Tuesday, April 11, 2017 By: Ask A Master Gardener

For Best Production Fruit and Nuts Need Thinning

Fruit, nut trees benefit from thinning

Bill Sevier Ask a Master Gardener

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Q: The production of apples on my tree goes in cycles — lots of apples one year and fewer the next. Is there anything I can do to prevent this? S.G., Sand Springs
A: Yes, there is. Every year, you should thin out the apples when they are the size of a quarter so that there are 6-8 inches between each young fruit.
Thinning fruit is important for optimal production in most all fruit and nut trees. There is a reason for this, and it relates to basic plant biology.
Any fruit or nut produced by a tree is dependent on an adequate supply of water, nutrients and energy (mostly sugars). Water and nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and others are absorbed from the soil by the roots. To do this, there must be ample amounts of nutrients and water in the soil. Energy comes from photosynthesis. This is the production of sugars, an effect of sunshine on the trees leaves. So for fruit production, a tree needs healthy roots, plenty of leaves and sunshine.
There is a limitation of the amounts of nutrients and energy a plant can supply for growing fruits and nuts. When the demand is greater than the tree can deliver, fruits and nuts are not only small but also do not have the sweetness and flavor expected from that particular variety of tree.
Thinning not only improves quality of fruit, but there is also less chance of unwanted fruit drop, cold injury and limb breakage. Be aware that all fruit trees do not need to be thinned; some varieties will thin themselves of excess fruit early on in development.
The cycling of fruit and nut production (large crop one year and small or no crop the next) is usually due to depletion of energy stores in the tree during a heavy crop year, followed by a need to replace energy supplies and produce little fruit the following year.
Thinning fruit can be painful. For some fruits, such as peaches, upwards of ¾ of the total fruit crop may need to be removed to produce a quality product. Commercial growers of fruits and nuts (mainly pecans) have several ways of thinning their trees. This involves a variety of chemical sprays, as well as some mechanical shaking of trees.
Most homeowners thin what they can reach by hand. When thinning, one should look not only for proper spacing between fruit, but also select the largest and healthiest fruit in a cluster to keep on the tree.
Some of the recommended spacing between fruit when thinning are: Apples 6-8 inches, apricots and plums 4-6 inches, peaches 6 inches. Cherries are not likely to need thinning. Most pear trees also need no thinning unless that variety is prone to cyclic production.
As stated, thinning can be painful but is essential for full-sized tasty fruit and nuts.

Garden tips
·       Termites and ants are swarming now and will be into May. It is essential to identify whether the flying insect is a termite or ant. To tell them apart, one may need a hand lens, but the essentials are this: Termites have no waist — the waist is the same size as the chest — while ants have a tiny waist. Termites have straight antenna; ants antenna are bent. Each have two pairs of wings, the termites are of equal size, while ants have a shortened pair.
·       Termites flying inside your home is significant and an exterminator should be consulted. Termites outdoors could be important, but most are feeding on woody material (old stumps for example) and are doing natures work in breaking down dead organic material. Nevertheless, if you see termites outdoors nearby, your home needs inspection for signs of invasion.
·       March is the second best time of the year to seed cool-season turfgrass; however, fall is the best time to plant.
·       Let spring-flowering bulb foliage remain as long as possible before removing it.


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