Thining my peaches?

thecityman, Zone 7a/6b near NashvilleJune 4, 2014

In spite of all my difficulties, I have been blessed with 2 Red Haven peach trees that are absolutely loaded with golf-ball sized, healthy looking peaches. Prematurely pulling a healthy, viable piece of fruit off my tree and disposing of it is the hardest thing I have ever done! It may be easier for those with plenty of fruit, but with only 2 trees bearing more than a few peaches this year, it just kills me to do this! But from what I read, its a necessary evil. True? Will it really make a big difference?

Anyway, the most I have been able to bring myself to do so far is to reduce any multi-peach clusters of 4 or more down to 3. I'm pretty sure that isn't nearly enough, but I don't know what is. Are there any rules of thumb about thinning peaches? IE, how many should be left per limb? Or a limb of certain length and diameter can support X number of peaches? If you say I should never have clusters of 4, or (worse) clusters of 3, then how about doubles? I mean, when you have 2 peaches touching each other and coming from within a 1/2 inch area of a limb, does one have to go? Surely not, but I have to ask. Same for 3. I'm pretty sure 4 is too many for one cluster, right?

In short, I'm just looking for a little advice on how hard to thin peaches. Since I'm already very short on fruit, I'd like err on the side of thinning too little, but would like to hear thoughts on both how much to thin and how important thinning is. Thanks, Folks!

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

If you don't thin off most of these fruits your tree will likely be crushed and much of the fruit will be wasted. To say nothing of the fact that what you do harvest will taste like blah.

You most certainly can't leave peaches that touch. They'll push each other off as they grow.

Depending on tree size you can have say 100 8 oz fruits or 300 4 oz fruits. If you leave 600 3 oz fruits your tree will likely break major limbs and the fruit won't be fit to eat. Do you want lots of small fruits that break the tree or less that are larger and taste much better?

So get a grip and thin to 8-10 inches apart.

PS: The numbers above are just an example. If you want a number for your tree post a picture and you'll probably get some numbers. Thinning to a number is the best basis and would give you something concrete you could use in the future.

This post was edited by fruitnut on Wed, Jun 4, 14 at 11:34

    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 11:00AM
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To me, thinning fruit is an emotional matter but it's needs to be done.

You said your peaches are at golf ball size? That's quite late. I thin mine when they are tiny (pinky finger or smaller). I thin the first time spacing them apart (some say 8" ). All twins are gone. I come back and thin them again in a week or so if needed.

I have friends who are afraid to thin. They have a lot more peaches than I do but their peaches are much smaller and do not taste any good.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 12:35PM
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thecityman, Zone 7a/6b near Nashville

I need to hear what you both had to say! I'd been trying to convince myself that thinning wasn't all that important. And of course, fruitnut, I'd rather have larger, better tasting fruit than a lot of small, non-remarkable tasting. In fact, I never considered or imagined that taste was improved by thinning. I just figured it was about size and, of course, weight/limb breakage. As for mine being too large...that's probably true...I put it off as long as I could with the idea that I wanted all the peaches that were going to naturally fall to do that first. Again, thanks to you both, not only for the good information but also for stressing the importance of thinning and telling me to man-up and do it!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 12:49PM
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you will get better at this as the years go by...haha. When I thin...I do it in stages. That way I do not chicken out and leave too many onboard. Good advice above.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 1:42PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I thin to about 4-6" in spots where the peaches are looking good. Places on the tree where the fruits are all fairly small (the interior mainly; also at bases or tips of shoots) I remove all the peaches. Also, later ripening varieties you can leave with more fruits hanging than earlier varieties. Degree of thinning also depends on the climate you are in, the health of the tree, etc. Whatever the variables are, you should not have peaches closer than 4". You can experiment with different degrees of thinning on different parts of the tree and compare the results.


    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 2:39PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


I could be wrong but I'd think the whole tree crop load is what would affect fruit eating quality and even fruit size. You might get some effect on eating quality by leaving whole scaffolds at different densities. But to get the full effect you'd need to compare whole trees at different crop loads.

I've often read to leave the biggest fruits on the tree regardless of location. So there is some translocation between limbs, probably quite a bit. If one just leaves a branch extra thick those fruits are stealing some carbohydrates from the parts of the tree with less fruit. That would make the thick fruit misleadingly large.

Thecityman could thin one tree and not the other. That would be a fair comparison. Even there you'd need at least three trees at each test density to take out differences between trees.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 3:30PM
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