Apples dropping from trees in June

Bob Dluzen
The Detroit News

So you have spent years caring for your apple tree. You planted it, you've trained it, pruned and sprayed, taking care of it for years and finally it's become old enough to produce its first apple crop.

It blossomed and had bees buzzing around the flowers pollinating them as they visited. Little green apples grew. 

It’s very disappointing to discover loads of your first apple crop falling to the ground just as the beautiful little green apples started to grow larger.

There's no need to blame yourself, it's not anything you did. It's a natural phenomenon that all apple trees go through called “June drop.”

It is the way an apple tree allocates its resources. An apple tree will always set more fruit than it can ever hope to ripen, so something has to give. 

The amount of leaves through photosynthesis can only produce so much energy. That means not all apples will receive the amount of nutrients they need to become full size and ripen.

The tree forces extra apples to drop from the tree by forming an abscission layer between the apple stem and the fruiting spur or twig. This abscission layer prevents nutrients produced by the leaves from reaching developing apples. Usually it is the weakest or damaged apples that fall from the tree first leaving the best apples behind to mature and ripen. 

The abscission is right where the apple stem connects to the fruiting spur. The green spot is where an apple grew before being broken off at the abscission layer. They later dry and turn brown.

Even though it may look like a lot of apples fell from a tree, often there are still too many apples left even after the June drop. In this case it is up to the caretaker to remove even more apples. This is especially true on varieties that tend to bear on alternate years. 

Some older varieties will have large crops one year and virtually no crop or very few apples the following year. 

To thin apples, remove all but one or two apples from each cluster.

By thinning  the young apples early in the season, it allows more fruit buds to develop  on the tree for next year’s crop. This allows more apples to form the following year to even out the alternate bearing tendency. 

Generally it is best to leave only one or two apples per fruit cluster and about  one apple for every six- to eight-inches of branch. At that density you can expect your tree to produce the largest and highest-quality fruit.

To thin fruit, simply snap the young apple off of the fruiting spur being careful not to damage the spur itself.

Rest assured your apple tree is behaving normally by jettisoning unneeded fruit. Congratulations on your first apple crop.