Removing Fruit from Young Trees

I can’t figure out what to do with my trees planted last year, that have flowered pretty heavily this year and are putting on quite a few fruit starts (?). Most of these trees must have been a few years old (at least two) when I got them. I planted them in Feb of '15 and they did well. This year there are/were many flowers, and now there are quite a few fruit ‘starts’ aka baby fruit or ?..I don’t know what to call them. The trees are now three or four years old: should I let them fruit, remove most but not all of the fruit, or remove all of the fruit? They are: jostaberry, medlar, pear, apple, cherry, jujube, persimmon, fig, peach, etc. Thanks for any replies; I’m unclear on whether I should wait until they are two or three years old or until I’ve had them for two or three years.

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I think it is a fine line. If the tree is big enough, you can let it carry a few, but too many and you can runt out the tree and have it never grow big enough to properly ripen a crop. I had that happen with some of my apples. At the same time, I’ve also had apple trees that gave me 2-4 apples in year two and continued to put on normal growth.

Even if you think the tree is good sized, keep the load down to a few fruits. Also keep in mind that there is a good chance you won’t get any either way. Often something (squirrels, disease, someone bumping into it, bugs, birds, etc) gets a few apples before they can ripen. If there are only a few fruit on the tree, then it is possible that none will reach maturity and be picked by you.

If you want to play it safe, strip them all and wait until the tree is big enough to give a decent crop before letting it bear. Not that I normally do this, which is why I’ve seen the negative impacts in not over-thinning new trees…


Great advice that I sometime do not follow. It is hard to resist the temptation for that first fruit.


It is hard to resist. I let one new fig tree keep its four little figs (two of which ejected in the end anyway) last year and it has not come back at all this year. The cause ?? not sure, but I know it didn’t help. These trees are 4 to 6 feet tall this year and leafing pretty good…so, I gotta be tough…maybe one…but none on the smaller trees. Thanks. Thinking about that fig.

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It depends more on the vigor and size of the tree than its age. Trees purchased in a pot have had their roots confined and behave like dwarfs- fruiting instead of growing. Sometimes allowing them to crop prematurely keeps them as dwarfs.

If you must have some fruit from a small tree just leave 3 or 4. It will cost you much more future fruit than those but I understand the impatience. If the tree tripled in size last year, than I withdraw that advice and perhaps you needn’t worry about cropping it.


Agree with Alan. Just add with peaches I’ve not had any runt out or slow down no matter how hard or early they friuted.

It may be different in different areas though. The more I learn from folks on this forum, the more I think peaches like long hot (but not blazingly hot) summers. I’ve noticed even my little grafts take off really well when there is a quick warm up. But if it’s a long cool spring some languish and die.

I think apples are different. They don’t particularly like all the heat.

I’ll add all stone fruit to that statement. In fact I’ve very seldom felt I stunted or even damaged a fruiting plant by early fruiting. But I thin more than average and feel that’s the critical step.

Where I’d be concerned is apples on ultra dwarf roots like M27. That has real potential for runting out.

Watching trees grow is harder than one would expect.
One big consolation is that, except for the failed fig, almost everything from last year looks really healthy. One other unfortunate situation is the two pawpaws that were planted on what turned out to be a gravel pile (built-up area near the highway). They are still alive but I don’t expect much from them; I should start two more in a better place.
I might consider a ‘just one’ policy this year, and thin heavily next year, too…but I left one apple stay on the tree (my only two-year-old) last year and I just realized that the tree didn’t really grow; (edit.–it did grow some.). Again, not positive of cause and effect but I don’t want to hamper a tree’s growth. Hmmm… For now, I have a lot of cutting off of tiny fruit starts to do. Thanks to all responders for the insights.

‘They’ say peaches are a challenge here (Willamette Valley), but I have to try. I have two of most everything, and my two peaches are Indian Free and Baby Crawford. One can dream.

What makes it challenging, the extended wet season?

