University of Maryland Extension

Fruit Trees - Fruit Thinning

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Photo: Thinning young fruit from a peach tree

The practice of fruit thinning contributes to your orchard’s success. It is recommended for apples, pears, nectarines, plums, and peaches. 

Reasons for Thinning

Reasons for thinning are slightly different than those for pruning:

  • A portion of the fruit is removed so that the remainder will develop adequate size;
  • Thinning increases the plant’s ability to form flower buds for the next year, provided the thinning is done early enough. Failure to thin can lead to biennial bearing problems i.e., over-production one year followed by a year of extremely low yields;
  • Thinning reduces the weight of the fruit load on the branches, thus reducing breakage: and
  • Insects and diseases are more difficult to control when fruits hang in clusters.

How to Thin

Hand thinning is the easiest and safest method for removing excess fruit. Begin hand thinning when the fruits are about ½ inch in diameter. Start at one end of a branch and systematically remove fruit, leaving one fruit every 6 to 8 inches. Keep in mind that only 5% to 10% of the tree’s flowers are needed to set a full crop of fruit.

 

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