It’s June! It’s been kind of hard to tell from the weather, but all my calendars agree, it is definitely June. Everything is in full throttle growing mode and it’s hard to know what to do next. There’s still plenty of weeding and a bit more pruning to do.
It’s also time for the fruit trees to do a little self-pruning. Over the next few weeks, you should start to see some of the small fruits dropping and littering the ground. Don’t panic. This is normal. They’ve even given it a name. It’s called June Drop.
Fruit trees tend to set more buds than they could possibly sustain as fruits. To rectify this, the trees start shedding fruits, once they know there are enough to mature and set seed. That would be right about now.
Why Would Trees Shed Their Fruits?
The whole point behind a plant setting fruit of any kind is to produce seed and propagate the species. Trees often set more fruits than they can reasonably sustain to maturity, just in case they lose some early in the season to weather, animals, or other causes.
Once they reach the point where the fruits are starting to fill out, they feel secure enough to drop a few. It can be alarming to suddenly see fruits scattered under your trees, but there should be plenty left. According to Purdue University Consumer Horticulture, “Only one bloom in 20 is needed for a good crop on a full-blossoming apple tree.” And the tree seems to know which fruits are the weakest. Fruits with the fewest seeds are the first to fall.
Should You Be Doing Anything to Help the Tree?
You should make sure your tree is getting the water and sunshine it needs, but other than that, let June Drop happen. It’s good for the tree and it will mean larger, sweeter fruits for you. It will also keep the branches from getting so heavy they snap.
Some fruit trees aren’t especially good at self-thinning and that’s where your assistance will be needed. Since stone fruits, like peaches and plums, only have one seed each, the trees aren’t as efficient at thinning as something like an apple or pear. You will need to get in there and remove the smallest fruits so that the remaining fruits are 6 – 8 inches apart. It’s hard to do, I know. But just think about all those juicy peaches and plums you’ll be enjoying in a few months.
If you’re the squeamish type, consider getting a cherry tree. For some reason cherries can hang on to all their fruits and mature them just fine. Maybe it’s because they are so small to begin with.