Stella Otto: The Backyard Fruit Gardener

Today's Tip: Mow vegetation short around the base of fruit trees and bushes to reduce winter habitat for rodents.

Thinning Fruit Off Your Trees —Why?

Nature ensures survival by producing many more fruit blossoms than a tree can actually mature to full-sized fruit

Nature ensures sur­vival by pro­duc­ing many more fruit blos­soms than a tree can actu­ally mature to full-sized fruit

Mother Nature has built in sur­vival by ensur­ing that fruit trees bear many more blos­soms than are needed for a full crop. How­ever, this cre­ates a catch-22 when more blos­soms grow and develop into more lit­tle fruit than the tree really can sup­port. Just as wisely, nature’s design includes the like­li­hood that not all devel­op­ing fruit will hang on and grow until har­vest. You will see this process at work in “June drop.”

If the tree does not drop enough fruit, as gar­den­ers we may need to give nature a help­ing hand. Why would you want to thin fruit off your tree? There are sev­eral reasons:

  1. Car­ry­ing excess fruit, stresses the tree.
  2. A heav­ily stressed tree does not develop as many fruit buds to cre­ate next years crop as does a tree that is car­ry­ing only the fruit it can man­age. Are you aware of when those buds for next years fruit form? It’s right now, June and July, as this season’s crop is also try­ing to grow.
  3. The tree can only sup­port the growth of so many pounds of fruit. When the tree is car­ry­ing an over abun­dance of fruit, each fruit will get a smaller share of food and energy. The indi­vid­ual fruit can not grow as large.
  4. Fewer fruit means big­ger fruit, pro­vided the tree is oth­er­wise healthy.

Apples, pears, quince, peaches, and to a lesser extent, apri­cots and plums all respond to fruit-thinning by pro­duc­ing larger fruit. Cher­ries do not. So, let me ask you, would you rather pick golf balls or base­balls? Of course, it will take a lot more effort to fill that bas­ket with golf balls than with base­balls. In my next posts I’ll talk more about how to thin fruit. Stay tuned.