So I ruthlessly thinned my GoldRush & there are still 350 apples!

jayco(5b NY)May 27, 2013

So today, following advice (thanks everyone), I thinned my 4 -yr-old GoldRush. I assiduously removed all but the best apple in every cluster, and removed all the apples from clusters closer than 4" to each other as Harvestman advised. (Except that I couldn't reach the top couple of feet at all with my ladder, so I couldn't thin those clusters at all.)

Well, I counted as I was going along and there are still at least 350 apples on the tree. I was amazed at how much fruit it had set -- must've been about 1500 apples or more.

I plan to continue to follow Harvestman's advice and, in a few more weeks, reduce the load to one apple every 8 or 9 inches. However, I believe this will still leave about 200 apples. Should I thin more, or will the tree be able to handle that? Or will insects or squirrels take care of the excess?

The thinning was very interesting. I noted that the clusters on the ends of the branches had the least good apples. I noted that nature loves redundancy.

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I'm pretty ruthless with the apples growing on the inside of my trees, where they get less light. Those all go. I prefer to keep the ones on the outside and the highest branches where they get the most sun.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 10:24PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I think my original estimate was 100-200. And didn't you get a scientific estimate based on trunk cross sectional area of 200 apples? That number would be a lot better than most thinning jobs. Do you want 200 really big good tasting apples or 350 smaller probably poor tasting fruit?

I'd do another round of thinning soon unless you expect losses from insects or the like. The sooner you thin the better the return bloom.

A picture of the tree might help.

PS: Why not prune off that part of the tree you can't reach. Do you want that shading out the part you are going to work so hard on? 12ft is as tall as I want any fruit tree. Take off that top 3ft now.

This post was edited by fruitnut on Mon, May 27, 13 at 22:33

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 10:30PM
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jayco(5b NY)

Fruitnut, I meant should I thin more than leaving 200, not should I not thin any more.

As for the tree's height, my growing situation is different than yours and I want the tree to get tall. I chose rootstock M111 so that it would be large, as I want it to grow beyond the reach of our giant deer population. I intend eventually to remove the fence, and prune off the lowest limbs. I can pick fruit with a picker, and don't intend to manage the tree this intensively when it's fully mature.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 11:29PM
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alan haigh

In commercial orchards the chemicals do the first thinning and then usually a follow up is required by hand which is done maybe 20 days or so after petal fall.

I don't actually believe there is much advantage to getting the final thinning done sooner when you've already removed every apple from every other spur as those tiny apples left probably are only pulling significant energy from their own spur leaves anyway.

This is just my opinion and FN may be right- I don't think there is any research adequately specific to decide the issue.

In the shorter season regions I believe a variety like Goldrush benefits most from carefully choosing the king fruit as it should help speed the ripening process a bit- also, as suggested, you might as well remove any fruit that is in shady parts of the tree as this fruit ripens last as well as being of poorer quality.

Goldrush usually has the latest flowers on the ends of branches which are now the tiniest fruit. In areas with these shorter growing seasons you might want to remove all of them as they will require more time to ripen properly. This will also help keep Goldrush adequately vigorous and annually productive.

Spring came on a bit late this year and this may be a problem with late ripening varieties for those of us in Z6 and lower if fall isn't warm.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 6:11AM
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I'd love to see a picture of a 4 year old Goldrush on M111 with that many apples on it.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 7:42AM
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Good point about ripening, Hman.

Is there evidence that fewer fruits left on the tree will in itself promote faster ripening, or does it depend more on the location of the fruits?

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 7:56AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


Hey man you can manage your tree as you wish. But why two posts asking how many fruits to leave but oh by the way we're only talking part of the tree. The other part will be unthinned and unmanaged. Good luck growing eatable Goldrush in your short season unmanaged and unthinned.

There is plenty of room between 5ft and 12ft to grow eatable apples. Otherwise just forget thinning and grow deer feed on that soon to be 25ft tree.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 10:12AM
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jayco(5b NY)

Fruitnut you obviously know way more about growing apples than I do, which is why I ask all these questions.

I am a novice attempting to grow good fruit in an area with tons of wildlife. We already have 3 mature trees (macs) which produce good fruit we can pick and which are about 18 feet high. Maybe I was wrong thinking we could duplicate this situation with a GoldRush tree, but that is my aim. We are willing to accept imperfect fruit and biennial crops, but obviously would like to do our best.

I don't have a ladder large enough to allow thinning of the top -- my bad. Maybe I will lose fruit because of it, and maybe that will cause me to take your advice and prune it to a lower height. For now perhaps I will try to borrow a bigger ladder.

