Time to Thin Your Apples
Walking through our neighborhood, we pass quite a few apple trees. Some of these are decades old and others have been planted in the last few years. Apples are a great addition to the suburban landscape...if you are prepared to tackle some of the tasks involved with maintaining them. You will need to plan on pruning them, watering them, thinning the fruit and having a plan in place for pest and disease management.
This month's task is to thin the fruit. An apple tree will set more fruit than it can possibly sustain in a season. If you allow all of these apples to remain on the tree, you will inadvertently create a cycle where your tree thinks it did such a fantastic job growing fruit this year that it will not produce as much fruit next year. To help your tree maintain a more balanced fruit production pattern, you will need to thin some of the fruit from the tree. Thinning the fruit will also allow for the apples that remain to grow to a better size. Your tree will use its energy to grow the best apples from the ones you have chosen to leave on the limbs. One other benefit to thinning the fruit from your tree is that it will decrease your chances of having a limb break from the weight of too much fruit.
A general rule of thumb for thinning...When the fruit on your apple tree is the size of your thumb, thin the fruit to one apple every six inches. Typically the time of year to do this is the end of May or beginning of June. Look through the fruit clusters and choose the largest, healthiest apple to keep and then remove the rest. Usually they will easily snap off, but you could also take a pair of scissors to snip off the excess fruit.
It's as easy as that! Depending on the size and age of your tree, this could take a few minutes or an hour. But I guarantee that it is worth your time! You will be helping your tree establish good growing patterns for future years and encouraging it to provide you with the biggest and best apples this fall.