Thinning Fruit Trees

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This is a reminder that now is the time to thin out fruit on your trees, new and old!

FOR NEW FRUIT TREES, planted last fall or this spring, you should remove all the young fruitlets (yes, those little baby fruit have to go). You can use hand pruners or your fingers to pinch them off. Young trees need to spend their limited energy on establishing their roots and growing their structure rather than growing and ripening fruit. Not removing fruit from a  young tree can stunt and even sometimes kill a tree. Trees in their second year after planting can be left to fruit, unless they didn’t put out much growth the previous year. However, removing all or most of the fruit in the second year can actually help you get more fruit sooner by allowing the tree to continue to concentrate its energy on growing structure and root systems.

APPLES, PEARS, PEACHES, and sometimes PLUMS: these fruit trees need to be trained throughout their lifespan. Apples, pears, should be hand-thinned to 5″ apart on the tree, peaches to 8″. Some plum trees (especially Japanese plums) with heavy fruit set should also be thinned somewhat to avoid branch breakage. Apples and pears flower and fruit in cluster, unless that fruitlet is obviously damaged or diseased. If clusters are closer than the recommended distance, you will need to remove some of the clusters entirely. This fruit thinning is important to produce the best quality size of fruit, and helps reduce problems with insects pests like codling moth. It also helps reduce alternate bearing, which is the tendency of some trees to produce large harvests one year and little to no harvest the next. If you’ve been having problems with squirrel predation, perhaps consider leaving your fruit at lesser intervals (4″ for peaches?).

MORE INFO: http://extension.psu.edu/plants/gardening/fphg/stone/fruit-thinning

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