Small, unripe peach, plum and apricot fruits typically drop from trees about now.
Don't worry -- these trees are doing what they are supposed to do. The goal of any fruit tree is to produce and disperse seeds and luscious fruits are a good vehicle with which to attract animals for this job.
Because so many ills can befall tender blossoms and temperamental young fruits in early spring, more fruits initially develop than the tree will have energy to ripen.
Remember all those blossoms in the spring? Only 4 percent of the blossoms on an apple tree or 15 percent of those on a peach tree are needed for a full crop of fruit.
As the season progresses and a tree becomes more confident of having nurtured an adequate number of fruits through the critical periods with insects, frosts and diseases, excess fruits are shed. The first to go are the weakest: Those that were poorly pollinated or damaged by pests.
Shedding does not occur in one fell swoop, but in successive waves. The initial shedding of pea-size and smaller fruits right after bloom was hardly noticeable. But the present ''June drop'' of bona fide, albeit small, fruits is very obvious.
If you find all those small fruits lying on the ground disconcerting, just look up at the branches still laden with fruit. Those branches also are a reminder that you're going to have to hand-pluck even more fruits. The tree was planning to ripen enough fruit for a good crop of seeds. But we don't care about seeds. We want large, sweet, juicy fruits. The way to get large, sweet, juicy fruits is to channel a tree's energy into fewer, but consequently higher quality fruits.
Remove excess or ''thin'' fruits on peach, Japanese plum and apple trees just as soon as June drop has run its course. Remove enough so that each remaining fruit is a few inches apart from its neighbors. Apricots and European plums need thinning only if the branches are weighted down with an extremely heavy crop -- a matter of judgment for the gardener. Cherries and pears do not need thinning.
When hand thinning, do just as the tree did: Selectively remove undersized and pest-damaged fruit first.
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