; Thinning Apples and Pears to improve your harvest! - Terraganics Living

How to thin Apples and pear treesIt is that time of year again…you have a ton of pears and apples on your trees and they are getting bigger by the day!  Thinning your crop is a necessary task in order to make sure you have a good harvest year to year, reduce opportunities for pests and prevent limbs from breaking.  I hate doing it myself because those small little fruits go into the compost bin.  At least when you thin seedlings you can give them to a friend!  First of all lets go through the risks of not thinning before we go into the how!

  1. Alternate Bearing…If you do not thin your crop this year then most likely next year you will have a very small crop.  This is called alternate bearing- a heavy year followed by a light year followed by a heavy year.
  2. Small fruit…your tree will naturally drop some of the fruit that is cannot support but it will still keep too much.  If you leave it all there the fruit you do harvest will be smaller than if you had thinned.
  3. Pests…when two fruits are touching right next to each other it makes the perfect home for a caterpillar or pest- it is so cozy!  I actually found two cases of this already on my tree when thinning it this year.  Diseases also love to pop up between touching fruit.
  4. Limbs breaking….trees do not know any better and they will produce more fruit than what their limbs can support.  This is especially and issue in young fruit trees.  Even after thinning you may have to provide branches with extra support for a few years.

Ok so now hopefully you are with me and are going to thin your fruit 🙂  Thinning of fruit is best done when the fruit is between the size of a dime or no larger than a quarter.  Being a busy mom sometimes I push that upper limit!  Follow the steps below to pruning and you will be good to go!  While you are thinning remove any leaves that look infested with pests or diseased and put into the compost.

  1. Grab a good pair of pruners.  You will need them for the apples for sure.  Pears you can almost always twist them gently and they will detact.  If they do not separate with a gentle twist use pruners.
  2. Start with one branch and look over all the fruit on it…any of it look infected or misshaped?  Remove that fruit first.
  3. Now look at it again…our goal is to get one fruit every 6 inches or so.  Now I go and remove the runts of the bunch (smallest ones)!
  4. Ok now do you still have fruit too close together?  Sorry but now you have to remove the good bigger looking fruit until you have one fruit about every 6 inches along the branch.  I tried to alternate what side the fruit is hanging off the branch as well so they are well balanced.How to thin apples and pears

Now you have a thinned out apple or pear tree!  But do not stop there I highly recommend putting apple maggot barriers on them!  Here is a good video on how to apply barriers from Seattle’s City Fruit Organization…HERE.

Frequently asked questions:

Q: I have a fruit tree that I planted last year should I prune all its fruit off and let it focus on root development?

A: Pruning all its fruit off is not needed.  Just make sure you follow the 6″ rule and ensure branches are supported if they get too heavy.  Watering long and deep (slow trickle) throughout the whole summer will promote good root development along with proper soil amendments.

Q: Should I prune the fruit that is coming off the trunk off?

A: No, fruit come from little sprouts off the trunk on young trees.  It is actually a good place for it to be because the trunk is sturdier than all the branches 🙂

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