Do you have fruit trees? We do! But they are only three-years old. That means that this year is the first year we could possibly get some great fruit – not much, but some fruit! YAY! We have a plum tree, peach tree, two apple trees and a pear tree.
A quick bunny trail that is a lesson for all of us about fruit trees:
We also have an old plum tree (about 13 years old) that was planted by the original home owners, but was neglected for several years. It does bear fruit, but because it was allowed to grow wildly, it has been a nightmare to prune and control this tree every year. Don’t let your newly planted trees go unpruned and grow freely. We have shoots that come up several feet around it and it has multiple trunks of various sizes (and stumps from the times we’ve cut it). The main tree is beautiful and produces nice fruit, but the shoots and low growing branches (that keep coming back) make the whole thing a mess. We’ve talked to several gardeners and tree care companies, and our options are cut it down completely or deal with the mess. So we’ve been dealing with it (partly because it does produce fruit and I don’t want to lose it and partly because removal would cost a lot of money and leave a stump in my yard).
Back on track:
I love growing my own food. We have six sq. foot garden boxes that grow all kinds of veggies of different types every year. We also have many other pieces of the edible garden growing all over in pots (like herbs and regrowing veggies), in the house and all over the yard. You can see our garden category to get some ideas.
But, today I want to share something specific in regards to gardening – Fruit Tree Thinning.
Have you heard of the rule of six when it comes to your fruit trees? This is especially helpful for younger trees on many levels.
But first, before I dive into the “why,” let me tell you what it is.
It is the basic rule of thumb regarding how to thin fruit trees. Basically, only have one piece of growing fruit every six inches on each branch. No more. This is also called “thinning.”
Once I heard this rule, it actually greatly helped me to manage and control my fruit trees. I want healthy growing trees and large luscious fruit.
Now let’s talk about “why” you would want to thin out your fruit trees and why the six-inch rule. I am going to use my recent peach tree thinning has the example and pictures while sharing the why.
Honestly, it was difficult for me to convince myself that I had to take away two-thirds of the peaches on my three-year old peach tree. I mean, come on…we’ve finally reached a year where we should get some fruit, just to rip most of the fruit off to be thrown away?!? It doesn’t make sense and it seems almost painful!
However, it is important to do so for many reasons:
- The tree is young, fruit is heavy. If you don’t thin your tree, you could damage or break branches off your tree…then what good would it be?
- If you leave a lot of fruit in one small growing area, you will get a lot of small, measly fruit. If you thin your fruit, the result is large, luscious, juicy fruit as they tree/branch was able to put more of it’s productive energy into less fruit, rather than dividing it’s resources. A master gardener explained it like this: “do you want tiny fruit, with little flesh before reaching the seed? Or would you rather a nice big round juicy fruit that has a lot of flesh before reaching the seed?”
- It also prevents fruit drop because the young tree is not overbearing. If you don’t thin out your tree, your tree will do it itself by early fruit drop. The tree simply cannot handle it. Fruit drop is when underripe, not-to-be-consumed fruits fall prematurely.
- It helps with the life and health of your tree and future crops. It encourages a pattern of healthful growth and production each year!
So I got to work on this beautiful peach tree (mind you, the wind is blowing strong here and has been for days, so this peach tree is being blown all over by the wind in this picture, but it’s still beautiful).
I had done some thinning already as there were a few more peaches on this one branch, but as you can see they “double up” on one little stem.
To thin, I just gently twisted the peach and it popped off. So I twisted and pulled for several minutes until each branch had about a 6 inch spacing between each of the fruits.
When it was all said and done, it was about two-thirds of the fruit!
Well, now that only one-third is left (which is still a lot for this young tree), we will hopefully have nicer, big, juicy fruits abounding and ripening. I can’t wait to can and fill my storage with canned peaches, pears, apples and plums!
Please note, you don’t have to thin cherry and nut trees. But pretty much every other fruit tree and the rule of six is a pretty universal, easy rule to remember! In speaking with several master gardeners, this thinning process is a wise idea each and every year, regardless of age. It just makes for better tasting, large fruit!
I hope this quick little gardening and fruit tree care tip will be helpful and a reminder to you to take a few minutes and care for your fruit trees and they will give you amazing fruit in return!
Here’s a picture for Pinterest to remind you to thin out your trees!