Thinning Peaches and Plums

Home gardeners often forget to thin their peaches and plums to get maximum quality as the fruit matures. This thinning is something you want to do 3 or 4 weeks after the plants finish blooming, so this is something that needs to be done in South Texas soon and in North Texas in the next couple of weeks.

These peaches are far too close together. They will not develop to maximum size or quality, plus their cumulative weight may break the branches.

Remember back in January when we talked about the importance of pruning peach and plum trees to be 8 to 10 ft. tall and 15 or 16 ft. wide – into the shapes of cereal bowls? That was so you’d be able to work most of the fruit from the ground or from a very short stool. It doesn’t work that way with apples and especially pears – those trees grow taller by nature.

This unusual photo was posted to my Facebook page. In almost an X-ray look at the fruit, you can see how excessive the load is. Thinning could make such a big difference.

With that in mind, use your thumb and index finger to remove excess fruit. Peaches and apples should be left 6 inches apart on the branches, plums about 4 inches apart. Pears should be 4 to 5 inches apart. Thinning of grapes is actually accomplished by the annual mid-winter pruning in which 80 to 85 percent of the cane growth is removed.

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As the trees take up water and nutrients they will be able to push them into the reduced numbers of fruit so that those remaining fruit will develop to much greater size and quality.

Thinning takes weight off the branches so there’s far less chance of limb breakage.

The remaining fruit will be exposed to more uniform sunlight for more attractive coloration and even ripening.

This may be a difficult concept to grasp, but once you’ve done it and once you’ve seen the good results that it yields, you’ll be a believer.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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