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Taking Care of the Home Garden Orchard

It's time to thin the blossoms on your apple trees. Image by EllenM1 at

It’s time to thin the blossoms on your apple trees. Image by EllenM1 at

I was talking to Roy Prentice, Farm Manager at Tollgate Farm, about the fruit season coming up in Michigan. Roy reminded me of the need to thin fruit trees this year. If you have two or two dozen fruit trees on your property, you should know the benefits of thinning.

2012 was unkind to Michigan’s fruit trees. The early thaw/late frost killed a lot of buds. Many trees produced little or no good fruit. The trees will accommodate their own survival and produce a bumper crop this year. Many blossoms mean lots of fruit, but the fruit will be smaller than normal.

You may be happy with small fruit, but there is another effect that won’t make you smile. Alternate fruit bearing refers to trees that produce a lot of fruit in one year and almost no fruit the next year. Plant scientists say that the tree energy expended to mature a lot of fruit reduces the energy available to initiate flower buds for the following spring. So, if this year’s crop is heavy, next year’s crop will be small. You need to thin the trees.

Many fruit bearing trees are thinned just after the blossoms fall. If you are unsure about the current timing for your specific trees, check with your local extension service. There are several sprays available. You can also manually thin the trees.