Three years ago, we bought a house in north Alabama that had three apple
trees in the backyard. At the time, they were 5 years old and the home
owner said that he had a "few" apples on them. This was in August 2001.
The next year, there were no apples. One tree's leaves wilted and many
of the branches turned black. Thinking it was a disease, I cut off all
the bad limbs. The other two trees grew fine but produced no fruit.
A family member suggested that we prune the trees in the following
winter. So in Spring 2003, we pruned the trees pretty hard.
Unfortunately, we had a late freeze in May and it killed many of the
blossoms (including those on a neighboring peach tree). So the trees
just put on new growth for the entire year, but no fruit.
This year, each tree had only ONE cluster of blossoms. Nothing came of
the two trees. The 3rd (the formerly diseased tree) tree started to put
on fruit and then they withered and died. So again, we are without
fruit. One tree is about 9 feet wide and about 10 feet tall, another is
5 feet wide and 11 feet tall, and the other "diseased" tree is about 2
feet wide and 7 feet tall.
Any tips for getting these trees to produce will be appreciated. In
particular, what kinds of fertilizers should we use? Is having a peach
tree nearby a bad idea? How often should one prune the trees?
This is a long shot but it may be part of the problem. It sounds like
one tree is badly diseased. It may be better to remove it to prevent
the spread of the disease. The others may be a variety that is poorly
suited to your climate. The tree may require more or fewer hours of
The trees should not require fertililzer. The trees normally benefit
from robust pruning. The trees are a size that should produce heavily.
A happy tree will set so many fruit that thinning is required to remove
80% of the fruit set. The proximity to the peach tree should have no
I would start over with new trees from a local nursery so that it is
well suited to your area. You need not remove all of your present trees
to start a new one.
I'll try and answer some of your questions.
The first requirement is the appearance of blossoms. You may not be
seeing them if the trees are 'full size' trees which can take over 8
to produce fruit. If the trees are on any type of dwarfing root stock,
you should see a graft between the ground and the lowest branches.
This will appear as a bulge in the trunk or sudden change in diameter
of the trunk. If they are dwarfed, your time to blossom will be
say 3 to 5 years. You may get more blossoms next year.
The second requirement if pollination. If these apple trees are all of
same cultivar (i.e. Red Delicious), they won't pollinate each other. You
need an apple tree of another cultivar type. Some Apple cultivars
specific other types to be pollinated, but that is less common. If you
a decorative crab apple in your yard, that might also do the job, or
nearby in a neighbors yard.
Having a peach tree nearby has no affect on the apple trees. Just allow
spacing so that the trees will not grow into each other as they mature.
Depending on the condition of the tree, it is generally on a as needed
It's a bit complex to describe, but you will find many excellent
Third requirement is tree maintenance. I would use
a slow release fertilizer, like composted manure and mulch, mostly in
the Fall, so the trees will start up with a good boost in the Spring.
can give them Miracle Grow, for now. Sometimes a shot of Potassium
will encourage blossoming, but I don't think that is your problem.
Besides watering, feeding, and weeding, you will
want to give one spray of dormant oil in early Spring. Fungicides up to
fall, and Fungicides and Insecticides together and a regular schedule.
something simple like 'Orchard Spray' and depending on your situation
your spray schedule accordingly. We spray every 2-3 weeks during the
growing season. If the general type spray isn't working, try and
particular pests (visual inspection of fruit or sticky traps), and
consult with a
nursery or extension service for more advise.
The problem is the loss of fruit due to frost/freeze.
The trees had enough energy to produce a normal crop, but lost it. Thus, the
energy went into growth.. When a tree is in a vigorous growth cycle, it won't
produce fruit buds for the next year's crop.
I would prune normally and be prepared for a "snowball" bloom next year. It
will be important to greatly thin - and early to prevent biennial bearing.
This is a condition where the trees only bear a crop in alternate years.
John C. Schmid
Freezing frosts in Alabama???????
I live near Chicago, and have never seen the phenomenon you describe.
Apple trees need a certain amount of chilling to produce fruit. That brings
up another possibility that HIS variety won't produce fruit in the warm climate
If O.B. has full size trees, they wont start producing fruit for at least 8
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