Do you have a fruit tree or trees in your yard that just don’t seem to know how to make fruit? Are you frustrated with your fruit trees and their lack of adequate fruit production? I know it can be frustrating, but here’s the deal…
Fruit trees are programed at birth to be robotic fruit-producing machines. It’s all they know how to do.
Make leaves, put on new growth each season, make flowers, later in the season make fruit. Rinse and repeat. It’s really the only thing they know how to do.
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So why doesn’t it work?
If your fruit trees seem to have dropped their built-in program and just can’t get fruit production right, chances are, there are some environmental conditions at play that you can adjust and get your fruit trees back on track.
Does the age of the tree make a difference in fruit production?
It does. Young trees need from two to five years before they really start blooming profusely which is what you need for good fruit production.
Apple and apricot trees need at least two years, sour cherry and peach at least three years, pear at least four years and sweet cherry and quince can take up to five years before they really start producing fruit. So the age of the tree does mean something.
What about soil conditions?
Soil conditions are extremely important. Probably more important than anything else in the equation because healthy happy trees make more fruit.
Poor soil conditions make for a tree that is struggling and stressed. Insect and diseases are more likely to attack a weak tree or a tree that is under a great deal of stress.
Happy trees make lots of fruit.
A tree that is growing along mightily and appears to be perfectly happy with its environment is going to fight off insects and diseases better than an unhappy tree.
A happy tree means a more vibrant tree, a tree-free of insect and disease issues, therefore bountiful fruit production. When you think about it, it’s a pretty simple equation. However, this is where and how it all goes wrong.
Be careful about how, when or why you amend the soil when you plant new fruit trees.
What kind of soil do you have? What, if any amending does it need? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Sometimes we gardeners do harm when we are really trying to do the right thing.
If you have pretty good soil in your yard just plant your tree and backfill around it with the soil you have. If your soil is dark brown and not sticky like mud your fruit trees should be perfectly happy in it.
How to amend soil that is sand and gravel.
Sand and gravel that doesn’t appear to have much at all in the way of nutritional value might not be as bad as you think. I learned this back when I was building my Original Backyard Nursery.
My yard was pure sand and gravel, very little topsoil, mostly gravel. I dug out some areas in the yard to build cold frames and a greenhouse pit etc and had large piles of soil that I excavated.
I had four large piles of soil piled up in my backyard from this excavation effort and most of the soil in those piles was nothing but lots and lots of gravel.
One pile for sure seemed troubling to me because I dug down about 24″ for my sunken greenhouse so that pile of soil contained almost zero soil! Or so it seemed. It was nothing but gravel.
None the less, I had to do something with those piles of soil and hauling them away was not an option so I created the gardens that you see near the bottom of the page. Look closely at the plants in the mounds.
Most of that soil was gravel, a little sand, but mostly gravel, little or no organic matter. When I planted the trees and shrubs that you see on those mounds I simply dug holes and dropped in the plants.
No peat moss, no compost, no fertilizer. Nothing! I just dug a hole and dropped in the plants. They not only did amazingly well, they thrived. I mean they thrived! I learned something.
If you have sand and gravel in your yard this is what I recommend in the way of soil amendments. When you backfill the hole mix in some bagged or well-rotted cow manure or well-rotted compost.
It won’t do any harm and it is sure to help. Do you have to? No, I certainly didn’t when I built those planting mounds, but I’m sure the plants would have appreciated it.
How to amend clay soil.
Sell your house! Just kidding, just kidding. Clay soil is challenging, so much so that I would be an extremely unhappy person if I had a yard full of really poor clay soil. But… I would deal with it, and I would make it work.
Around here I’ve landscaped so many homes, well over 500 homes, I know what areas have good soil, what areas have terrible soil, and that played a big part in my decision to buy the place that I did.
When I bought my nursery property three years ago I knew immediately, as soon as I saw the for sale sign in the yard, that that particular area in Perry, Ohio had well-drained sandy soil and that’s what really excited me about the property.
It took me less than 20 minutes to make that buying decision. I was sold! And today I’m very happy with that decision.
Fruit trees (really all plants) do not like clay soil because it suffocates the roots. The roots cannot breathe. Plant roots must have the ability to transfer oxygen through the soil to the root systems.
If that can’t happen the plants suffer or flat out die. So when you set out to amend your clay soil for the planting of fruit trees, you really have to think this through before you start. You have to be aware of . . .
The Bathtub Effect!
Also known as how to kill a plant in no time flat!
If you dig a hole in clay soil, stick in a tree, bare-root or balled, it doesn’t make a difference, then backfill around that tree with things like peat moss, compost, really good topsoil, you are thinking that you have done a wonderful thing for your new tree.
