How to thin fruit
Apples: Cooking apples are thinned harder than dessert apples to obtain larger fruits; aim for one fruit every 15-23cm (6-9in). Dessert apples can be thinned less severely, with one or two fruits every 10-15cm (4-6in). Leave just one fruit per cluster. Thinning can be done using secateurs, long scisssors or with a firm tug between thumb and forefinger. Remove misshapened, blemished fruit or poorly positioned fruit and the ‘king’ fruit at the centre of the cluster which is sometimes abnormally shaped. Aim to leave the strongest and best shaped.
Pears: Can be prone to over-bearing but usually need less thinning; thin clusters to two fruits (one for a small cordon), 10-15 cm (4-6in) apart.
Peaches and nectarines: Thin peaches to one every 10cm (4in) when the size of a hazelnut, then again to one every 20-25cm (8-10in) when the size of a walnut. Thin nectarines to 15cm (6in) at walnut size.
Apricots: Are less prone to over-bearing; thin only if the crop is excessively heavy, to 5-8cm (2-3in) apart when hazelnut sized.
Plums: Are particularly prone to overcropping, so thinning is vital. Heavily laden branches may need additional support with stakes and/or ties even after thinning to prevent them breaking. Use thumb and forefinger to remove fruit to leave one fruit every 5-8cm (2-3in), or a pair of fruits every 15cm (6in).