CORVALLIS, Ore. – A bumper crop of fruit may be more than your apple or pear tree is meant to bear. To get larger, higher quality apples and pears, remove immature fruit in late May or early June.
Anita Azarenko, a professor in the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University, advises thinning fruit in late spring to avoid a heavy fruit load that can break branches later on.
"Thinning also can prevent apples from becoming a 'biennial-bearing' crop, a pattern that occurs when the apple tree produces a heavy crop one year and little-to-no crop the next year," explained Azarenko. Peaches and plums also benefit from thinning.
Many tree fruits naturally shed small, cherry-sized fruit in late spring. But this natural thinning may not be enough. For larger and higher quality fruit, more young fruit may need to be removed by hand.
Remove the smaller fruits and those damaged by disease or insects in each cluster, recommends Azarenko. Thin apples and pears to one fruit per cluster and space the clusters six to eight inches apart, three to five weeks after full bloom. Space peaches six to 10 inches apart, depending on the number of fruits set.
More information about maintaining home orchards is available in the OSU Extension Service publication, "Growing Tree Fruits and Nuts in the Home Orchard,” (EC 819).