The materials that you used to backfill the hole are nice and loose and porous. The plant will be able to breathe nicely! Job well done! Not so fast!
What you have really done is you have created a way for water to get into the hole that you dug, but there’s no way for the water to get out.
Your tree is going to drown. Literally drown, because once the hole fills up with water the tree can’t breathe. I see this all the time!
How to plant in clay soil.
When planting in clay soil what you really need to do is only dig part of a hole and only put part of the tree ball in the ground.
I say no more than half of the ball should be in the ground, but I really like only 25% of the tree ball in the ground better.
Then cover the part of the ball that is exposed above ground with an ample amount really nice soil that is really high in organic matter. But, but, but, but . . .
Make sure you get it right!
This is exactly how you do it. Dig your shallow hole. Drop the ball into the hole. At least half of the ball should be above grade.
Before you do anything else, backfill around the ball with the same soil that you removed from the hole. That’s right, backfill around the tree ball with the clay soil, but only enough to fill in around the ball.
Dispose of the clay soil that you don’t need. You see, that will keep the hole from filling up with water. We are actually sealing around the ball of the tree with the clay soil to keep excess water out.
Bring on the good stuff!
Now your tree should be partially planted, at least 50% of the ball still exposed to the air. Now start filling around the exposed part of the ball with good, rich topsoil.
But you really need to make this “raised area” much wider than the ball itself because with the ball being raised out of the ground like it is it’s going to dry out more easily, and you need a place for the tree to grow new roots.
So if your tree ball is 12″ in diameter I am suggesting that you create a raised bed that is 36″ in diameter.
Sure this is a lot of work and a lot more effort, but you are doing a good thing for your fruit tree. Consider it a long term investment.
This is what I know about people and their plants.
When somebody has a plant that is not doing well, not making enough fruit, or making really poor fruit, they go looking for the solution and conclude that their plant must be suffering from xyz disease or is being secretly eaten alive by xyz bug, when in fact, the only thing wrong with the tree is that it is not happy with where it’s planted or how it was planted.
Three things to look for.
There are three things that typically make plants unhappy. One, being planted too deep.
Even in really good soil, the top of the plant root ball should be about one inch above grade then covered with about an inch of soil then two to three inches of mulch.
That allows the roots of the plant to breath which is really important.
Two. Planted in really poor soil and the top of the root ball being covered with poor soil. The plant simply cannot breathe. The tree or the plant is literally suffocating.
Three. Too wet. This happens for a lot of different reasons. The tree is planted in clay soil, the hole is too deep, too wide and filled with porous material. The water can get in but cannot get out.
Putting gravel in the bottom of the hole does absolutely no good! All that does is makes more room for stagnant water to stand and no way for the water to get out.
Maybe the area in which the tree is planted tends to hold water. You cannot plant a tree in a wet area and expect it to “dry up the area”. All that will happen is the tree will die.
Lastly, but more common than you think. Somebody overwatering the plant thinking they are doing a good thing.
People tend to think that newly planted plants need lots and lots of water and just keep turning the hose on the plant.
Before you water, stick your hand down into the soil and feel the soil. It should be cool and moist, not wet and soggy. You can buy a moisture meter for just a few dollars.
Know what I think?
I think that’s why most fruit trees don’t make the fruit that people expect them to. Quite simply, they are not happy! There is an issue with where or how they were planted.
What else could cause a lack of fruit production?
Pollination. Fruit trees make flowers, then those flowers have to be pollinated before that bloom can turn into fruit. Some fruit trees are self pollinators, most are not.
For instance, with apple trees, you have to plant at least two, if not more, different, varieties in fairly close proximity to each other so they can cross-pollinate. This is true for just about all fruit trees.
It’s a bit of a dating ritual, they need to get out and meet new people. Then they’ll make fruit. Since trees are stationary and can’t get around to meet new people, they order in!
They depend on bees and other insects to pick up pollen from one tree and deliver it to other trees.
Take care of the bees!
Be careful to not over care for your fruit trees spraying all kinds of insecticides and such. If you spray when the trees are in bloom you are certain to kill off many of your pollinators in the process.
Is Mike McGroarty an organic farmer?
No. I’d be lying if I said I was because organic farmers never use pesticides. Me? I’m not an organic farmer, but I do use as many organic practices in my yard and my nursery as I possibly can.
But I do use chemicals for weed control in my nursery. As far as other pesticides, I really try to not use them.
But by law, I am required to keep my nursery stock disease and pest free so occasionally I may need to do some spraying. But I only do so when I am faced with a problem.
Over the years I’ve learned that the longer you take to grow a plant the more issues it can develop, that’s why I love growing and selling small plants! I turn them over really quickly! They seldom develop pest issues.
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Questions? Comments? Something mean to say?
