Premature Fruit Drop on Apple Trees

    • Check traps for codling moths and replace pheromones to continue catching damaging moths and reduce wormy apples.
    • Roses need water and fertilizer to keep blooming well throughout the summer. Watch for pests and treat immediately to prevent infestations.
    • Keep flowers and vegetables in peak condition by giving them a midsummer feeding with a fertilizer that is higher in phosphorus than in nitrogen.
    • Dig gently to harvest potatoes, a few plants at a time, after foliage yellows and dries up.
    • Set out starts of broccoli, Brussels sprouts and lettuce for a fall harvest. Spray weekly with BT to keep the cabbage worms at bay.

Premature Fruit Drop on Apple Trees

Fruits of all kinds must be harvested on time, at the proper stage of maturity in order to maintain their nutrients, quality and freshness. Apple trees can be somewhat tricky to determine when they are at their peak and ready to harvest.

Often, at this time of year, apple trees begin dropping fruit prematurely. There are several reasons for this occurrence. Apples infested with codling moths will have rotten areas within the developing fruit and they will often drop from the tree. 

It is important to remove the fallen fruit (even small apples) as soon as they fall so that the codling moth larvae are removed from the vicinity of the tree. Failure to do so allows the codling moths population to increase and overwinter to reinfect your fruit next year. Codling moths will have at least two generations per year, so be sure to replenish your traps with fresh pheromone attractant now.

Another cause of premature drop is a heavy fruit set. Apples that grow in clusters will “push off” each other close to harvest time. Early season thinning to reduce fruits to one or two per cluster will help prevent this type of drop.

Certain varieties are more prone to early drop that others. Gravenstein, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, Liberty and Red Delicious are the most prone to pre-harvest drop.

Watch for full-sized, healthy apples dropping to the ground. Healthy apples typically only begin falling when the fruit is ripe.

So how do you know if your apples are ripe and ready to pick? Apples ripen at various times depending on the variety. Gravensteins ripen in August but Granny Smiths won’t be ready until November. A given variety will ripen earlier or later in different climates. It is best to keep a record for your own trees as they will ripen at pretty much the same time each year.

If the season is right and the apples are full-sized, cut an apple open and check the color of the seeds. The seeds of apples generally turn dark brown when they are nearing maturity.

When an apple is ripe and ready to pick, you can lift it off the tree without pulling hard or twisting. Just lift the apple upward and it should come loose from the tree.

If you think the fruit is ripe, do a taste test. The fruit should be crisp, juicy and full flavored with the tartness of nearly ripe fruit gone.

Then it is time to harvest your fruit or to call the Gleaners to let them do it for you.

For storage apples, it’s best to pick the fruit a little early. The riper the apple is when it’s picked, the quicker it will go bad in storage.

Always handle apples carefully to avoid bruising them. Apples with even small bruises will not store well. Only perfect apples should be used for long-term storage. The others will be good for fresh eating, pies, cobblers and applesauce.

Enjoy your bountiful apple harvest this year.

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