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Too Much Of A Good Thing: Thin Those Beautiful Fruit Tree Blossoms For Better Fruit Production

Buying a home with mature fruit trees in the backyard seems like a wonderful event at first—until you remember that you’ve never had to care for fruit trees before and have no idea what to do. Luckily there’s lots of information out there about how best to keep those trees going, but you do have to follow the advice, even if it seems weird. One task you have to do is to actually remove flowers from the trees. Reducing the beautiful blooms is necessary if you want a respectable amount of fruit from each tree.

More Flowers for More Species Survival

Fruit trees produce a lot of flowers because more flowers equals more chances at pollination. More chances at pollination means more chances that fruit will develop—and after fruit develops, if birds or animals eat the fruit, they can spread the seeds around, leading to more trees.

The problem is that while squirrels and birds might not care about fruit size, you probably do. And if you leave all those flowers on the tree, you risk having a fruit crop that’s small and malnourished.

Fewer Resources for Existing Blossoms

The tree has so many resources that it can access—what’s in the soil, what you feed it, and what rain falls. It divides these resources among all of the trees, meaning that the more flowers it has, the fewer resources that get to each flower. That results in smaller, weaker fruit. Ironically, all this smaller fruit adds up to a heavy load on the branches. The branches are then at an increased risk of breaking, which is not good if you like walking around under the trees.

Thinning Blossoms for Better Production

To increase the number of nutrients available to each flower, you have to remove many of the flowers. It seems counterintuitive because fewer flowers equal fewer fruits. But Washington State University Extension (WSU) notes that if even 5 percent of the flowers on a tree produce fruit, you’ll get a nice crop.

You don’t have to reduce the flowers by 95 percent, though. The amount you have to take varies from tree to tree, but you’ll still be left with plenty of blossoms. For example, WSU says cherry blossoms don’t need to be thinned, but apple blossoms have to go through two rounds of thinning that target specific blossoms each time. Peach trees should have one blossom for every 6 to 8 inches of branch, and if you miss one and find two fruits growing next to each other, you should remove one fruit.

Of course, if you have really tall trees, then you have the problem of not being able to safely reach the blossoms on the upper branches. For these—or if you’re not sure you’re thinning the blossoms correctly—contact a local tree service company (such as True Care Inc) and have them do the thinning. A great fruit crop actually isn’t worth getting hurt—stay safe and avoid dragging a ladder out to the tree yourself.

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