Saturday, May 27th, 2023 was a Volunteer Workday and I was lucky to have lots of good help in the Orchard. One of the tasks was fruit thinning, which involves removing some or all of the immature fruit on a tree. So why do we thin fruit?
1. Prevent broken branches
2. Promote larger, sweeter and more flavorful fruit
3. Reduce pest hiding places
4. Focus tree on growth
A bowed branch on a fruit tree is a good indication it is struggling with the weight and location of the fruit on that branch. So start thinning hardest on the outside of the branch to reduce leverage. In the picture, we are thinning the heavy fruit set on the Arctic Star Nectarine.
As my mentor often said, "You can have lots of small, bland fruit or you can have many that are large, sweet, and flavorful." Thinning results in the tree allocating more resources to fewer fruit.
Touching fruit is a great place for pests to hide. Fruit on spurs often have clusters of fruit that needs to be thinned... start with those that are very small or damaged. Best to cut the stem of fruit on spurs so you don't damage the spur. Peach trees often have double fruit; try to remove 1 of them when small.
Young and struggling trees should have all/most of their fruit removed until the branches can hold mature fruit. This allows the tree to allocate its resources to growing. In the Orchard, a good example of this is the puny Cocktail Grapefruit tree which is loaded with fruit this year: most/all will be removed when thumb sized. If you walk by it, try to envision a full sized grapefruit on the tiny little limbs.