Fruit thinning

spartan-appleJune 17, 2013

It seems I have an extremely heavy fruit set this year on
apple & pear. While out at the orchard Saturday, I found that most of my pears and apples had 2-3 fruits set per cluster. No sign of any June drop yet either.

Time to hand thin. I got the bartlet pear done but took me an hour for one tree! Off to the peaches next as those always need to be heavily thinned each year.

Finally as the evening progressed, I gave up for another day. I will have to round up my children for help next trip
to the orchard. I have never seen such heavy fruit set
on the apples and pears.

I would advise anyone with the same problem to be sure
to thin out the apples./pears to one fruit per cluster and
also thin to about 6" apart. If not, you will end up with
bushels of small fruit this fall and possibly only a light
flower crop next spring.

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prestons_garden(9B SZ 22 HZ 6 SoCal)


That's some great advice for everyone.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 3:24PM
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bart1(6/7 Northern VA)

How do commercial orchards do it? I'm talking about huge places and the mom and pop pick your own places.

Surely they can't spend an hour per tree when they have hundreds of trees, can they?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 3:47PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

I'm not sure. There are several chemical thinners out there, so they use those, but not sure they do enough to limit the trees.

I'm going to try to thin my apples this week, before the heat comes in next weekend.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 4:10PM
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When I read the state ag bulletins, directed at commercial growers, they speak of chemical thinning. Given that growers these days can barely find workers to pick the fruit, I doubt if they can manage hand-thinning.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 4:18PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

The commercial guys spray multiple chemical thinners, even measure growth rates of fruit, and then hand thin more as a last resort.

This year in areas frozen out last year the commercial guys are being asked to thin ruthlessly. Otherwise they'll have small fruit this year and poor bloom next year.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 4:28PM
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Probably what happened to me. I left to many apples on last year for young trees and this year not a great amount of apples. I thought maybe the bees may not of been around because of te cold.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 4:34PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

As fruitnut mentioned, for commercial apples, chemical thinning is a science. Size of fruitlets, temperature, humidity, cultivar, and other factors are taken into account. Many times growers will apply thinning agents in two separate sprays, preferring to thin slowly in "steps".

For peaches, there are no chemical thinners that have proved consistently effective. There are some new machines that show promise, but they are really still in the development/testing stage. Almost all peaches are still thinned without machine or chemicals.

Some peach growers start the thinning process at bloom, running a toilet brush along one side of the shoots, which removes 1/2 the flowers. In some places, this can be considered risky because late frosts can thin more flowers, resulting in over-thinning.

After shuck-split, peaches can be thinned by beating shoots with plastic bats or wooden rods with rubber cushions on the ends. Beating the trees will knock off lots of fruit, but unfortunately the largest fruitlets are the ones which fall to the ground.

The bulk of peach thinning is still done by hand - one fruitlet at a time. In the past I was spending too much time on thinning. I've discovered pruning much more vigorously leaves a lot less to thin.

I spoke with a commercial peach grower this winter who had 9000 trees. He said they thin every one by hand (i.e. do not use toilet brushes or plastic bats).

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 9:07PM
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bart1(6/7 Northern VA)

Thanks for the replies folks.

I was hoping for some magic bullet to save the day. Oh well, it's back to the old way I guess, but just looking at my 3 (only three!!) plum trees gets me feeling overwelmed!

Certainly it's better to have too much fruit than too little but the fruit set on my plums is killing me!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 8:04AM
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alan haigh

One thing you need to know about thinning is that apples generally need to be thinned early to assure a good crop the following year. 4 weeks after petal fall is too late.

For peaches and plums, earlier thinning will provide larger fruit but it's not as important as getting apples thinned in a timely manner- at least those varieties that are prone to biennial bearing. If you thin peaches later, they may not get as large but they will still get up the same sugar, I believe.

After you finish your apples start with earliest ripening varieties of stone fruit first.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 5:57PM
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