It’s the right time of year to start thinning your apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums. (It’s too early for apples and pears in our part of the world yet).
However, it can be hard to figure out how much fruit to pull off. There are a lot of variables, like the age of the tree, the amount of fruit on the tree when you start, and the size of the fruit when it’s ripe.
Plus, pulling the fruit off the tree is a hard thing to do from an emotional point of view!
That’s why we include a very handy chart to make sense of all the variables in this thinning short course, where you’ll also learn the 4 main reasons for doing thinning.
Cleaning up the crop while you’re thinning
Thinning time is also just a great time to get out among your fruit trees. It gives you a chance to notice things like the situation you can see in the photo above. There’s no thinning to do here. There’s only one apricot at this site, and it has plenty of room to grow during the season.
But notice how the diseased flowers and shoots are touching the fruit?
It’s hard to see, but the apricot is growing from the branch on the left-hand side of the photo. You’ll notice that it’s touching a diseased part of another branch on the right-hand side that is covered with dead flowers. Those flowers are infected with a fungal disease called Blossom blight.
The disease that causes Blossom blight in flowers also causes Brown rot in fruit later in the season. Left alone, this piece of fruit is very likely to develop Brown rot at the spot where the diseased flowers are touching.
If you notice this situation, it’s super important that you remove the diseased twigs.
You can either prune them out (it’s always a great idea to keep your secateurs in your pocket while you’re thinning) or just remove them with your fingers.
Depending on your climate, most peach, nectarine, and plum varieties will have finished flowering by mid-spring. Then you can see whether or not they’re going to have a good crop and get the thinning underway.
Thinning is a crucial job in the lifecycle of your fruit tree. But it’s also a quiet and reflective time to spend a dedicated half-hour or so with your tree and have a really good look at what’s going on.