Last year my beloved little tree finally bore TWELVE heavenly oranges - taste out of this world!
This year it has only TWO! Gardener thinks it's one year on, one year off.
But does he *know?*
Any experience out there? I tried a Web search, but the only thing I found was that it needs to be pollinated. Thanks a lot!
I guess those two new fruits got pollinated somehow; I didn't notice. Just found ONE new bloom.
So is it annual or biennial? If annual, what am I doing wrong? I'm giving it adequate food, water and She is giving it sunshine.
If biennial, why those 2-1/2 volunteers?
This is So. Calif coastal.
Thanks for any enlightenment.
It is neither annual (growing for one year) nor biennial (growing for two
years) but a perennial (growing for many years). It is the case though that
some fruit trees have a cycle where they fruit well in some years and not in
others. AFAIK there is nothing you can do about that other than keep the
tree healthy and growing well.
My dwarf 'Robertson' navel orange had fruit in alternating years until
about two years ago. That was about 18 years after I planted it. Now
it has fruit every year, but not enough.
On the other hand, my dwarf 'Eureka' lemon and my kumquat have always
had fruit every year (more lemons than anyone can use and more kumquats
than I can eat). I planted them about 7 years ago.
My dwarf 'Mineola' tangelo was also planted about 7 years ago. It had
three tangelos last year, which was the first time it ever had fruit.
This year: nothing.
All of my dwarf citrus get the same care, the same fertilizer and
irrigation. Of course, they share the same climate.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean, see
It's a perennial. An annual blooms one season and then dies, biennials spend their first season
growing and the second fruiting and then die.
Most fruit trees go through bloom cycles, typically 1 year of heavy fruit followed by 1-4 light years.
As fruiting takes a lot of reserve photosynthate from a tree, it makes a lot of sense that they
don't fruit heavily every year -- it would "fruit itself to death" if it did.
For instance, last year, our pear tree bore so heavily that it actually broke the top of the crown just from the weight of the fruit. This year, we're getting about 1/4 of the fruit from the tree that we did last
year. The previous two years, our apple crop was sparse, but this year we're going to get several
bushels off a semi-dwarf tree.
If you'd prefer a little fruit every year rather than a boom and bust cycle, you can pick off most of the
fruit on a heavy fruitset year before it develops far and uses much of the tree's reserves. That
tends to keep the fruiting each year a little more constant.
On Saturday, September 7, 2013 7:01:03 PM UTC-7, Kay Lancaster wrote:
're getting about 1/4 of the fruit from the tree that we did last
Thanks, Kay - very informative. Question: From the tree's POV, its raison
d'etre -- along with all living things, including people -- is to reproduc
e the species. So why would it engage in such wild "mood-swings", rather th
an consistently reserving enough photosynthate (new term to me) to produce
enough fruit which it "hopes" will create more trees?
once you take a natural fruit tree and then graft it
onto some other root stock, then plant it in a lawn you've
stacked the deck against regular production.
if you want alternative views on fruit tree production
methods read Sepp Holzer and Masanobu Fukuoka as both
use/used natural methods and found more even production.
still, in some areas, you cannot escape climate issues
like early thaws or frosts which destroy the blooms. so...
you accept, and move on, plant many varieties and enjoy
what nature brings, put some up for the lean times.
On Saturday, September 7, 2013 7:45:00 PM UTC-7, songbird wrote:
This is really interesting! Innocent question: WHY would grafting and planting "stack the deck..."
Uh, thanks...I guess!... perhaps too technical for moi?
I'm in a very mild Mediterranean climate which doesn't -- or didn't until global warming began to make itself felt -- suffer from wild swings. In fact here, 1 mile from the beach, we do not get frost.
Because of the mild climate, normally we can't grow fruit that requires a lot of winter chill. For years I longed to grow blueberries, but until a few [years?] [decades?] ago, there had been no appropriate varieties developed.
Few years ago I finally bought a couple of bushes, located them near enough so they could do their thing, gave adequate food, water & sun -- and they never made it to the following season. Go figure!
By setting an abundant crop of fruit one year, the tree is too stressed
to set much fruit the following year. A year later, the tree has
recovered enough to set an abundant crop again. As noted in another
reply, the cure is to thin the crop while the fruit is still very
With peaches, you can actually obtain more useable fruit by thinning:
The remaining peaches will become much larger, but the peach pits will
You are growing a plant that never existed in nature, that has been
altered to grow differently from how it would grow if it did exist in
nature, in an environment much unlike and far removed from where its
ancestors might be found. You irrigate it with water from hundreds of
miles away (from either Owens Valley, the Delta, or the Colorado). Even
if you use organic fertilizers, you feed it because the nutrients
already in the soil are insufficient and because your soil is probably
naturally alkaline while citrus needs acidic soil.
I am doing the same. Thus, I do not use organic methods in my garden.
If I did have a natural garden -- a drought-tolerant garden using
California native plants -- the Ventura County Fire Protection District
would likely levy a fine against me for creating a wildfire hazard.
Instead, I have a garden that is not drought-tolerant; but my gardening
methods conserve water through mulching and "wise irrigation". I use
chemical fertilizers on some plants and organic fertilizers on others
simply because "one size does NOT fit all".
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean, see
On Saturday, September 7, 2013 9:15:33 PM UTC-7, David E. Ross wrote:
You should move to Gawd's Countree. In Santa Monica, the City actively promotes xeriscape gardens -- in fact, they actually subsidize taking out lawns and re-landscaping xeriscapally (is that a word?).