Truth be told, I don’t know…but I’d bet it’s that. I already had a run of Peach Leaf Curl on some leaves (only on Baby Crawford, not on Indian Free), so I cut off the offenders. Now I know I have to be serious about the moisture issue.

I am sure that I have negatively impacted my Honeycrisp/Bud9 by letting them fruit last year.

My orchard is an experiment as much as it is a producer and I knew the consequences Second leaf I let them have 30 apples each. Great BIG apples. I first noticed the runting when I went to collect scion wood and noticed only spur type growth, nothing over a couple of inches.

Now come Spring, they are the only three trees that have absolutely zero blooms.


It might also help to know that the first apple or two on a young tree and be very disappointing - at least that has been my experience with my potted trees. I almost regrafted a Lord Lambourne apple after it produced a peculiar tasting first. Lucky for me I left a branch on and now the apples it produces rock! In fact I may regret grafting most of it over to another couple varieties.

Never remove a variety if the first apples are mediocre. I’ve become a dutiful thinner after petal fall (so I know my mason bees got a chance to pollinate first).

I have runted out peach trees by having them bear too much fruit and lost a year to real establishment, but I’m not talking about whips.

The poster was asking about a potted tree that was planted in the soil after being dwarfed by the pot. For trees like this it can be necessary to remove fruit to get the tree into more vegetative mode.

My nursery business is about bearing age fruit trees so it’s a different deal moving them than juvenile trees.

[quote=“alan, post:14, topic:5445”]
I have runted out peach trees by having them bear too much fruit

Notice the last part “by having them bear too much fruit”. Whereas I haven’t had issues by thinning enough. I think you just made my point.

As a matter of fact I haven’t stunted any stone fruit more than I’ve wanted even though I run less water and less fertilizer than probably anyone else here. All my trees are runted out in comparison to most. But the only ones that I think might not become vigorous again if needed are sweet cherries on G5.

My trees weren’t potted but most were very sparsely rooted bare-root units, and mostly pretty tall. Also, I basically didn’t prune them when planted so they were probably quite unbalanced, not unlike their owner. I think I’m going to clip the little fruitlets, one and all.

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ah, c’mon…won’t hurt to leave a few. Just kidding. I need to leave at least a few, otherwise I might become disinterested. If they were planted last year, they likely have some decent root by now (apples anyway).

I remember a kid in the neighborhood when I was little, he’d paint his bicycle and do a pretty decent job of it for a kid, but he just couldn’t wait for the paint to dry before he’d have to get it out and ride it. It was always all messed up. Sometimes I think I’m not so much unlike that boy.

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By too much I mean only a few, but conditions at sites are varied and I cannot assess the affects of the manner in which the trees are managed after installation. My observations are only anecdotal and do not adequately weigh the affects of irrigation or the lack of it.

I tell my clients to remove all fruit of bearing age trees the first year after transplant. However, I make an exception with J. plums.

My point was that a mature transplanted tree needs special care and that it is generally a better idea to remove all the fruit so the tree focuses on growing new root.

Peaches have more trouble getting adequate water after transplant and even after establishment. They suffer from drought and can’t compete well against other species for water for some reason.

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I completely agree peaches don’t compete with other weeds or trees for water, but I’ve noticed peach trees are very drought resistant if they don’t have to compete for water. I know that statement sort of sounds contradictory (i.e. a plant which doesn’t compete well for water is drought resistant) but I’ve noticed if there is a large area kept completely free of weeds the peach trees here seem to thrive even in the driest years.

We do have very heavy soil here w/ high organic matter, so the soil here may store more water than a lot of soils in other parts of the country. Still, in 2012 it was so dry it really didn’t rain all summer (we had a few 1/4 rains at the farm, but it was extremely dry and the ground had huge cracks). I lost several new apple trees and blackberries that year, but all the new peach trees thrived with no water.

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Yes, I used to have almonds that received no irrigation on my father’s property in S. CA and they survived in sandy soil without any supplementary water throughout the growing season. Go figure!

In the areas I work, the peaches are almost always competing against something and the ones with supplementary water tend to be the most productive and healthy…