The June Apple Drop

, written by Jeremy Dore gb flag


A few years ago my parents gave me three dwarf apple trees for my birthday.  You might think that’s a strange present but I love apples and they’re great to grow.  I carefully set up supports and planted them as thin ‘cordons’ where they grow up at an angle to maximise the crop in a small space.  Soon they were blossoming and then laden with lots of tiny fruit.  Imagine my disappointment then when after a few weeks the apples started dropping off.  What was the cause?

In fact, this is an entirely natural process often referred to as the ‘June Drop’ but occurring in late June or early July in the UK.  In effect the tree is pruning itself, producing a hormone to limit the number of fruits to what it can support.  Even so, you hear stories of fruit trees which have cropped so heavily that a branch bearing fruit actually breaks off under its own weight.  Far more common is what I have experienced – one of my apple trees gave a great crop two years ago but exhausted itself and then didn’t even blossom last year.  Apple trees can easily fall into a two-year fruiting cycle if they over-crop and it’s better to limit the fruit they bear rather than have this happen.  This involves taking off  extra apples, leaving only the best-growing healthy ones on the branches.  I also gave the apple tree in question a dose of potash around its roots (ash from burnt wood) during winter, which is said to help revive them.  Certain varieties of apple are more prone to a biennial (2 year) fruiting cycle than others and require more careful winter pruning and summer thinning of fruit to give an annual crop.

Cordon apples

There are other good reasons for reducing the number of fruit on trees.  Although nature is trying to produce as many seeds as possible per plant, we are after good-sized fleshy fruit.  By removing some extra fruit by hand we help the tree to put its resources into a few good sized fruit rather than exhausting itself on lots of smaller ones.

However, it’s not easy to remove apples from your precious trees!  I find that the biggest hurdle is accepting that it’s not in my best long-term interests to have all those wonderful buds turn into apples.  To be ruthless and remove over half the fruit is so hard to do – in fact some people say that it’s better to get another gardener to do it for you as they will be more prepared to take out fruit where necessary!


So how many fruit should be left on a tree?  Young trees, or those which have been newly planted, should only be allowed to bear just a few fruit – perhaps none in the first year – in order to establish the plant well.  Many people recommend that you should thin fruits out in two stages:  in early June you remove any obviously mal-formed or small fruit and then in mid-July, after the ‘June drop’ you thin them more stringently.  Using sharp scissors or a knife small apples can be prised off, leaving the stalk behind.  Generally eating apples should be thinned to one fruit every 4-6 inches and cooking apples to one every 6-9 inches.  An easy rule of thumb is that each apple should have plenty of room around them when fully grown, though more space than this gives better sized fruit.

In a good year, almost all the blossom on an apple tree will produce fruit.  Yet only 5-10% of the blossom needs to become apples if the tree is to crop fully.  Being able to prune out the extras and not leave it up to the tree’s June drop is a hard lesson to learn but one that will pay back well in terms of beautiful apples and healthy trees that crop every year.

