Thinning, a tough problem to have

olympia_gardener(5)May 9, 2012

My Asian pears survived the later frost under my protected teepee and has baby pears in size of small marbles. Some branch have too many pears, too close together, some twins too. I have been thinking for over couple of weeks try to decide whether to thin it or not. I know it needs to be thinned otherwise all the pears in the branch will not grow to good size; but it is very hard to pick it off, especial it is the first year it bloomed. I picked few smaller one off couple of daya ago, not sure to test my courage or to test the reaction of the tree , my heart was aching; I went back yesterday and pick few more off, my heart was aching again. Right now most baby pears are about 3 inches apart, but some are closer. I don't have heart to thin these closer together baby pears because they are big than the rest. Can I leave they on the tree as is or I have to thinning them? How late I can thining baby pears without affect their growth? Can I just add more fertilizer in the soil so the tree can support more pears to grow into good size??

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

More fertilizer and water will make your pears bigger but watery and not sweet. Usually my Asians need 90-95% of the fruit removed but that varies some by variety. Olympic only needs about 75% removed. I've seldom over thinned. Really can't remember ever feeling that way. As the fruit grows it looks thicker and thicker. Then I have to take off more and more.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 11:10AM
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alan haigh

Olympic doesn't need less thinning as grown here, but more, because the pears are so darn big. There is an occasional site where it doesn't set well so maybe that's the case at your site, Fruitnut, or maybe it grows differently in TX.

I often simply remove over half the spurs at pruning time and then thin to one every 7-8 inches by the second or third time through (if fruit is evenly distributed). You don't need to finish thinning on the first pass to get max benefit, IMO.

Fruitnut, it is excess water that dilutes sugar not N. If you can find me research that states otherwise, I would honestly love to see it. I've posted this several times and you never contradict me but continue to make the same claim without acknowledging my assertion.

Just like you, I assumed (and frequently asserted) that excess N causes bigger, less flavorful fruit until someone questioned me on another site. I searched for research to verify my assumption and instead found several experiments that indicated I was mistaken.

I always like a surprise.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 1:03PM
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HI, Fruitnut and Harvest. Thank you both for the helpful inputs. I put 10-10-10 back in March. I think it is still early enough in the season that I can give it second dose of fertilizer to boost the friut size without running into the risk of tender roots in the fall/winter.

My pear tree is multi grafted. Some branch only has 1-2 pears which is just right for me. Some branch has pear every spur which I am hesiting to remove. if it has to be one per 7-8 inches... I might have to ask someone else to thin it... I certainly don't have the heart to do...Maybe few years down the road when i got used to it.

Should I trim the tip of the branch off to make the branch concentrated on fruit, not on grow leave?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 3:14PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


Don't trim off the leaves. You need those to sugar up the fruit. When your pear gets older it will likely set way more fruit. You'll have to thin severely or suffer the consequences, small and possibly tasteless fruit.

Harvestman: If you want to debate nitrogen why not start your own thread.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 3:26PM
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Here's my last year's experience on Asian pears. Last year, my 20th and Korean Giant set a lot of fruit. KG must have had 6-700 fruitlets (not as many with 20th century). I knew I had to thin. The first time I thinned they were about a small marble size, I thinned off about 200+. A few weeks later, I took off another 200+. As they got to be a golf-size, I realized that more thinning was needed if I wanted them to get as big a size as the previous year (I did not have a lot the previous year). I thinned for the last time and kept about 100 pears on the tree. (My KG was about 5 yrs old).

I think I let the trees carried too many fruits for too long. In the end, only a few pears got to the size of the previous year. Worse, this year, My KG had about 10 clusters of flowers. The 20th century has about 3 clusters. My trees must have spent too much energy carried all those loads for that long. Lesson learned. I'll be lucky if I get a total of 10 Asian pears this year.

If I were you, I'd thin it big time like H-man suggested.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 6:50PM
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alan haigh

Fruitnut, you are a stubborn man.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 8:43PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


I've noticed some of the past discussion you and Fruitnut have had regarding N.

I've read numerous articles indicating excessive N can lead to poor fruit quality, as I'm sure you have. Typically the statements are made in passing and don't reference any research. I assume that's your objection.

Still, I've read it enough in articles tailored toward commercial producers, that I'm inclined to believe it.

A quick Google of the topic didn't yield much research but one article did offer the rationale for why fruit quality suffers from too much N. The article deals with grapes, but I think it's reasonable to conclude it would cross over to tree fruits.

I did find one research paper that indicated excessive N does reduce fruit quality in apples, but unfortunately the full text is only available to paid subscribers. However, from the abstract:

"A factorial design was used with N and K annual fertilizer rates (0, 50, 100, and 200 kg haâÂÂ1 of N and K2O) replicated in three orchards....Nitrogen fertilization negatively affected fruit color, flesh firmness, and TSS (sugar) content."