When I get through "subsidizing" the plumber and the handyman (will it ever end?!) I plan to investigate those subsidized plans.
* Home Despot should give me a special rate, considering how many bags of ground cover bark I schlep home every few months!
the smaller the tree the smaller the root
system, the smaller the root system the less
fruit you'll get compared to an ungrafted
tree. also less ability to fend off any soil
difficulties (smaller area means less diversity
of habitats the roots are likely to encounter)
also the amount of moisture will likely be more
subject to swings (closer to the surface, more
competition from grasses or surrounding trees)
and possibly more pollution (ozone, lead,
salt) becomes a problem.
i didn't find either of them challenging
technically, but Fukuoka is more difficult
philosophically (but has much clearer
conversations about the natural form of a
fruit tree and the problems of pruning).
the problem with adapting either author's
approaches is that in a lawn setting most
people won't allow "untidy" appearance or
much cover growing around and underneath
their trees, which defeats the many
beneficial aspects of their methods.
how much salt spray?
i would call that a learning experience and
let it go.
Not mood swings, food swings. Put a pair of rats in a sealed warehouse with abundant food, and
you've got lots and lots of rats a year later. When the food gets short, only limited successful
reproduction go on, and the number of rat babies decline. When the food is all gone, the whole
population dies. Similar swings exist in plants, though plants are making stored "food" (photosynthate)
at the same time they're expending it for reproduction, so it's even more of a balancing act.
Planning ahead is not something most species can do. For a tree to "plan ahead" and "save for
the coming collapse", it would need some pretty sophisticated regulatory systems that I doubt exist.
Instead it seems to be "surplus energy" trigger -- store enough starch or sugar (photosynthate), and the
tree is triggered to make lots of flowers, which eventually, if everything goes right, turns into lots
This was also the problem with some of the Soviet plant breeding experiments, which hoped to produce
some supercrop that would allow you to harvest both above and belowground parts for food at the same time...
the problem was the plants didn't cooperate, and if you bred for a lot of fruit, the storage roots suffered
and vice-versa (look up Lysenko for a fascinating look at early 20th century genetic byways -- and think
about the eugenics movement of about the same period...)
Most fruit trees are now grafted onto a variety of root stocks. Some because the roots that cultivar
would grow are not sufficient to support the tree; some because you are trying to introduce other
characteristics, like trees that fruit before they're 40 ft tall, or roots that show reduced susceptibility
to particular diseases or insects or other pests. Sometimes it's done to bring a particular cultivar
to market more quickly.
There are some complex interactions between the grafted top and the roots that are still not
well understood, but not all cultivars will do well on a particular rootstock, just as not all
do well on their own roots. Some rootstock/cultivar pairings show particularly bad boom and bust
cycles of fruiting, some grafted plants show a smoother production curve. Same issues with
own-root plants -- some are boom and bust, some are fairly consistent. Generally, though, a grafted
tree will fruit sooner than an own-root.
If you're interested in rootstock compatibility issues, the apple breeders seem to have some of the easiest
literature to find and understand. And because apples can exist in a fairly wide range of climates and
climatic zones, there's also some bits to tease out about how choice of pairings can influence performance
in a particular climate. Or soil type. Or water regime. Similar literature may exist for oranges -- I've
just never worked with them much.
Watching how plant sexuality adapts to particular conditions is one of those fascinations of biology.
For instance, tomato plants have perfect flowers -- male and female parts in the same flower. In good
times, tomato flowers outbreed -- the stamens grow away from the stigma, and pollen transfer tends
to take place from flower to flower and plant to plant. But when growing conditions are very bad,
tomatoes tend to inbreed -- the stamens tend to be right over the stigma, and the flower self-pollinates.
To be teleological, when you've got a good year, you can afford to waste seeds experimenting with possible
new combinations. But when you've got a bad year, sticking with tried and true combinations of genes
is a better bet.
Other plants are monoecious, like corn -- they have separate male and female flowers gathered into separate
inflorescences on the same plant. Combined with the fact that the staminate flowers tend to mature
before the pistillate flowers, this tends to enforce outbreeding -- gene exchange.
Still other species are dioecious -- separate male and female plants, definitely enforcing outbreeding.
Others are trioecious -- some plants are male, some are female, some have perfect (bisexual flowers). http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0035597 Some plants are switch hitters...
when conditions are crowded, they produce mostly male flowers; when populations are sparse, they switch
to perfect or mostly female flowers. Still others may switch from producing only male or only female flowers
to perfect flowers, often after many years of isolation, as in a seedling that has drifted onto a new
island and established.
And then there's the phenomenon of last-gasp flowering -- a tree, for instance, that's been in marginal
conditions for reproduction for years, and is now clearly in decline, will often put out a last crop
of flowers, even if it hasn't flowered for years. That's another poorly understood phenomenon.
And people think plants never do much interesting, especially over time...
if it actually does happen this way it would be
a selective factor in favor of the species
continuing as the area would soon be left empty
for the many seedlings.
i don't see how it would go, but if it is a
soil community issue then i could imagine that
it happens by the plant shutting down the energy
sharing with the soil community and shifting
that back to the branches/flowers. something
that would cause a pulse in the soil community
that would reduce future returns to the tree
from the fungi/bacteria as their population
would decline. might also encourage fruiting
bodies of fungi and different types of reproduction
in the bacteria...
:) having started early in life growing both
succulents and carnivorous plants i've always
wondered how people could consider them tame
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