How to Thin Young Fruit on Your Fruit Trees

  • 01 of 05

    Decide Which Apples to Remove

    how to thin apples
    A cluster of small apples, ready to be thinned. Colleen Vanderlinden

    To get a good, healthy harvest from your fruit trees (including apples, pears, peaches, and plums) you need to thin the young fruit. This important step should be done when the fruit is smaller than a dime -- waiting much longer than this to prune will affect bud development for next year. Fruit is usually borne in clusters of two to six small fruits; you want to thin it to one large, strong, healthy fruit.

    Look at each cluster. Here's what you want to remove:

    1. Wrinkled fruit
    2. Misshapen fruit
    3. Diseased fruit
    4. Fruit that is much smaller than the rest in the cluster
    5. Fruit with pest or disease damage
    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    Start Removing Unwanted Fruit

    thinning apples from trees
    Start removing unwanted fruit with bypass pruners. Colleen Vanderlinden

    Now that you've observed your fruit clusters and decided which ones to remove, it's time to get pruning. The best tool for this job is a small, sharp bypass pruner. If your stems are very thin, you could also pinch the fruits off with your fingers, but a pruner gives a cleaner cut.

    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Observe and Reevaluate as You Prune

    thinning fruit on apple trees
    Look carefully for signs of damage as you prune. Colleen Vanderlinden

    As you prune out obviously damaged or weak fruits, carefully observe as you go to make sure you don't miss any signs of damage. Look for frass from apple maggots or coddling moth larvae, which will appear as a brownish bump on the tiny apples. If you prune early enough in the season, you won't have to worry about this, but it is something to keep in mind.

    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Finish Thinning Each Cluster

    thinning fruit from an apple tree
    Pruning out the last of the unwanted fruit. Colleen Vanderlinden

    Remove all but one fruit per cluster. The remaining fruit should be the healthiest, largest, best-looking of the cluster.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Move on to the Next Cluster of Fruit

    how to thin apples on an apple tree
    One perfect little apple remains from the original cluster. Colleen Vanderlinden

    Now that you've got your cluster down to one perfect, healthy fruit, it's time to move on to the next cluster. Keep in mind that fruits should be spaced no closer than six inches apart on the tree, so if you have a cluster very close to the one you just thinned, it's best to simply remove it rather than thinning it to one fruit. Now that you've done all of this work, you can look forward to a healthy harvest and less messy fruit drop throughout the summer!