I could have started a new thread, but it appears Olympia got the thinning question answered.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 10:42PM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

I know excessive Nitrogen during bloom also makes a certain "smokeable" fruit more harsh and tasteless...hehehe

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 11:25PM
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alan haigh

OK, I will find my research. I was trying to back up my own claim that excess N reduces brix a year ago and found two or 3 studies with apples specific to the issue that found no correlation between various levels of N application and brix levels. I was a bit annoyed at the time to be wrong but happy to learn something interesting. I'll try to look it up tonight.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 5:56AM
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The first year my Asian pears set fruit I am fairly certain they got hit by hail. At any rate, many were damaged so I pulled the damaged ones off, thinking they were not going to grow or would rot with open wounds in them. The few remaining grew nice and tasted great. The following year (last year) I did not thin and got about 2 5 gallon buckets full of golf ball size or a little larger of tastelss good looking fruit. I kept expecting them to get bigger but they never did. Lesson learned. THIN THIN THIN. I will see my trees this weekend and hopefully I will have blossoms that survived.


    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 8:37AM
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Well, I can be more direct than harvestman. You can face the heartbreak of thinning now, or you can wait for the disappointment of pears with little flavor. Until you're down to 1-2 per cluster, you're not done.

Once you've experienced the rewards -- big, sweet Asian pears bursting with juice -- you won't mind thinning at all.

We have two mature Asian pears and spent more than a week snipping off excess fruit.

Here is a link that might be useful: thinning asian pears

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 9:31AM
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On the N debate, don't assume that what applies to grapes applies to pear trees. One is a vine, and the other a tree, which makes them totally different. A study of apples and N may allow one to make a reasonable, but not certain assumption, but research into pears would be the most reliable.

I have seen much lore of one variety of plant or pest be applied to another, even though the correlation was wrong. A good example was a recent thread about ants on a sweet cherry tree. In most cases, ants on a tree would indicate aphid farming, but sweet cherries use ants for a completely different function not related to aphids. There were many posts pointing to aphids before it was pointed out that cherries are a different matter. Another example would be that most plants like pH between 6 and 7, but you can't apply that to blueberries.

My point is we have to be very skeptical of research on one plant and assuming it applies to another. Unfortunately, generalities like this exist everywhere. Do you own research, and do not accept common wisdom as the truth.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 11:05AM
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Wow, all point to one direction:THIN. Thanks a lot guys, I appreciate your advise and share of your personal experiences.

I will get my scissor out this weekend after a bottle of moonshine ...just kidding.

I am lost, how much N is too much? should I apply 10-10-10 ?

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 12:20PM
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alan haigh

I think you should apply N based on need and only in early spring or early fall (right after harvest, probably). If the tree is growing vigorously you may need none at all. For a very young tree about a cup of lawn fertilizer(around 20%N) spread under the drip line but away from trunk would be fine. I stay away from 10-10-10.

At first a young tree usually only needs N to achieve max growth. Once it begins cropping it needs more K than N but most soils contain enough P IMO.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 12:34PM
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Let the tree tell you. In many cases, you don't need to fertilize fruit trees. Often, a layer of compost and/or mulch in a ring around the drip line is all that is needed.

Nitrogen affects growth and green leaf color. Use that as a guide.

Personally, I currently live on nutrient poor sandy soil. I have never had to add fertilizer to my fruit trees. I amended the soil with organic matter before planting, and mulch with compost/wood chips. That seems to be all I need. I still get 2-4 feet of growth per year on each young tree.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 12:48PM
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Harvest , Capo, thanks for the inputs. My tree grows normal as far as I can tell. I had some fertilize mixed in to the soil last year when I plant it, and spread some fertilize aroud the tree about 12-18" away from the tree trunk back in March. I will hold off the fertilizer till the tree shows sign of needing it.

Harvest, this question is for you. You said fertilize in either early spring or early fall. I understand the early spring part, but I am worried about fertilizing in the fall. Will the fertilizer promotes the roots grow and the new roots are too tender to go through the winter temporature here??

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 4:34PM
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alan haigh

The fear used to be that late summer fertilization encourages a late flush of growth that renders trees susceptible to freeze damage, but this is not true.

If you fertilize a fruiting tree after it stops growing much, but still has some functioning leaves, the roots will deliver nitrogen to the shoot tips for use in spring which helps feed the spur leaves that nourish fruit. If you wait to spring, more of the N will be used for shoot growth, so once trees have decent size late summer can be a good time to fertilize. This applies to apples and pears, but maybe not to all stone fruit.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 5:24PM
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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

The wood on Asian Pear trees is brittle. If you leave too many pears, the weight of those pears will break the branches.

I find that I have to thin multiple times.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 8:42PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


I am well aware of the differences b/t grapes and tree fruit.

The reason I noted the article probably had crossover was that many of the phenological processes the author describes for grapes are applicable to tree fruits as well.

I have further comments that I will post on the "excessive N" thread.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 10:54PM
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Oregon, Thanks. I am convinced that i need to thin more off.

Harvest, Thank you very much for the explaination. Very helpful info.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 9:51AM
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Would you folks recommend thinning of J plums as severely? 75%-95% Fruitnut; 7-8 inches apart HMan? Any thinning for cherries?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 11:31AM
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