Fruit Thinning in Action – Thinned vs Un-Thinned Apples

Anyone who knows me knows that at this time of year I’m more than a little keen to encourage the thinning of fruitlets on apple, pear and other pome fruit trees. I posted a long-read piece on the importance of thinning to avoid a boom and bust biennial bearing cycle just yesterday and I’ve also written about the reasons for, and process of fruit thinning once or twice before, so I won’t re-hash everything here. Instead, I’ll just show you a couple of quick comparison photos to illustrate and reiterate the point.

This is a cluster of fruitlets on apple ‘Howgate Wonder‘ in the heritage orchard at Ordsall Hall, taken1Please excuse the generally poor quality of the pics. My phone camera has never taken great photos, but there’s a newer model on the way which will hopefully provide better quality images. on Thursday 1st July:

Without thinning, fruitlets become crowded and cramped as they jostle for space.

Note the small size of the fruits, how starved and pinched they look, how crowded they are in the cluster. You really can’t imagine any of them growing to their full potential over the next three or four months, can you?

By contrast, this pic (taken from a similar distance) shows a single fruit, growing a couple of branches over, the selected survivor of a cluster that was thinned by removing two or three smaller fruitlets:

A single fruitlet has room to grow and develop to its full and delicious potential.

As you can see, this fruitlet is already noticeably larger than the ones shown above and there’s plenty of room for it to grow and develop into the sort of large, impressive dual-purpose apple that ‘Howgate Wonder’ is renowned for.

As I talked about yesterday and in my previous posts on fruit thinning, fewer fruits on the tree not only results in larger, better-formed, riper fruits this year, but the lower overall drain on the tree’s resources should leave it with plenty of energy to initiate fruit buds for next year. This in turn will help to reduce the chances of the tree entering a biennial bearing cycle of ‘boom and bust’ fruiting.

If your fruit trees are over-loaded with fruitlets at the moment, if you want good-sized, well-ripened apples to pick and enjoy come harvest time, and if you want a much better chance of a good crop next year as well, then fruit thinning is the answer.

Go, check your trees! And don’t forget to take your thinning secateurs with you.


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    Please excuse the generally poor quality of the pics. My phone camera has never taken great photos, but there’s a newer model on the way which will hopefully provide better quality images.


  1. I have several citrus trees including Cara Cara orange and Blood orange. The Cara Cara produces its standard size and quantity, however, the bllod orange exploded in quantity, 300 i guesstimate. The bloods were small in size and the fruit was crowded. I thin the trees every February, do you think this thinning of blossoms or fruit would help?

    1. Hi John – I’m sorry, but I have no experience at all with citrus trees – our climate here in Manchester, UK, isn’t (usually) all that citrus-friendly – so I wouldn’t really like to hazard a guess as to the best-practice thinning method at this time of year. Generally speaking, I’d err on the side of fewer fruitlets now resulting in better quality fruits down the line, but I don’t know what the citrus growth pattern is going to be like later in the year.

      One idea might be to see if there are any University Extension programmes in citrus-growing states in the U.S. and see if they’ve released any general advice information packages. Or see if you can find a group of citrus growing enthusiasts online who might be able to assist.

    1. Hi Gill – I don’t think thinning is as important for cider fruit, no. As the apples will be crushed and pressed en masse, the size of the individual fruit doesn’t matter so much.

      (Although if there are any cider apple orchardists out there who disagree, please do let us know…)

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