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.