National Apple Museum
Biglerville, PA 17307
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Early History
of the
Apple Industry
in Adams County

 A is for apple

Thinning and pruning

Pruning increases fruit production, improves fruit color, and strengthens trees by distributing the weight of branches evenly. Once trees are planted they are pruned and trained into a specific shape best for that orchard.

To make the tree produce fruit earlier, growers manipulate the branches so that they grow outward at a slight angle upward. They keep the branches in the best position with weights and twine; props and trellis systems are used to support the low branches of today's orchards. Older trees are pruned to renew fruit buds, expose the fruit buds to light, and to create "ladder bays" - pockets of space within the dense orchard for easier picking.

Thinning ensures large, healthy, attractive fruit, and promotes the health of the tree. Thinning also helps avoid "biennial bearing" - the tendency of trees to produce too many apples one year and too few apples the next.

Once fruit grows to the size of a quarter, workers remove the smallest ones from the tree; the better developed apples are left to mature. Apples are best when spaced about six inches apart on the branch. These basic thinning practices were adopted in Yakima Valley orchards shortly after the turn of the century. In 1944 "chemical thinning" was introduced and is still widely used today. Orchardists spray thinning agents which increase the apple drop that naturally occurs six weeks into the growing season.

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The Biglerville Historical and Preservation Society
and The National Apple Museum
154 West Hanover Street - P.O. Box 656
Biglerville, PA 17307-9442 - Telephone: 717-677-4556

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