One of the best ways to improve the quality of your apple, pear and other top-fruit harvests is to wisely invest some time in thinning out excess fruitlets, and now is a great time of year to do the job.
I’ve written a couple of posts already about the benefits of top-fruit thinning, so I won’t re-hash them in detail. Here they are if you’d like more information on the hows and whys of the process:
- Thinning Apple Fruitlets in our Air-Pot Mini-Orchard
- Fruit Thinning in Action – Thinned vs Un-Thinned Apples
I will mention that there are a couple of schools of thought as to the best time to carry out hand-thinning operations. One suggests waiting until after the ‘June drop’, when trees tend to shed a proportion of small or under-developed fruitlets via natural abscission. The other advocates helping the tree along as soon as you can, via a bit of artificial abscission with vine/grape scissors, your sharpest bypass secateurs or heavy duty flower snips.
I’m of the latter persuasion and I also reckon that the earlier you do the job the better the eventual results will be, on the grounds that the tree will have wasted less energy on developing all those soon-to-be snipped-off fruitlets. Said energy is better invested in the remaining fruitlets – the ones that will (hopefully) be developing into ripe fruit later in the year – as well as the leaves, and the stems to carry them, that are needed to fuel that ripening, via photosynthesis.
Of course, it all rather depends on whether or not you have the time to do the job at the moment. I managed to find half an hour last weekend to thin the fruitlets on the cordon and stepover trees on our main allotment plot. Our two ‘Keswick Codlin’ trees – one a cordon and one a stepover – were in very definite need of thinning. Here’s a section of the cordon, before I took the snips to it:
And here it is afterwards, sans around half of its fruitlets:
I left two fruitlets on that lower cluster, rather than just the one, because they both look strong and well-developed, and they have room to grow into. But one of them may be for the chop later on if they start crowding each other.
The stepover tree was just as heavily laden:
After a few minutes’ careful snipping it looked much less over-crowded and should now produce a healthy crop of good-sized apples this year, as well as hopefully having energy to spare to set next years; fruit buds.
I gave the same treatment to our ‘Blenheim Orange’ and ‘Howgate Wonder’ stepovers – which I talked about in some detail in my recent post on only winter-pruning stepover trees – and to the rest of the cordons as well.
As for the main Plot #79 orchard, I’m hoping to find time1Alas, a recent bout of Covid has left me short of time and long on needful things to do, but lacking much energy with which to do them… to do a spot of thinning on the smaller trees this weekend, but we’ll have to wait and see. Lots of other jobs are shouting for my attention at the moment, so the June drop may well happen before I have chance to snip after all. So it goes.
How about you? Have you had a chance to thin your top-fruit trees yet? Are you planning on thinning them in the next couple of weeks? Or do you plan to wait until after the June drop? Do please let me know, via the comments.
- 1Alas, a recent bout of Covid has left me short of time and long on needful things to do, but lacking much energy with which to do them…
Hope you feel fully recovered soon. Take care.
Thank you Christopher. I’m testing -ve again now and feeling much better.
I have one unknown apple tree,found it dumped, it had one tiny green bud showing so I planted it 1st year it grew nicely 3year two very nice apples 4 year nothing, this year over 30 small apples, I did follow your article about pruning and giving space between branches, its looking very good hopefully all apples will be useful.
Hi Kevin. Excellent work! Nothing more satisfying than nursing an abandoned fruit tree back to productive growth. Have you got an i.d. for the apple yet? A few tips here if you’re interested in giving it a go later in the year 🙂