Thanks for your advice.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 10:43AM
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alan haigh

I have tons of experience growing apples in deer country and about 14' is a pretty good height on 7 or 111 rootstock. You have to keep in mind that bucks sometimes go amazingly high on their hind legs to get apples and branches tend to sag under the weight of their fruit even when you are continuously trying to tie them up.

No need to go higher than that as taller trees will block light from each other when normally spaced.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 11:08AM
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jayco - how do you harvest your highest apples if you can't reach them to thin?

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 11:19AM
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jayco(5b NY)

We use a pole picker which works fine on ripe apples with our Macs.

But it seems as if maybe I've been wrong to think I should just let it get tall.

So, if I want to keep it to around 14 feet, how and when should I do this? Fruitnut said to top it now. I was under the impression I should only severely prune a young tree when it's dormant, ie February or so....? (I'll post a picture tonight.)

Also there aren't too many fruits on the uppermost part of the tree right now. It doesn't have very long branches yet, which is partly why it seemed not too bad to me that I couldn't thin there. Also I noted that many of the apples on the smallest branches were very small, and I hoped a lot of them would drop on their own. I'll also remove the shaded ones.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 12:29PM
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alan haigh

You can reduce the height now or later without much difference to the tree. You can even bring those macs down to a much lower height, but if you don't climb you'll need a good ladder.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 1:14PM
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jayco(5b NY)

The Macs are 40-yr-old monsters, a good 20 ft wide, open-vase style, so we pay someone with equipment to prune them. But it's expensive and I'd like to try to maintain the GR on my own.

So I can simply cut the leader at the desired height?

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 1:31PM
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alan haigh

Yes, cut it to lower branch.

If you have any commercial orchards within reasonable distance you might ask them if they have someone who can deal with your Macs. The only equipment you generally need for trees like that (I manage literally hundreds- many much older and larger than yours) is a good ladder and hand pruning tools.

When I'm taking out big wood I'll use my chain saw a little but on trees I've managed a while no motor needed some years.

Most commercial arborists have very limited understanding of apple trees. The majority have a limited understanding of all trees. What they tend to be expert at is taking trees down, which is no simple task.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 2:10PM
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jayco(5b NY)

Thanks, guess I'll do the deed then. Fruitnut, thanks for bringing my attention to this.

And soon I'll thin again and try to reduce the total number of apples to more like 100. That's already many more than I'd hoped for, so I'm happy as long as we can keep the critters from getting them all.

Squirrels are my next problem....

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 2:52PM
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Squirrels are always a problem!

My own experience with pole pickers is that they tend to break off the whole spur along with the stem. Which, I suppose, is another way of reducing the amount of fruit.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 4:04PM
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jayco(5b NY)

I've found that if I target only ripe apples, position the picker directly below the fruit, and move it gently up and down, the apple will usually fall right off into the picker. But of course it's a fine art ;)

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 10:33PM
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bencjedi(6 - Central Kentucky)

I bought, ordered and planted two Lil'Big (dwarf) Gurney's Goldrush apple trees just this late winter and both are bearing apples- one tree has three and the other eight! This variety is insane! I never expected apples my first year. I setup a trellis to espalier them this weekend by sinking a couple 8ft 4x4 posts on both sides and stringing a taunt wire for them to be 'willed' to grow on.

I have two semi dwarf trees (Fuji and McIntosh) that are bearing finally after 6 years (one tree has 12, the other around 40) and both trees are like 15ft-18ft tall. Seems reading the advice from the experts here, I need to get on a step ladder and cut the leading branches off the top (and now is ok to do it, right?). Mine are in an interesting predicament in that they are technically too large for my tiny yard and had a fence right up against them for the last 6 years and then a month ago a new neighbor wanted to build a fence on his line which necessitated that I move my fence to the other side of the trees opening up the side that was previously shading them in the afternoon (otherwise my trees would have been boxed in on both sides). So now the morning sun is blocked by the fence from the east on the lower half of each tree but from noon on they get sun overhead and then on the west side. Like you I was thinking I need my apples up higher because of this fence-shading which is why I allowed the trees to continue their upward exploitation. The apples that have formed are up high on the Fuji, but low on the McIntosh which doesn't make sense to me, but I am just happy I beat the previously yearly records of exactly one or zero apples per tree per year. I put blooming and rooting fertilizer out in February and saw the most blossoms ever. It certainly helped.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 11:26PM
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