Archive for May, 2010

Thinning Peaches

Today, I spent about an hour picking many of the newly forming peaches off of our 8-year old O’Henry peach tree. The tree probably set over 200 peaches. I think I picked about half of them off. Last year, I didn’t need to thin nearly as much, because I pruned the tree so heavily the previous winter, and the tree set about 40 large peaches that grew to grocery store size. This year, I didn’t prune nearly enough to prevent a heavy fruit set.

Two years ago, I didn’t thin much, and I waited too long to do it (in July). The tree ripened nearly 200 peaches that year, and they were small, only about half the size of grocery store peaches. Our tree isn’t large enough to ripen more than about 70 large peaches, so I plan on thinning again in a few weeks.

Peaches have a tendency to produce too much fruit. A large crop of peaches can cause the branches to sag and break off as the fruits get larger. Pruning and thinning greatly reduce the weight on the branches. Thinning and pruning also allow the tree to produce larger fruits. I’d rather have a smaller number of large peaches, than many small peaches. Although I realize that thinning is beneficial for these reasons, I still hate doing it. I feel like I am wasting good food.

Peaches form on the many small thin branches that grew during the previous year. Most of these branches can only support a few peaches. Today, I thinned to about 1-3 peaches per branch, trying to space them apart by at least 4-6 inches, per advice I read in different gardening publications. The photo above was taken before I started thinning.

I have learned through experience that thinning needs to be done early in the season, and mid-spring is the time to do it. When I waited until summer to thin in 2008 about 5 weeks before harvest, the peaches I left on the tree after thinning did not grow any larger. Although thinning always reduces the load on sagging branches.

May 02 2010 | Peaches/Nectarines | No Comments »