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Show Comments


"Hi Jeremy I planted a cordon of 4 apple trees this past winter and worke through the apples the other day. I have left only one apple per tree and perhaps I should even takes those off. 2006 was a good example of a year in which most fruit trees produced far too many fruits, leaving 2007 with a fairly small crop. In my view thinning the young fruit is always worth considering if only to make sure they don't exhaust themselves."
peter samsom on Monday 30 June 2008
"Very wise Peter - I wish I had only left one fruit per tree the first year I planted my cordons but the temptation is always there to try and get more fruit. This year I have done my 'first pass' of thinning and will thin again in the first or second week of July to make sure I'm not expecting too much of the trees."
Jeremy Dore on Tuesday 1 July 2008
"Just an awareness: here in Canada the term "potash" is not the same as wood ash, although they both might contain potassium. Potash as it is mined in Saskatchewan includes a variety of evaporite minerals such as sylvite (KCl) and potassium carbonate. It is used in fertilizers and other industrial applications. Please do not confuse rocks and minerals with organically-produced materials. "
Jennifer Getsinger on Monday 1 June 2009
"hi jeremy i am from iran excuse me i can not wright english good,i am MS student in islamic azad university of tehran,my father have a golden delicious apple garden and this apples are very droppin and have worm please guidance me thank you"
mahdi alipour on Saturday 17 October 2009
"Mahdi, As you can see from this article about 75% of the apples dropping off is normal and healthy. As for worms, you need to look up advice about what to do about 'codling moth' which causes them. There are some traps you can get and you will need to practice good garden hygene in order to reduce the numbers."
Jeremy Dore on Thursday 22 October 2009
"It hurts to see my apples drop when they are almost full size in late July. Even though I have an excellent spray program. I'm glad that I read your comments regarding June Drop (July as well) for self-pruning. Yes, this year has a bumper crop and several limbs have cracked as well."
Dale Rhoads on Saturday 31 July 2010
"I have a Golden D in Coastal CA that overproduces some years, did again this time. I planned to thin early but postponed. Now that they're 2" dia, about half sized--late this year, they're typically ripe in late Aug, but a cool summer has everything late here. If I thin now, do you have any reason to believe the survivors will get bigger, or is it too late? Thanks for your advice! Be well."
Evan on Thursday 19 August 2010
"Evan, I think it's a little late in mid August to do much about the harvest size, although it won't do any harm and may save the tree some stress of having too much fruit on it. I usually do a final thinning in early August where I just remove any apples that don't seem to be growing at the rate of the others."
Jeremy Dore on Thursday 19 August 2010
"I have a small orchard I inherited. All of the trees blossomed beautifully now I.d say at least 65% of the trees do not have apples. Most of the blossoms that started to form fruit have withered, turned brown and dropped off. I know this is not normal June drop. Do you have any Ideas? Thank You,Ray "
Ray C. on Friday 10 June 2011
"Ray - there could be a number of reasons for this and one of the primary ones is whether the trees are old and neglected (trees over 30-40 years old are likely to be past their best for fruit bearing, less for dwarf varieties). Other factors are irrigation, soil fertility, health of the leaves etc. You might like to take a look at this: which gives common reasons for 'pre-harvest drop'."
Jeremy Dore on Saturday 11 June 2011
"Hi Jeremy, I had a dwarf apple tree with beautiful apples all over it. I'm in Arizona and they were growing very well, when one morning I went out and they were all gone. This happened about a week ago. There is no remenants of any apples anywhere. At first we thought someone jumped over the fence and stold them, but after finding squirrels, and other critters all over my vegetable garden, I am now thinking they took them. Any suggestions on how to protect my fruit next year? We lost all of plums and nectarines as well. Thank you for any suggestions!"
YB Ranch on Sunday 12 June 2011
"I have found that setting a squirrel trap with bait and catching as many during June as I can. I don't kill them, but take them a bunch of miles away. I find that squirrels won't find there way back to the feast. And other ones won't try to enter the territory; could be that they are territorial."
Dale Rhoads on Sunday 12 June 2011
"Hi Jeremy, I have the best apple orchards of India situated in a place called Kinnaur in Himacahl Pradesh. There has been more apple drop than the usual June apple drop and the produce has gone down by 60%. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks, Rahul "
Rahul on Sunday 26 June 2011
"Rahul, it's very difficult to give ideas as to why but two things you might consider are: 1. Have you had an unusual pattern of weather this year (particularly lack of rain and/or higher temperatures) and 2. Did you have a particularly large crop last year which can exhaust the trees and reduce the crop the next year? (although this usually would reduce the amount of blossom rather than increase the apple drop)"
Jeremy Dore on Monday 27 June 2011
"Hi Jeremy, I have today sone as you suggested and removed probably half the apples from my 5-year old Katy apple tree. I was wondering if there was anything I could do with the small apples I have remove. Could I (with lots of sugar added) make apple juice with them? Like others I hate throwing them away so would like to use them productively if possible. Thanks Gerry"
Gerry Coleman on Saturday 9 July 2011
"I've always just put the removed apples onto the compost heap as they are very sour. However, if you find they make something acceptable please do let us know!"
