The University of Arizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension Home Horticulture:
Environmentally Responsible
Gardening & Landscaping in the Low Desert

Fruit Thinning for Deciduous Fruit Trees
in The Low Desert

Vine Rule

  • When we get a cool winter, deciduous fruit trees with low chilling requirements set a heavy load. To protect the tree from being damaged by the weight of the developing fruit, and to obtain full size fruit, it may be necessary to thin apples, apricots, peaches, pears, and plums. The earlier this is done after fruit set, the more size response will be expected in fruit remaining on the tree.

Heavily laden peach tree
  • Stone Fruits: (apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines)
    By the time fruit is approximately the size of a quarter, most of the unpollinated fruit will have fallen off. Remove all the doubles, damaged or misshapen fruit. Thin remaining fruit to leave one fruit every four to six inches, or no more than two to three fruits per "hanger" (small branch).

    Thinning to a uniform size fruit will generally give you a harvest period of about two weeks. The harvest period can be extended by leaving fruit of varying sizes. The larger ones you leave will ripen first.

Peaches thined to six inch spacing
  • Apples and pears also need to be thinned. They form in clusters of four to seven fruits along the spurs.
Cluster of apples prior to thinning
  • Remove all but the largest apple in the cluster. Remove all the fruit from every other spur to prevent alternate bearing (heavy fruit set one year and minimal fruit set the next.)
One apple remaining after thinning

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Fruit Thinning for Deciduous Fruit Trees in the Low Desert
visitors since April 5, 1998
Last Updated April 7, 1998
Author: Lucy K. Bradley, Extension Agent Urban Horticulture, The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
Reviewers: Dr. Michael Maurer, Extension Agent, Fruit Crops, The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
Dr. Michael Kilby, Fruit Crops Specialist, The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension
© 1998 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension, in Maricopa County
Comments to Lucy Bradley, 4341 E. Broadway Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85040
(602) 470-8086 ext. 323