Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Have you heard of fruit thinning before? Mid-spring is the time to start thinking about the “why” and “how” of fruit thinning.
In fact, it’s one of the all-important 10 steps to ultimate fruit tree care.
The technique is simple – it just involves removing some of the fruit from your trees, by hand. It’s one of the simplest jobs you can do each year on your fruit trees to help get regular crops. So why do so few people do it?
Even if you’ve heard of it, you might not really understand it. One of the least understood reasons for doing this job is to try to break the cycle of biennial bearing that many fruit trees naturally adopt.
But also, pulling the fruit off your tree just feels wrong, right? We’ve found the best way to overcome this natural feeling of wanting to protect every piece of fruit is to understand the reasons for doing it.
How much fruit is too much?
Here’s a typical bunch of plums on a tree as they naturally set. As you can see, there are LOTS of plums in these two bunches at the end of a small branch.
If you’re seeing the same tight bunches all over the tree, this is what we’d call a “heavy” crop.
Having a heavy crop signals to the tree that it should take a rest next year, or in other words, have a “light” crop.
If you remove all but two of the plums (leaving jus one in each bunch), you’re sending the tree a signal that it’s having a light crop this year, which will encourage it to have a heavy crop again next year.
Can thinning remove too much fruit?
If you follow these photos, it looks like you’ve pulled a lot of fruit off, doesn’t it?
The good news is that if you do this job early enough in the season, you’ll be sacrificing very little actual fruit volume. The tree will put the same amount of energy into the fruit you leave on the tree as it would have to the big bunches of fruit.
Result? The same weight of fruit, in fewer pieces = bigger fruit.
Managing the crop is one of your main jobs as the caretaker of your fruit tree. There are also several other excellent reasons for thinning as well, including:
- protecting the structure of the tree
- growing more fruit of a size that is usable
- protecting your fruit from pests and diseases.
Knowing how much fruit to remove is the tricky bit. It’s one of the main things that stops people from doing this job properly (or doing it at all).
And the good news?
Once you’ve experienced how much better your crop is after thinning, you’ll never go back. So assess how much fruit your tree has, and get started with thinning!
Assess how good your thinning efforts in spring were by checking the fruit quality and the health of your trees.
Thinning cherry trees is not usually needed because they’re not prone to biennial bearing. That’s lucky, because it would be a huge job.
Thinning your fruit trees is a great chance to check the health of your fruit and do a little disease control at the same time.