Restricted forms of apple trees often bear fruit on their lower spurs in the second season after planting. These fruits may usually be left, except when the number is excessive and is likely to pull the tree out of shape. They should be thinned leaving only one or two per spur. When the trees get older, thinning has to be approached more seriously. Fewer fruits mean larger specimens and a decrease in total crop weight. However, you may prefer smaller apples. If this is the case, don't thin quite so much.
Thinning can be started as soon as the fruitlets can be seen, and it puts less strain on the tree if you do it early. However, a natural thinning takes place in most varieties in June or early July, and I usually don't thin until this happens. (I am talking now to the hobbyist, not the commercial grower, who has to follow a different regime and will in any case know a lot more about it than me).
Misshapen and blemished fruitlets should be taken off first; you can pick them off carefully or snip them off with scissors, leaving the stalk. The centre apple in a cluster reputedly doesn't keep so well (I've never noticed any difference) so if you believe the books this should come off, too.
Mulching with lawn mowings, etc, can be useful on apple trees, but don't do it during a dry period because when it rains less water will reach the roots.
During the "June drop" I pick up the fallen apples and dispose of them. If damaged or infested they are discarded. If golf ball size and in decent condition they can be turned into cider. The method is given in my Winemaking Notes - click on the wine page link.
Nigel Deacon / Diversity website
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