How to thin out fruit on your fruit trees

May 31, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Fruit Trees

Updated 5-31-2013

Thinning out your fruit trees is the process of removing some of the fruit before it matures. I am taking a slightly different approach to thinning out the fruit on my fruit trees this year. Many of the trees I planted four years ago are finally starting to bear a substantial amount of fruit. Given that I am not spraying them, the dreaded codling moth larvae are a massive problem for me. The most important thing I can do to break the pest cycle is to remove the fruit that the larvae have burrowed into. If this fruit is left on the tree for more than 2 or 3 weeks, then the larvae will be able to complete its lifecycle. In zone 6 where I am, I get about four lifecycles per season. The codling moth can devastate all of an apple and pear crop if you aren’t proactive.


Apple Tree


Every couple of weeks I will be checking my fruit for evidence of entry by the codling moth larvae. They leave a brown mess around their entry point, so they are easy to spot. I had planned on feeding these apples and pears to the chickens, but at this stage the apples and pears are too small and too hard for them to eat. I will wrap them up and dispose of them in the garbage. I hate to throw away anything organic, but I don’t want to risk the larvae continuing its lifecycle. When the apples get larger, I will cut them in half to give to the chickens.


Codling Moth Larvae Damage


When to do it?

Early June or late-May is usually good timing in zone 6 to start. Then check your fruit every couple of weeks for damage from the codling moth or disease.


Why bother?

I know it may seem counter intuitive to remove fruit from your trees in order to get more healthy fruit, but that is essentially what happens. When you remove some of the fruit, the remaining fruit will grow larger, and tree limbs can break or be overburdened by too much fruit. Also, it is really important to remove fruit that is infested with the codling moth larvae.


For young trees, the more fruit that is pruned off, the more of the tree’s energy will be sent to the growth development of the tree. This is especially important for sick trees to allow recuperation.


How to thin the fruit?

If you have a tree with multiple fruits clustered together, these should be broken apart to have just one fruit. It is a good idea to shake the branches to get the weak fruit to fall first, then space fruit at least 6 inches apart on the branches. I also remove any diseased or damaged fruit. This approach is great if you do not have a codling moth problem. If you are like me, with a large codling moth problem, I will only remove the diseased fruit, or those fruits infested with codling moth larvae. By doing this every couple of weeks, I will eventually thin the tree out.


Apple clusters before                                                                      After Thinning

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