Jeremy Dore on Saturday 9 July 2011
"Gerry. July is too early for any ripe apples. You may as well compost them. Last year, I had so many apples and did not advertise that I dumped 12 bushels of apples on my compost pile. I hated that so much. This year I plan to place a nice sign out on the main road to address the fact that I have apples for sale."
ltrail on Sunday 10 July 2011
"I have an espalier apple tree Red Devil. The June drop came and I have taken out quite a lot of apples now but see from the above that I should have taken more. I have a codling moth trap but a large apple fell recently and when I cut it open it had a brown circle round the core. Is this lack of water?"
Hazel Ireson on Thursday 14 July 2011
"Hazel, I'm sorry to break bad news but codling moth traps rarely control the pest and are usually used more as an indicator of when you may have a problem. See this for details: It also has a picture showing what the damage looks like so you can tell if what you are seeing is codling moth. I'd be surprised if it is lack of water - usually that would be indicated by the tree losing leaves or them turning brown."
Jeremy Dore on Thursday 14 July 2011
"I have 4 LARGE apple trees in my backyard, and last year I had more apples than what I could do with. I had friends and relatives all over to pick apples for whatever they chose. Each walked away with bags and bags of apples. I even hauled away approx. 12 large lawn bags full of apples that have dropped in the fall. This year...I don't have a single apple on ANY of my trees! Im quite confused, never heard of an apple tree not producing apples. It's late would think I should have at least SOME?!"
Stephanie T on Wednesday 24 August 2011
"we bought a 'Fiesta' apple tree 2010 it had small apples when we bought it and produced 6 apples that year. this year it had no blossom and of course no fruit. The tree is planted in a very large pot on the patio. Could this be the problem and how do we stop this happening again?"
joy angus on Thursday 27 October 2011
"I certainly am not an expert regarding apple trees; especially ones grown in large pots. But it may be that the pot is the problem (not enough water, not enough room for root growth, the higher temperature of the roots because of the pot). Apple trees require a certain number of days that the temperature is lower than 50F. This could even be the problem. Consider that if the apple tree were planted in the ground, the ground temperature would usually be below 50F. Correct?"
ltrail on Thursday 27 October 2011
"It's really common for apples that aren't 100% happy to get into a 2-year fruiting cycle where they only produce blossom and fruit every second year. I have a Fiesta apple that does just this because its roots are near a budleija which I assume deprives it from some moisture and nutrients. A lovely variety when it produces fruit (my favourite apple)! Experts say that thinning the fruit agressively each fruiting year can help get them back into every year fruiting but I haven't found this to be the case."
Jeremy Dore on Friday 28 October 2011
"I have an apple tree in my garden and this year hardly any of the apples fell from the tree at all. It's now almost March and still there are remnants of apples stuck on the tree being slowly eaten by birds etc. What could be causing this?"
Will on Sunday 26 February 2012
"Hello, I wonder if anyone has found a solution for the fruit drop problem with Mcintoshes? My problem is exactly as described in an older thread, all the apples drop off well before they are ripe, every year. They have started dropping this week. I am in northwest Oregon, a little west of the huge apple growing region in central Washington, and thought it's wetter and cooler I know apples do well here if they are looked after. I have tried about everything I can think of to treat the tree but I have got zero results. None of the direct remedies seem to apply to apples dropping this early, and I haven't done anything other than treating the tree right for 4 years now. I have 2 other mature trees within 50 feet (Granny Smith and Gravenstien) and several 8 year old trees a few hundred feet away. None have ever had the problem so early or dropped more than a fraction of their fruit. No stress that I can point to, the other trees show no signs of stress, no damage except for some old woodpecker workings like the other two (that seems to have had no effect and it's old damage). It was overgrown like any neglected tree 8 years ago and I cut the tree back to a picture perfect umbrella shape over 4 years. I prune in late winter/early spring, use dormant spray and spray for scab etc. 2 or 3 times before the fruit sets (they are super clean, insect free, except for a touch of scab on interior fruits). We have excellent pollination (we keep Mason bees) I have thinned them back to one or two apples per cluster and last year maybe 100 apples for the whole tree (it's at least 30 years old). The fruit all drops by mid-summer, in fact it has just started dropping this week (it's June 22nd). No weird weather, nothing I can point to, but as the person in the older thread said, every single fruit drops not even close to being ripe. "
Tim on Friday 22 June 2012
KEVIN on Tuesday 10 July 2012
"My East Indian mother-in-law who suffered famine in her youth looked at our apple tree which had suffered the June drop and she made chutney with the apples, adding some onions and sugar. "
Jean Syed on Friday 20 July 2012
"I have a apple tree which was given as a present two years ago. Last year it bore 14 lovely apples. This year - covered in blossom and tons of baby apples. They have all disappeared! They were not on the ground so I assumed they had been removed by birds. The leaves have gone a bit crinkly as well. Do you think this is apple drop, greedy fat pigeons or disease? "
Liz on Thursday 26 July 2012
