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Guide to Fruit Tree Thinning

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Authored by Jennifer Nicotero in Gardening
Published on 01-04-2009

Do you want bigger and taster fruit year after year? You need to learn how to properly thin your fruit trees. A fruit tree that is neglected and left to its own devices will not produce the best fruit. Without the thinning of your trees, your fruit will be runty in size and have poor flavor. Fruit tree thinning is not hard, although it is a little time consuming and an essential step in proper fruit tree growing.

In short, fruit thinning is the taking away of some of the excess fruit to allow other fruit to remain growing and develop better. Depending on the height of your fruit tree, what you need to do is climb a ladder and start at the bottom and work your way up the tree, or start at the top and work your way down. There are no rules in which direction you choose to thin, only that the thinning is done on nearly every branch as possible.

While thinning fruit branch by branch, you want to imagine how the maturing fruit will look by harvest time. If it looks like the developing fruit will end up touching other, remove one or more pieces. Leaving the other fruit there to further develop and grow with the space it needs is the goal. Most fruit tree gardeners agree that you should not automatically pull the fruit with marks on it, unless it is destroyed and damaged by insects. A few marks on a piece of fruit does not make it bad, just maybe not as pleasing to the eye. If any fruits are visibly undersized or deformed looking, you should pull them off the branch.

If the fruit is expected to be small in girth at full maturity, like an apricot, not much extra room for growth would be needed, so take the expected size into consideration while thinning. You will not have to space the smaller fruits too far apart. Some gardeners simply choose to remove every other fruit as habit and that works for fine for them.

Use a twisting motion when thinning, don’t pull the fruit. It is good to thin apples, plums, and pears within two months after their full bloom. More than half of the blossoms should be open around this time. Apricots should be thinned within forty days after their full bloom. Peaches and nectarines should be thinned before the fruit is one and half inch in diameter.

The benefits in thinning is that it allows the remaining fruit to grow larger and better tasting since you took out the competition for sun and sap. A thinned fruit tree also matures faster as well. Furthermore, branches that are weighed down with fruit often break. This branch breaking can ruin the tree’s form and possibly its bearing potential for many seasons.

Some soft fruit trees like plums, peaches and apricots are known to produce a great harvest one year and a light yield the following year. By thinning your fruit tree, you can break this cycle and have your tree produce a good yield on a more consistent basis, year after year.

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