This one is embarrassing. I should know better. In fact, I do know better. It’s just that from afar this small branch of Burgundy plum didn’t look like it had an overwhelming amount of fruit on it. Only once I looked closely did I see that the branch had broken:

broken plum branch

And then I lifted it up only to discover that the branch was three times as long as I’d thought and was carrying five times as much fruit as I had seen from afar. The branch had been weighed down by all of the fruit that I hadn’t seen and was hiding it behind and under another branch. This is what I saw every time I walked by:

Burgundy plum grafted branch

“Oh, that little Burgundy branch has a lot of fruit, but it’s a short branch so I’ll leave them.”

I immediately stripped all of the fruit off the branch in the hope that it wouldn’t die. Turns out that this little branch of a finger nail’s diameter was carrying these 59 plums:

Burgundy plum is prolific

It’s a wonder the branch hadn’t snapped off entirely.

This is a special, singular branch. The tree from a few steps back actually looks like this:

Dapple Dandy pluot tree

It’s a Dapple Dandy pluot tree that I’d grafted that one little branch from my mom’s Burgundy plum onto. It’s the only branch of Burgundy plum I have, and Burgundy plums are not only wonderful tasting fruit, but the Burgundy’s blossoms are needed to pollenize the Dapple Dandy. Maybe the branch will survive and bloom next year to do its pollenization work, and this winter I’ll try to graft a new Burgundy branch onto the tree elsewhere.

 

The lesson

The lesson in this for me is not that I should thin my fruit — I already knew that. And I had already done a round of thinning fruit on this tree. The lesson is to get into trees and lift branches and make sure you really know what each branch is carrying so you can thin the fruit properly.

Stage two: Well, I better get in there and lift branches on the rest of the Dapple Dandy pluot tree. Maybe some of those are hiding fruit I haven’t noticed.

My goodness, were they ever! Here’s how many I removed from the Dapple Dandy branches:

thinned Dapple Dandy pluot fruit

Better late than never? No pluot branches had broken. That’s the good news today.

 

Thinning fruit generally

How much fruit should you thin? It depends on the type of tree and your preference for fruit size. For large fruits that often grow on thin branches, like peaches, it’s good to thin more. For small fruits that often grow on thick branches, like apricots, it’s not as necessary to thin as much. My guiding principles is: Remove enough fruit such that a branch will not break or bend down from the weight of the fruit so much that the fruit or branch will get sunburned. I personally don’t thin fruit aiming to get the fruit on the tree to grow as large as possible — a goal for some people. For one, I’ve never noticed that such a practice actually works. But also, I don’t like giant peaches or apples or any other kind of fruit. I prefer small fruit, because if I want more I’ll pick another one.

Here is a good and short video from Tom Spellman at Dave Wilson Nursery showing him thinning a Burgundy plum and talking about a few thinning principles. Skip to about 2:45 into the video to see the Burgundy plum.

And when you do your thinning, make sure to stick your head inside the tree and lift branches and find out for sure how much each branch is carrying, Greg!