What is the ‘June drop’?
Simple - Lots of apple or pear fruitlets on the ground under your precious fruit trees in June long before they are ripe.
While the June Drop can look frightening, there’s usually no need to worry about it. In midsummer, most fruit trees shed some of their fruitlets. It’s a completely natural/normal process that ensures trees don’t overcrop and exhaust themselves. Fruit trees produce many more flowers than they need, as insurance against bad weather. If you get just one fruit from every 20 flowers or so your tree will still carry a full crop. The fruits that remain on the tree will develop normally, becoming bigger and better at the expense of the fruitlets lost earlier. With topfruit such as apples and pears, the June drop also means branches won’t become overburdened, then break. Shame it does not happen to plums...
Most fruit trees will thin themselves naturally like this, particularly apples and pears. However, stone fruit needs extra help with the thinning process, although cherries tend not to neither drop nor need thinning at all. On an apple tree, the fruits that are lost are usually the size of gobstoppers. These can start falling in late June and carry on dropping until mid-July, with most lost about eight weeks after flowering.
So don’t start to thin out your fruits any further until you’re absolutely sure the drop has finished completely. If you do, you might find you’re left with nothing as fruits continue to fall after you thin.
When to act
Young trees often lose a higher proportion of their fruit in summer, as they’re directing their energies into producing good, strong shoots and roots. This is perfectly normal and losses will reduce as the tree ages.
However, if a tree is relatively mature and you’re certain it’s not your own thinning regime that’s affecting your yields, and you are getting a severe June drop year after year, then it’s worth taking a look at some other factors that might be relevant:
If a tree is congested and light levels are low, it’s wise to prune the tree to let in more light.
If there’s not been much rain in spring (2020 would be an example of such a year) water really well at the roots and then mulch with a good 6-8cm of composted bark or garden compost to keep the moisture in.
When water, light and pruning don’t seem to be a problem, the tree might be suffering from a lack of energy. This is often the result of unfavourable weather (cool daytime temperatures, too much cloud or warm nights). In which case, fertilise in spring using a general fertiliser such as Growmore – always following the pack guidelines as, confusingly, too much nitrogen can also cause fruit loss.