from experience that a tray of fruit this size weighs roughly 2.4 kg. 

From this tree, we picked an average of two trays to the limb. That works out to about 35 kg for the tree.  One-quarter of them were second-grade because the birds had a feast.

We picked up about 4kg of damaged peaches from the ground that were too damaged to use. If we’d got to them a bit earlier some would probably have been good enough for jam or drying. Alas, too late.

The importance of picking at the right time

Picking fruit at the right time sounds simple, but it’s an area where people often get it wrong. If you miss the ideal harvest date, it’s sadly common to find the fruit on the ground instead of the tree when you come to pick it up.

Before you get to the harvest part of the season, you’ve already done all the hard work of pruning, thinning, watering, and feeding your trees.

So losing fruit on the ground is not only a bit tragic, but it’s also a rotten return on the investment of all your time, money, and energy to that point.

Damaged peaches on the ground
Damaged peaches on the ground

Should fallen fruit be included in the harvest?

The answer to this question totally depends on your view of “waste” and whether you’re aiming to create a closed nutrition loop in your garden.

At our place, we aim to use every piece of fruit to its highest purpose, and there’s definitely no such thing as waste.

We’re fortunate to have animals that will gobble up any fruit we have spare. At our place, that means the chickens or cows will get a feed.

The worms can manage a little bit of fruit, but we’re careful not to overload them with huge quantities.

Anything that’s too rotten for animals goes straight into the compost.

So, altogether this tree yielded 39 kg of fruit. Even though the 4kg of windfall fruit wasn’t used as human food in this case, it could have been if we’d been more on the ball!

That’s delightfully abundant, and pretty typical for a large mature peach tree. You can soon see why it doesn’t take very many healthy trees to provide a year’s supply of fruit for your family.

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