Over the years, we have often heard a story very similar to this one: a first time planter was delighted at the sight of their new fruit trees flowering beautifully and being courted by all manner of bees and butterflies before becoming weighed down with piles of slowly but surely swelling fruit.
O woe! Their joy and wonder turned cold, like a cup of forgotten tea, as harvest time arrived. For their fruit were undersized, poorly formed and tasted nothing like the claims of the nice people who sold them the trees in the first place.
If the trees in question were apple trees, then the sad story may not be over. For if the tree has what is known in the trade as a "biennial tendency" - and many good apple trees do (and some pears by the way) - then it is likely that the tree will hardly produce any fruit at all the following year. What is going on?
The answer is simple. Even domesticated trees like our modern fruit trees are trying to spread their seeds, not win prizes for the flavour of their fruit. If they taste good to horse, then their seeds could be carried off in the belly of one. The tree's only concern is making as many of them as possible.
In order to get a good quality fruit, it is often necessary to thin the crop. This can be done when the tree is in flower (as each flower will become a fruit, if it is pollinated) by experienced gardeners, but you can do it with good effect up to early July - the tree will have lost more energy, but you can clearly see which fruit are small or funny looking and should be removed.
By strategically sacrificing some of your bumper harvest, the tree will divert its energy to the remaining fruit, which will be sure to do well. In addition, thinning the fruit will help to even out the biennial tendency of apple and pear trees.
Apples, Pears, Peaches, Nectarines, Plums and occasionally Apricots all require thinning.