"Birds and squirrels would not go after baby apples. Your description of the leaves "gone a bit crinkly" does not bode well regarding the tree's health. Maybe you missed the shriveled up masses of dead baby apples? It sounds like either disease or severe lack of water, to me. Also, if the tree is an infant, that is significant. Apples trees usually will not bear fruit for seven or eight years after "whip" size."
Dale Rhoads on Thursday 26 July 2012
"Thank you Dale. Think I will have to take it to the vet! Feel very sad about my apple tree."
liz on Saturday 28 July 2012
"i really love apple, but june drop is great concern to all"
Muzaff on Thursday 30 May 2013
"Hi,I bought a Granny Smith about 4 years ago,and was told it would fruit the same year,it produced 3 blossoms in which 3 apples started to grow and then fell off in june.No blossom last year and this year.I have not done any pruning at all on this tree and understand it is TIP bearing,when do you think it will bare fruit."
Peter Braithwaite on Friday 7 June 2013
"When you bought your Granny Smith tree, was it a whip? Believe it or not it will take seven years at least for the whip to become a fruit bearing tree. Also, Apple trees perform self pruning. So the fruit that were created by the few blooms just did what comes naturally. Make sure that the tree has sufficient water during dry spells. With some patience, you will be seeing fruit in a few years. "
ltrail on Friday 7 June 2013
"Hi,Thanks for your swift reply.The tree was well shaped (like a hand with fingers upright) and about 6ft tall,sent bare root and also was led to believe it would pollinate with the James Grieve."
Peter Braithwaite on Saturday 8 June 2013
"I have two apple trees which I am training in Espalier. This is their 3rd year and I have lots of fruit. 55 apples on the Red Fuji. They have reached a certain size and do not seem to be getting any larger. I have been reading the comments on too much fruit and assume this could be the problem. I'm not sure whether to go out now (July 5) and trim some fruit off or wait a week or two for the "June Drop" which sounds like it happens mid July. I don't want to cause the trees to not bear fruit next year. This is my first attempt at fruit growing. Could use some advice. Thanks."
Wanita on Friday 5 July 2013
"Three years is a very short time in Apple tree growing. One of my earlier post up above here, explains that in my experience, it takes at least seven years for Apple trees to come to full productivity. Others may have additional information."
ltrail on Friday 5 July 2013
"We have just moved where there are two apple trees. I've never had fruit trees. One is a McIntosh, the other a Liberty. I've heard spring (w/o oil) and fall (w/oil) is when I spray. Is that correct? But what kind of spray is best for the two times that I spray? Just wanted to say thank you for the information on why the apples drop. I was concerned. "
Sherry Kinerk on Friday 19 July 2013
"The first spray of the year, usually in February or March, is called the dormant spray. The spray usually is just an oil that when sprayed on a tree seals egg masses of insects; suffocating them when hatched. Twice a year, believe it or not, thereafter, is not sufficient to prevent fungus and pests. As example, I have my trees sprayed six times per season, with a combination of fungicide and pesticide. I've actually had other seasons when I sprayed 12 times per season. Six sprays per year will give you edible fruit. 12 sprays will give you beautiful fruit. Please don't ask me what ingredients are in my sprays as I do not know. They are done by a professional sprayer."
ltrail on Friday 19 July 2013
"It is August 19th and a heavy laden branch of our apple tree broke off. We think they are McIntosh. The apples have a firm texture, but not quite ripe. Can I put them in a brown paper bag or card oard box placed in a cool place and expect them to ripen or are they a lost cause? Is there any way to salvage these beautiful medium size gems? We live just southwest of Portland, Oregon in apple/wine country."
Terry Shepard on Monday 19 August 2013
"There is no chance, sorry to say to expect them to ripen. Unripened apples are completely starch and will never continue on to develop sugar. About the only thing they can make for you now, is compost. I have two Macintosh Apple trees myself. And many apples have fallen off this year and I have had to collect them and dispose of them."
ltrail on Wednesday 21 August 2013
";Try juicing them if Organic with other fruits and vegetables like celery 4stalks or the whole rib with 6 if s,mall apples or 4 regular - large apples great fir balane f blood pressure , Thx medicine "
Medicinewoman on Tuesday 17 March 2015
"I bought this house a year and a half ago. Last season I got only two apples and the tree never bloomed. This year the tree bloomed beautifully and I have hundreds of small apples growing. The two apples I got last year were yellowish in color and tasted similar to a pear. A neighbor told me the tree grows apples every other year. It appears to be a mature tree. Can you tell me what kind of apple tree this? I am in central Michigan. Thank you"
Tom Ryan on Wednesday 3 June 2015
"Ah, now I know! Braeburn apple tree that was relocated from allotment plot to my house. First year some buds but no fruit. Second year 2 or 3 apples; poor quality. Third year, plenty buds, dozens of fruit and yes, you guest it, some are falling off! Next step will be pruning; any suggestion about this task?"
Richard on Tuesday 28 July 2015
"Secondly - the apricot tree is not doing much, if anything. No buds, no fruit, but generally looks very healthy. Advice please."
Richard on Tuesday 28 July 2015
"I have inherited three apple trees. How can I find out what there varieties are?"
Dennis on Wednesday 19 April 2017
"I have an ambrosia tree that I purchased as a whip and planted it last year. This year it is covered in leaves, branches and apples. Should I remove the apples to promote more growth?"
Jane Hawkins on Wednesday 20 June 2018

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