thinning and netting

mrsg47(7)May 12, 2012

My apricots are now over an inch long. Time to net them? My three year old peach tree has 78 peaches on it. (OK, a little obsessive by counting but. . . ) how many do I take off of the tree? Have no clue. Many thanks all. Mrs. G

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Bradybb WA-Zone8

I saw a video and he said to leave 1 fruit per 4 inches of branch length. Brady

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 12:31AM
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Thanks Brady, I need to know about netting too. Mrs. G

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 10:17AM
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Mrs. G.,

You have company. I thinned my 3 yrs old PF 24C peach yesterday. I took 120 fruitlets off (yes, I counted, too). Mine were tiny, about a week or two from shuck split. I don't want to wait too long to thin.

I still have about 100 more on the tree. I may thin about 80 more off depending on if I think those branches can handle the fruits. I have fruit on every branch, big or small. Some branches are too small to handle any fruit and some that should not handle more than 1 or 2. PC 24 C fruit is big (and tastes very good).

Last year, I left 4-5 fruit on this tree (2 yrs old). This year I probably will have quadriple the quantity. I am pleased with it. I could get more next year if I don't overburden the tree this year.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 11:01AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


One per 4" of branch space is way too much fruit for peaches.

I thin about one fruit per 12" of branch space (or 1 per 10" at the top of the canopy).

Mrs. G,

It's impossible to say how many fruit your tree could carry based on its age. Just thin each shoot based upon shoot length.

There are a lot of articles/videos on how to thin. In a nutshell, this is how I do it:

Thin out the fruit in the crotch angles first. If you leave it, it will get stuck in the crotch when it gets big and could be damaged picking it.

Thin off all doubles (peaches that have grown together).

Thin one fruit per 12" of branch space. Round up at 6" intervals. In other words if a branch is 6" long, round up and count it as 12" long (which would carry one fruit). If a branch is 18" long round up to 24 (the branch would carry two fruit).

Thin the small fruit off. A lot of them drop off later anyway.

Make sure you leave enough space between thinned fruits so they don't touch when they reach maturity. I like to leave at least 6" b/t fruits if possible.

You can get quite sophisticated in thinning, trying to leave fruit on auxiliary shoots, ect., but I found with the simple rules above, you can grow big tasty fruits that aren't apt to break branches.

I thin young or old trees this same way.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 11:11AM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

This is the video that I saw,maybe it was for that particular variety,but on another the guy is using the width of his hand as a guide.
I wanted to know about thinning Nectarines,because I have a small one planted and they used the hand width method also,I think I have read about 8 inches also.
Thanks for the information olpea. Brady

Here is a link that might be useful: Thinning Peaches

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 12:27PM
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My first step for thinning stone fruits is never let them touch each other. There is the entry for brown rot.

After that, more thinning may be needed.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 12:46PM
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Thank you Olpea, I know these are simplistic questions, but there are so many videos and websites giving you a really wrong answers! Brady thanks for the video. Itilton, great first step. Just got in from the orchard and removed over 50% of my peaches. There will be more to remove as I watch for which ones get bigger faster. My Apricots are really growing this year and they seem to 'self edit'. The small ones drop right off unlike peaches. Thanks all, Mrs. G PS only have minor fruit set on my Italian plum this year. First year it bloomed, so I wasn't expecting much.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 5:14PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


The guy in the video w/ Gurneys is thinning a Flat Wonderful peach. They are much smaller peaches, hence can carry a heavier load. Small fruits like apricots and plums can have more fruit per branch space. Still even on donut peaches I wouldn't leave 1 fruit per 4" of branch. However, this is my first year thinning Flat Wonderful, so I may change my mind on it after more experience with it. I left a fruit about every 8". I'd estimate the tree has about 75 fruit left on it (3rd leaf). Nectarines are a little smaller, so you could probably leave a little more fruit (but not 1 fruit/4" of branch).

I don't think the guy in the video knows what he's doing. He indicated 4" of branch space for all fruits, which is nonsense. I might add the tree he was thinning didn't look very good. Foliage was sparse. Gurneys needs to find a decent looking tree for their video.

Some people do thin one fruit per 8" of branch space and seem to get away with it. Maybe their trees are more leggy like the one in the picture. Scott thins about like that but he prunes the tips of his shoots back, so that would make a difference.

I thin about one every 12", or 1 per 10" on top, and get plenty of fruit. On full sized trees, I get 3 bu. or 150 lbs. (350 peaches). I'm not guessing on the weight, because I weigh fruit and box it right after I pick it.

Maybe part of the difference is that some people cut more wood out of the tree before they thin than I do. Although I have to admit that seems hard to believe. I'd guess I remove about 50% of the tree's wood per year.

If you thin early and hard, for most trees you still get decent yield because the fruit just gets that much bigger (up to a point).

I have over-thinned before, but it's almost always on young trees that dropped fruit after I thinned.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 7:08PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

In my previous post I wrote:

"Nectarines are a little smaller, so you could probably leave a little more fruit (but not 1 fruit/4" of branch)."

I want to clarify I meant nectarines are a little smaller than regular peaches. I did not mean nectarines are smaller than Flat Wonderful peaches. So nectarines could be spaced a little closer together than regular peaches, but not as close together as Flat Wonderful peaches.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 9:15AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

As Olpea mentions I do space more closely than he does. But, most of my peach shoots get pruned back to 6"-12" in the winter and so nearly all of the leaves are on new shoot growth. What matters in the end is number of fruits per leaf area. Along with flat peaches being thinned less, some varieties don't produce large fruits and can be spaced more closely. I am mainly growing heirlooms which fit into this category.

I don't have much bird problems on my apricots. I would recommend first trying hanging old CDs on thread. Put half a dozen or so in a large tree. Don't put them out until the cots are starting to turn color, you don't want to give the birds a chance to adapt. The CDs are so much easier than netting, netting is a huge pain to deal with. CDs work for me on plums but not on blueberries. Don't forget to take them down right after the fruit is gone.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 9:04AM
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I'll try that CD trick, Scott, thanks. Probably doesn't work on squirrels, tho.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 10:20AM
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I've got plenty of cd's and monofilament line. Great idea. Was also thinking about mylar ribbon. Squirrels are a definite problem in my area, though. Netting is a mess, but I'll try anything to save my fruit.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 10:38AM
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