Peter Dean's advice on the June apple drop

At this time of year - in mid summer - apple trees undergo self pruning. This is called 'June drop'. The tree sheds excess fruitlets. This sounds drastic for the grower but it isn' t really a concern as the remainder left on the branches will compensate and grow bigger in size come harvest in autumn.

June drop is thought to be triggered by a number of factors that cause the tree to become stressed: pests and diseases, adverse weather - a sudden change in temperature just after fruit set, inadequate pollination by insects and/or the removal of too many leaves when pruning in winter. The stressed tree produces a hormone, auxin, that in turn, triggers cells in the fruit stalk to produce an abscission layer and the fruitlet is shed. Also, if there are too many fruits for the available leaves to manufacture nutrients for, some fruit will be sacrificed.

Some apples have a biennial cropping system. If they produce a heavy crop one year they may become exhausted and not produce much blossom the next. If they over crop they self-regulate. A supply of potash ( from wood ash, for example) at the roots in winter can help rectify this problem. Also, careful winter pruning should be done.

Nature wants to produce as many healthy seeds as possible. The grower wants fleshy fruit and a good yield. Self thinning of small and damaged fruitlets in summer, both by the tree, and by the grower (using scissors or secateurs) will help the final crop because bigger, healthier fruit will be produced at harvest.

You want to thin the fruitlets down to one in every four to six inches for eaters and one to every six to nine inches for cookers...cookers tend to be individually bigger fruits.

Young trees shouldn' t be allowed to produce apples in the first year as they need time to establish. But after that they should produce a good crop most years, for many years to come.

Article by Peter Dean, from Smallholder Magazine, June issue, 2019