Thinning Peaches-Nectarines

I had asked this question last year on GW but it is in one of my “Clips” that did not carry over to H…z and I don’t remember the answer. So…

When we say to “thin peaches to 8 inches” , How do we handle the peaches that are next to each other but on the opposite side of the shoot?. Do I have to eliminate one of them or do I just make the next “double” 16 inches away?


Either or, but I would prefer my fruit set at 8" one at a time. If fruit set is not adequate you adjust and have some fruit closer together. Fruit that touches tends to be damaged by insects or rot.

So true. I just wish I could put what I know about thinning into actual practice. I NEVER thin enough and agonize over removing perfect baby fruit. Burns me every year…then every spring I do it again. I’m not very smart.

Same here. I have gotten better at least. After doing all that work to get all those little babies going I have a hard time pulling them off.


Join the club. It’s probably the hardest thing to do, but when you do it right,
you get great big beautiful peaches, and you’re glad that you did it.

1 Like

As I’ve often stated, I always thin my fruit perfectly. It’s just those damn elves that come at night and stick them back to the trees that get in the way of my perfect spacing.

Seriously, in the orchards I manage, I let my help do most of the thinning. I am just too emotionally attached to each little perfect orb and fear I will accidentally thin the biggest ones if I go fast- but for me, going very fast is essential. The green fruit needs to fall out of the trees like rain or my customers just won’t like the size of the bill. Hard enough to convince them that the fruit needs to be thinned.

Thinning is one of the more tedious chores in growing fruit. I can prune for days on end and continue to find the task interesting but thinning gets very old very fast. It’s about like factory work, but with fresh air.


I had a first last yr. Over thinned and thinned too early. Found out that can result in split pits just like the literature says. So this yr it’s back to my old habits hopefully without last minute panic thinning of fully formed fruit. I’ve hauled 20 gal out of my greenhouse two months too late.

Agree thinning is downright tedious!!!

Hope my comments don’t cause anyone to under thin. But there are two sides to every story.

1 Like

FN, split pits from early thinning- hmm, hadn’t read about that. I’ve read Cornell literature that suggest thinning peaches as early as possible- earlier the better, for bigger peaches with higher brix.

You got a link to any of that literature.

I’ve never heard nor read of that either.

I’ve not heard early thinning will cause split pits, but over thinning will, on split prone varieties.

Isn’t it weird the way when you thin for several days, you dream you are still thinning at night while asleep. I’m hoping to have lots of thinning dreams this spring. :grin:

1 Like

It’s mainly a problem on early maturing varieties that begin final swell before the pit hardens. That’s where I had issues last yr both nectarine and pluot. I thinned massively. Like 24-36 inches of shoot per fruit. Wanted max quality. Instead got crummy split pit. Live and learn.

It’s the early varieties where recommendations sometimes say blossom thin. And those are the varieties needing help on size and brix.

FN, ah yes the old if some is good lots is great syndrome. Since you were only talking about early varieties, I just expect a lot of split pits from them, if only because the soil is so moist most years when they are developing. You think if I wait longer to thin there’d be fewer split pits? I guess it doesn’t really matter because I’d rather have split pits than tiny, bland peaches.

I’m thinking the way to get highest quality early peaches is to plant early season nectarines and call them smooth peaches. Unfortunately there are none yet as early as, say, Harrow Diamond.

Most early varieties are cling and unlike Archie Bunker, I don’t care for cling
peaches in heavy syrup.

I find it much easier psychologically to go in steps. Also, some protection against weather events.

First I try and get rid of the corroded looking ones when they are BB sized. Then I make successive passes at about two week intervals 'til I get there.

I also go in steps - for a low-spray approach I think its an important thing to do. I continue to remove curc, moth, and stinkbug damaged fruits for a month or more. If I did all the thinning at the start there would be parts hard hit by some pest where all the fruit would have to be removed.


I do the same thing with the insect damaged and apparently malformed ones, but there isn’t enough of these early on and before long I’ve passed that no return point. Hence, I’ve not thinned enough and again…zillions of tiny hard peaches. Last year…the second pass was 363 peaches from one medium small sized tree and there were other lesser thinnings later…and before. I know the number because I put them all in 5 gal. buckets and my wife counted them with my kids as a counting exercise.
Overall there had to be way over 500 total peaches removed.
What did I get for all this after normal drop and wind drop etc? About 60 golf ball sized peaches that looked beautiful, smelled great, but were harder than a rock and not sweet at all.

This is not a super healthy tree…it was damaged by borers in it’s second year and has never really recovered for reasons unknown to me.
I bought another peach tree a PF Fat Lady and it grew somewhat ok before the voles ate it’s roots.
This is THE reason I have a poor attitude toward peaches…even though I love them.

Honeycrisp apple is a joyful day at the park compared to peaches in my limited but painful experience.

According to research, most of the benefit from thinning occurs from quite early thinning, but I’ve never seen a study where trees were thinned early to 4" at the optimum time and then had half the remaining fruit removed 2-3 weeks later and compared to those entirely thinned the first go through.

It is hard to believe those extra peaches would make much difference to the size and flavor of the final crop when they are removed before they have any real size.

I have always tended toward gradual thinning and still gotten very large peaches of high quality. But I do start very early.

“Last year…the second pass was 363 peaches from one medium small sized tree and there were other lesser thinnings later…and before. I know the number because I put them all in 5 gal. buckets and my wife counted them with my kids as a counting exercise.”


That’s pretty cool you counted them. I’ve never done that. I’ve always just read peaches over-set by 80-90%.

Considering a full sized tree will carry about 400 good sized peaches, doing the math (400 divided by 15%) comes to 2666 peaches starting out (less the 400 which are left to grow to harvest) would equal 2266 peachlets which need thinned off. Like I say, I’ve never counted them, but I’ve seen peach fruitlets solid on the ground after thinning.

Of course the example above is fraught with all kinds of error because some varieties set much heavier than others, and of course weather plays a huge role.

I’ve told this story before, but I still find it amusing, and perhaps someone here hasn’t read it, but I once talked to a big peach grower up on the MO river about thinning. He said he once had an employee who would never thin hard enough. No matter how much he discussed it with this employee, he couldn’t get him to thin enough. Finally, to make a point, he went out and picked a random tree with the employee and told him to thin every single peach off the tree (i.e. don’t leave a single fruit). The employee did as he was told and they marked the tree. Come harvest time, the employee was shocked that tree had a decent crop on it!

Appleseed, I have had the same problem with poor fruit quality due to borers. Peach tree borer is not something to take lightly. Because its mostly out of sight I spent far too little energy on them for too long. Just this winter I had to remove three trees that got borers badly 4-5 years ago and never got going well again.

I wonder if borers and a weakened tree also makes the fruits more susceptible to brown rot? Two of the three varieties I removed had bad brown rot issues. I grabbed scions and need to decide whether to give them another shot or not – Eagle Beak and Longevity.


To All…

To us who practice smaller scale commercial and backyard orcharding (is that a word?), “art” makes up a greater percentage of the “art vs. science” portion of our practices than for our mega-commercial counter-parts.

Especially because we have more cultivars squeezed together into smaller spaces we have to be a little schizophrenic, within our own orchard, just to deal with the different needs of different cultivars; never mind the different fruits.

So… what is the proper time to start thinning our peaches/nectarines, and stone fruit in general?. And over how long a what period of time? And when is it absolutely “too late” to be of help? In this thread I’ve read “optimum” , “too early” “too late” but am getting lost in the weeds.

Don’t want to obsess about thinning so that I can enjoy the fruit on my front porch rather than in the “nut house” :wink: