Heading off to the SweeTango growers meeting saw my husband and I literally experiencing a 100°F temperature change in an 8 hour period; from –24°F (yes that is minus) in chilly northern Michigan to 75°F in Savannah, Georgia. It was a welcome change for us humans! It is, however, not one that would do fruit trees much good. Sudden extreme temperature swings, especially when returning from the warmth to single digits, are what winter freeze damage is made of. With all the wild temperature swings experienced by much of the eastern half of the United States this winter, freeze damage may show it’s appearance in delayed form this spring. I’ll write more on that if it becomes a problem in upcoming weeks.
Today, I’ll highlight one important take-home message that rang loud and clear in the grower meeting. Even though this was a group of commercial fruit growers, the lesson is just as critical for home gardeners:
Thinning fruit matters. Thinning fruit off immature trees matters. Thinning fruit early in the growing season matters. I can’t say it enough!
- Young, immature fruit trees (and many berries too) need to have fruit (all of it) removed until the root and branch structure is well established. Cropping prematurely will stunt future plant growth.
- Trees just starting to bear should be thinned to match their vigor. Just allow a few fruit the first crop or two. Again, this will allow branch structure to develop in a way that will adequately support future, larger crops.
- Bearing trees need annual thinning.This improves the size and quality of the remaining fruit. Appropriate fruit set also encourages annual bearing, where over-cropping may lead to biennial bearing.
For the hows, whats & whens of thinning fruit and growing healthy fruit trees buy The Backyard Orchardist: A complete guide to growing fruit trees in the home garden.