Thinning Top Fruit and the ‘June Drop'
When conditions are good and spring pollinators are numerous most fruit trees will set more fruit than they can really ripen properly so trees will quite naturally abort some of this excess in early summer in what is known as the ‘June Drop'. However quite often there will still be more fruit than can develop into top quality fruit and if left the tree will produce smaller fruit than we would like.
Fruit thinning is normally carried out on apples, pears, plums, peaches and nectarines and simply means removing excess fruitlets to produce a better quality crop and bigger sized fruit. Thinning also allows more sunlight and air flow through the branches which improves ripening.
Remove any marked or misshapen fruit first and then thin apples to one fruit per cluster or one or two fruits every 10-15cm (4-6in. Pears thin clusters to two fruits 10-15 cm (4-6in) apart. Plums often produce many more fruit than can be properly supported so thin these to one every 5-8cm (2-3in). Thin peaches and nectarines to one every 15-20cm (6-8in) when about the size of a walnut, leave the maximum space between fruit when trees are young. Do not thin fruit after mid-July.
Every year's crop will be different depending on weather conditions and availability of pollinators at blossom time, but with just a little care and attention you should enjoy lots of fruit for many years to come.