Why Won't My Fruit Tree Bear Fruit?
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The Reasons Why Your Fruit Tree Does Not Bear Fruit
There are as many reasons why fruit trees don't bear fruit as there are types of these plants. Worse still, there may be several causes at play at the same time.
Most frustratingly, many of the reasons cannot be detected simply by walking through the trees and inspecting them. To make matters worse, the problem often cannot be solved right away.
But many of the problems can be solved with good planning. It all starts with the proper selection of the plant, followed by placing the fruit tree in the right place during planting (including keeping it far enough away from other trees, as indicated on the label).
But even if the selection and location are correct, a lot can go wrong after that. Other reasons fruit trees don't bear fruit include:
- Timing: You may be expecting too much from a young tree or one that had fruited heavily the prior year (a bumper crop can drain resources that would otherwise be available the following year).
- Pollination issues
- Sun and soil conditions
- Improper pruning
It takes good detective work on your part to sift through this list of potential problems and communicate with the manager in each case. Through the cleaning process (and with patience), you will learn why your fruit tree is not bearing fruit.
Age of the Fruit Tree
A fundamental mistake that beginners make is impatience. You just can't expect the fruit tree you brought in from the nursery last year to bear fruit any time soon.
On average, fruit trees bought from a nursery are one or two years old. The label of the plant with which they are supplied can give a number of "fruit years". This number indicates the additional years the plant must grow before it can bear fruit.
Apple trees (Malus pumila) take up to five years to produce fruit, pear trees (Pyrus communis), and plum trees (eg Damson, Prunus institia) six. Dwarf cultivars can bear fruit earlier.
Problems With the Cold
Where you live limits you in terms of fruit trees you can grow:
- Apples are suitable for USDA planting zones 4 through 7.
- Bartlett pear fruit in zones 5 through 7, as well as Damson plums.
- But you cannot grow mandarin oranges (Citrus tangerina) outdoors in these areas; the latter are suitable for zones 9 to 10.
You can increase the robustness by placing your fruit tree in a protected area. The south side of a house, for example, is usually warmer in winter than elsewhere.
How to Beat the Frost
But you don't just have to take into account the cold winter temperatures. Irregular weather is the curse of the fruit tree grower.
A warm period in winter can make flower buds think it is spring; when the low temperatures return, the buttons may be damaged. Also, if there is frost after the flowers open in the spring, it can kill them, which means that your fruit trees will not bear fruit that year.
For this reason, smart plant selection includes choosing based on the time of year a fruit tree blooms. For example, apricots (Prunus armeniaca) usually bloom early on fruit trees. Over the years, its tender flowers are left open to killing frost. This is one of the reasons apples are so popular in cold climates - they are one of the last fruit trees to bloom.
If you are already paralyzed with early flowering, there is hope when your fruit trees are in bloom and you feel the frosts coming: cover your plants with plastic tarps or blankets.
Problems With Not Enough Cold
Cold weather isn't always bad when it comes to making fruit trees bear fruit. Some types really need a certain amount of cold. With the exception of citrus trees, fruit trees have something called "cooling requirements."
This need for cold is measured in terms of "cold hours", which refers to a minimum number of consecutive hours during a winter period, when the temperature ranges between 32 ° F and 45 ° F. Different types of fruit trees have different cooling needs. , ranging from a low to a high requirement; for example:
- Peaches: low
- Damson plums: medium
- Apples: medium
- Pears: high
This fact helps explain why apples are grown commercially in Washington state, but not Florida: they need more chill hours than the sunshine state can provide.
Hopefully your fruit tree will bloom in the spring. This is a big step in the right direction: a plant like an apple tree cannot bear its fall fruit until it begins to bloom in spring. But it is not necessarily out of the woods yet, because there is still the problem that the flowers are successfully pollinated.
Most apples and pears need cross-pollination. This means that pollen (the male element) must travel in a different variety to fertilize the female flowers of the tree you want to bear fruit. There is a lot to do regarding cross-pollination:
- You have to remember to buy a pollinator.
- It cannot be of another variety: check with the nursery staff to find out which pollinators are compatible.
- Unless the wind is blowing in the right direction, the bees must carry the pollen. If cold weather, torrential rains, or severe storms keep bees at bay, the flowers may not be pollinated (another argument in favor of planting in protected areas).
But some fruit trees are self-fertile, including apricots and some types of plums (such as plums); they do not need a different variety to act as pollinators.
Cherries That Are Hardy, Self-Fertile
As with other types of fruit trees, not all cherries are created equal - some are easier to grow than others. Cherries (Prunus cerasus) are more cold hardy (for zone 4) than cherries (Prunus avium), which can be grown in the far north of zone 5.
Sweet cherries (such as Bing) are edible cherries that are found in the products section; Tart cherries are more likely to be used in jellies.
Another characteristic that makes tart cherry plants easier to grow is that they are self-fertile. Among the sweet cherries, only Stella is self-fertile.
Sun and Soil Conditions
All of the fruit trees mentioned here belong to the rose family and many are of the genus Prunus. The latter is known as "stone fruits" because they have a stone inside the fruit. Apricots, cherries, peaches (Prunus persica), and plums are stone fruits.
Another fruit tree that is part of the rose family is Cydonia oblonga (like Chaenomeles, but an ornamental quince, generally not grown to produce fruit). Like black cherries, it is fertile.
But we have yet to discuss some of the other potential fruiting problems, starting with the sun and soil conditions.
Fruit trees need full sun and will not bear much fruit if they are in the shade. "Soil Conditions" covers a number of questions, including:
- Weed control
Water to keep the soil evenly moist, but don't overdo it (few plants like soggy soil). Similarly, proper fertilization means finding a balance: Fruit trees need to be fed, but over-fertilization does more harm than good.
An excess of nitrogen is particularly counterproductive: you will end up with many leaves and no fruit. Compost is safer because it is a natural slow-release fertilizer.
Weed control and proper spacing are closely related to irrigation and fertility problems. Weeds compete for the same water and nutrients in the soil as your fruit trees.
Likewise, without enough space, your plants are stealing resources from each other. Mulch in the garden is an excellent ally to preserve soil moisture and prevent the growth of weeds.
A common disease problem in pear trees (as well as some other fruit trees) is a fungal infection. Fungi can spoil the flowers, depriving you of the fruit that year.
Ask your local cooperative branch to recommend a fungicide suitable for your region and plant type. The trick here is to spray at the right time - avoid spraying during the flowering period as this can kill the bees you need for pollination.
Pruning is important for fruit trees, but pruning has a purpose in mind. Its objectives are:
Develop a solid structure for fruiting.
Remove shoots and branches of water that are passing, died, or got sick / damaged
Open the canopy, letting in light and air.
Many types of fruit trees are pruned in winter, but plums and cherries are an exception; the disease is more likely to enter open wounds in winter, so pruning is done in spring or summer. Encourage the growth of a central leader by pruning plums, pears, apples, and cherries.
There are different types of pruning cuts to achieve different purposes. Thinning cuts generally work better than platform cuts when caring for fruit trees. Headboard cuttings can actually increase the time you spend waiting for flowers to develop by stimulating growth for leaf production rather than flower production.
Enjoy This Video Tutorial About 4 Reasons Why Your Fruit Tree is Not Producing Fruit
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