How to Increase the Size of Your Apples
It's time to thin the apples on your tree
Would you be willing to spend an hour now to get big, juicy apples from your tree this fall? It’s easy. What you need to do is spend an hour picking off small apples now so that the remaining apples can grow to full size.
Leave just one apple here and remove the rest
I have heard that some old timers would whack their trees with a bamboo pole to knock off excess apples. But that's not good – you don’t get to choose which ones come off, and that’s important. Apples tend to grow in clusters of two to six. One apple will generally be bigger, and that is the one you want to leave. Shaking a branch is not a good plan, either. Be careful when picking to avoid pulling off the fruit spurs that support the fruit. Roll fruit off with your thumb.
So here is what I did recently: I spent an hour picking apples that ranged in size from a quarter of an inch to an inch. I worked each branch methodically, picking off excess apples from the tip to its base. Each apple selected to remain on the tree should be 8 to 10 inches from the next apple on the branch, which means some clusters were removed completely. I threw the apples into a bucket figuring that rotting apples might attract a fungal disease.
Toss the thinned apples into a bucket. Orchard cleanliness helps minimize disease.
You may have noticed that your tree produces a heavy load of fruit every other year. A heavy fruit year takes a lot of energy from the tree and its roots. So it blooms less the year after a great crop. Granted, a late frost can still reduce fruit production, as can insects. Plum curculio is an insect that reduce fruit production to near zero, but I have never had a problem with it.
I was able to thin the apples on this tree in an hour, avoiding only the highest branches.
Commercial orchards tend to have good fruit production every year because they methodically thin their apples. Many use a chemical spray to do that, but I don't recommend that for home gardeners. And it's too late to do this year, anyway.
Picking these small apples is a bit like weeding: tedious, if you think of it that way, or just a nice way to relax in the garden on a summer day. Granted, if you have a dozen full-sized trees, you might want to do just a couple each day. But the rewards will be great, come harvest time.
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