June Drop

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It can be rather alarming to discover that the tiny apples that you have been watching form and swell over the past few weeks are dropping from the tree for no apparent reason. Fear not, it is a natural process that has even been given a name; June Drop [although it often continues well into July].  It is reckoned that only 5 per cent of  the blossoms on a tree need to set and go on to produce an apple for it to constitute a full crop. 

June drop is nature’s way of thinning out the excess immature fruit. A tree will often produce more fruits than it can support in terms of nutrient supply.  A very heavy crop puts a strain on the tree’s resources which can result in small, poor quality apples.  The weight of the fruit can also damage the branches.

From the tree’s perspective, the purpose of setting fruit is to produce seed. As all the fruit is competing for the same limited resources, it is in the tree’s interest that the strongest apples survive. One theory is that the fruit with the least seed is the first to be shed.

June drop normally occurs about eight weeks after flowering – June/July in the UK – and can be quite a prolonged process.  If fruit is being shed much earlier than this, or much later,  it may be due to other factors such as poor pollination, adverse weather conditions or disease.

If maximising the size and quality of your crop is a priority,  it may still be necessary to continue thinning out fruit after the June drop. However, it is wise not to start doing this until the full extent of the natural loss is known.

 

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4 thoughts on “June Drop

  1. My apple tree does the June drop every year but it drops most of the apples on tree – very few are left. It’s a 30 – 35 year old tree but I’ve only lived here 7 years. Could there be some reason it feels it cannot sustain but a handful of apples?
    Thanks!

    • Thank you so much for responding so promptly! Can you clarify “poor pollination” – I was under the impression that a fruit wouldn’t form unless the flower had been pollinated. Does it mean that although the bees pollinated the blossoms, they just didn’t distribute enough pollen to each blossom?
      A lot of small fruits(1 inch) as well as a significant number of larger fruits (about 2.5 – 3.0 inches) dropped. Thank you again – I appreciate the information and your lovely web site. So glad I stumbled upon it. I plan to grow more fruit trees and have a lot to learn!

      • Each apple blossom has an ovary which consists of five carpels. Each carpel contains two ovules. For adequate pollination to take place most of these ovules have to be fertilised. If this doesn’t happen the fruits may be smaller or don’t develop properly and the tree may shed them.

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