Fruit Drop Thins Crop - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

Fruit Drop Thins Crop

If you’ve noticed a lot of fruit dropping from trees in your home orchard lately, chances are good that the plants are simply shedding excess fruit. Most trees set many more flowers than needed for a full crop, especially following a relatively mild winter.

Only one bloom in 20 is needed for a good crop on a full-blossoming apple tree. Although the small fruit drop in June can be alarming, it’s just nature’s way of thinning the crop so the remaining fruit can reach full size.

Most fruit trees have at least two waves of fruit drop. The first occurs shortly after bloom. This drop is usually caused by lack of or incomplete pollination.

The second drop occurs three to four weeks later. The second drop is usually bigger and more dramatic because the fruits have developed to a larger size, usually .5 to 1 inch in diameter. This second drop is called “June drop” because it usually occurs in early June. Competition among the fruits for water and nutrients is thought to be the cause of June drop. Fruits that contain the fewest or weakest seeds are usually the first to drop.

Although June drop may appear to be devastating, many trees do not shed enough fruit naturally for good production of the remaining fruit. For best quality, some hand thinning is recommended before the fruit is halfway to maturity.

Appropriate final spacing varies with the type of fruit. Apples should be thinned to about 6 to 8 inches between each fruit. Peaches, plums and nectarines should be thinned to about 4 to 5 inches between fruit. Apricots need only 2 to 4 inches between fruit, while cherries rarely require thinning.

If you simply cannot bring yourself to remove the excess fruit, be prepared to prop up heavily loaded branches. Excessive fruiting is known to cause serious limb breakage. Fruits will be smaller and of poorer quality since there won’t be enough food reserves to go around. In most cases, it’s best to sacrifice fruit early on for the benefit of the rest of the crop.


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