June 2012

We were a little behind on thinning the apples this year, but finally got to it this past Sunday morning.  To get a good, healthy harvest from your fruit trees (including apples, pears, peaches, and plums) you need to thin the young fruit. This important step really should be done when the fruit is about the size of a dime. The longer you wait the smaller your ultimate apple size will be and the less number of returning fruiting spurs next year. (see chart).

With apples the first blossom is called the “King Blossom”.  It is the first to bloom and is surrounded by 5 other blossoms in the cluster.  This King Blossom will also produce larger fruit than the regular blossoms, so when thinning this is the one we want to leave if possible. Depending on pollination you may have 1, 2,or up to 6 fruit together in a cluster.  When thinning usually the cluster should be thinned to 1 apple.

To thin use a pruner or small scissors to prevent damage to the spur caused by pulling and breaking it. Look at each cluster. Here’s what you want to remove:

  1. Wrinkled fruit
  2. Misshapen fruit
  3. Diseased fruit
  4. Fruit that is much smaller than the rest in the cluster
  5. Fruit with pest or disease damage

This is a good time for close inspection of your apples.  There are many good reasons for thinning.  It can be hard to do, especially if it is you first crop on new trees but:

  1. The fruit will be bigger.
  2. The fruit will ripen better as sunlight reaches all of it.
  3. You will have better fruit set next year.
  4. Less disease problems with better air circulation.
  5. Increased tree vigour since a heavy crop load will slow tree growth.
  6. Less damage to tree from limbs breaking under too much weight.
  7. Preventing alternate bearing years.

How do you know when you have thinned enough?

  1. 1 apple per cluster
  2. If spread evenly along the branches 1 per every 6”
  3. 1 apple per every 50-75 leaves, it takes this much energy to produce an apple.
  4.   We waited too long to thin this tree. The weight and leverage from these golf ball sized apples blowing in the wind was enough to snap the central main leader.  They are best thinned at nickel or dime size!

This tree shows a pencil sized branch bending under the weight of these small apples.  At most it can handle maybe one but probably shouldn’t have any this year since it may damage it.  If the apple was closer to the trunk it would be fine.  Many varieties are called “terminal bearing” because they want to leaf and fruit just at the ends.

This tree has an unbelievable amount of apples on it.  While the picture doesn’t really show it there are many more than it looks like.  Leaving these on will produce very small fruit and stunt the growth and development of this tree.



Here we have thinned from 1 side of the tree.

and the second side


 Now it has been thinned with about 75 apples removed.  It still has too many for it’s size , but we will wait for the “June drop” (Natures own thinning method). We will go back in a week or so and take off the rest that havent’ fallen off on their own.


We have now gone through 2 winters growing figs in the ground at our location 6300’ elevation, but colder and windier than normal for this elevation alone.  Our mission is to trial and grow new and unusual fruit types and varieties to see how they will perform or to see if simple cultural adaptations can make them successful here.  So far figs have been a mixed lot.  We have tried 10 different varieties, covering them in the winter.  We have successfully kept them alive but in all cases they have died back to the ground and re-sprouted from the crown and roots.  The problem with this is that there is insufficient time to regrow branches and also set and fully ripen fruit before the first frosts.

Figs are being successfully overwintered in areas with a similar coldness zone to ours, so we still believe it is possible but need to make some modifications in our culture. On very little evidence we have come to some conclusions:

  1. Start with an older and larger plant.  Most of these are rare or scarce varieties and were grown from cuttings, then put directly out in the field during the summer.  A 2 or 3 year old plant that has branches ¾”-1” diameter and with older and harder wood will take the temperatures better.
  2. Cut back water in September.  Our irrigation system on the farm is all or nothing. We tend to water very late in the year since after the first freeze we withhold water until April.  This does not allow the plant to “harden off” and maintains a succulent growth which is much more susceptible to freeze damage.
  3. Fertilize during the growing season to get faster and larger growth.  Figs like poor soil and do well in containers with little care.  Extra nitrogen in spring and early summer may result in a heavier caliper branching.

Currently our recommendation, unless you want to experiment, is to bring your figs indoors in the winter.  You can grow them in a container on the patio in the summer and either bring in the house for the winter or until fruit is done ripening.  Figs can be wrapped in a blanket or tarp when dormant and kept in a garage, basement or pump house etc. until spring. When dormant they do not require water or light. Choose a building where the temperature does not get below about 25 and they will do just fine.  Bring them in the house in March to break dormancy and you will get a crop before summer end.  Start hardening them off in April to stay totally outdoors by the end of May.  Remember a freeze when they are just starting to grow is more damaging to plants than a worse cold spell if they are dormant. 

This may seem to be a lot of trouble to grow a plant, but once you have tasted tree ripened figs you will agree it is well worth a little extra effort.

Links to more about figs

1st winter covering

Figs ripening

Unloading Trees for the parking lot sale

A big thanks to all the people who stopped by wood’sEnd Church this past Saturday. The second annual Fruit tree and plant fundraiser was a huge success selling over 100 fruiting trees and bushes to help make Edgewood Green!  A portion of the proceeds go to help defray the cost of Summer Camp for the youth group at wood’sEnd Church.