Laura J Bongard says
Our apple tree gets LOTS of apples. When they are an inch in diameter and little problem called “SQUIRRELS” happens. They start testing the apples when they are 1-inch and have to test the next one, and the next one, until they’re all immediately gone, to see if they’re any good. We have to clean the apples off the ground. All apples are wasted. So, what do you do about this loss of apples. I haven’t seen anything that looks like it will work yet.
Squirrels are challenging. Use the search box on this site to find an interesting articles about squirrels. Here it is actually; https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2013/08/how-to-keep-squirrels-away/
Sharon Reynolds says
I have a mulberry tree that I started from a cutting, probably 4 years ago. The tree I got the cutting from produced nice, big, black, juicy mulberries, probably 3/4 or an inch long and are delicious. The tree from the cutting is probably 8-10 feet tall. For the last 2 years, it has had a few small, red mulberries that don’t amount to much. I am disappointed. I was so excited to actually root the “stick” but now, it is not producing the delicious mulberries. I thought that with a cutting that is would produce the same as the original tree.
We live in upstate NY. We stopped to see you in May 2015 on the way to our son’s in KY. Wish you were closer.
Thanks for all your interesting info!
You’re right, the off spring from a cuttings should produce the same fruit as the parent plant. Unless the cutting from taken from a sucker below a graft union. Pretty sure that some mulberries are grafted.
Lou Lynn says
My home is 65 years old.
dad built the house in the pasture of the old house. House is where barn was and unfortunately stays wet underneath about 6 months of the year. We keep trying to pump the water from under the house and then immediately rains again. We will have to replace the floor in about half the house.eventually. Mom planted hydrangia’s, quince, around the back of the house, north side., had quince and forsythia along fence on west side, most of which are still there. The quince on the left side has 3 quince on it, not sure if we should try to eat it, and the quince on north of house has never had a quince. They all bloom beautifully, even in December and January sometime. I have probagated some of the hydrangia’s and forsythia, both of which I have replanted trying to get a good start around the house, both varieties are between 4-5 feet and have bloomed the last 2 years. I want to get more of the forsythia planted when I can get my probagation box rebuilt, have 2 aquariams, all the sand I need and just can not get hubby to built a box, Gonna see if my neighbor will cut the lumber and I can put them together. Hubby is a forester and should have known when he bought 2 plum trees 2 yrs. ago, he should not have purchased the one that did not have any blooms. The other has produced plums for 2 yrs. now. Not too many because they are still young plants. A friend put up 2 beehive boxes in our front yard near our Mayhaw trees. They produced more this year than they ever have but the rain got to them and we did not get to pick as many as we wanted to. We are too old ourselves and seems people are too lazy to pick on halves. We got about 40 gallons and it should have been at least 75 gal. What a shame! We have 9 trees and love the jelly..
I guess my main question is should we get rid of the plum tree that does not bloom or give it another year and see what happens? The quince in back yard have not had any fruit in the 32 yrs we have lived in this house. Thy need a royal trimming, which I hate doing because of the thorns. I usually trim them back to 4-5 feet. Thy are over the eaves of the house and I don’t want them rotting my roof.
All of a sudden I have ferns growing everywhere. Had one fern at back door and they coming up all along the back where nothing is planted.. Always wanted fern and when I would plant them they died immediately, now they are everywhere, wish they would grow in the front yard. I just needed to vent about that. Mother had a very formal front flower bed. I am not a formal person, I like pretty stuff. She had holly shrubs, tea roses, some king of little pink flowering bushes and nandinas planted in front and a nandina hedge along the east side of house. I have demolished the front bed and plan to get rid of the nandinas on east side and plant gardenias that I plan to probagate from 60 year old plants (I hope).
Charline Jolly says
Once upon a time you could drive up into the hills and look out over thousands of apricot and prune trees in bloom, The developers paved over hundreds of acres of the most productive farmland in the world. Nice gravely soil with perfect drainage.
Now they are building in the hills where development makes sense.
Some trees demand perfect drainage, and it’s criminal to destroy that land. In some European countries they have a tax deferal program to keep land in agriculture. The tax is due when the land is sold. After a few years the burden becomes so great, the profit is gobbled up. We need this in our wine country!
Earl Wolfe says
Thankyou for your sage advice. My problem is apples that I planted twenty years ago in semi-clay soil. The trees have done very well and are flourishing, but no blossoms, I planted a crabapple close to the apples and it bears reasonably well. One problem is the large maple that is over-shadowing the apples. Will try some heavy pruning this summer.
Not really surprising that you can grow stuff in sand/gravel.
The main source of nutrients for plants is… the air!
Quite some time back a scientist did an experiment where he put a plant in a carefully weighed pot of soil and let it grow for two years. Then he took the plant out and weighed it and weighed the soil. IIRC, a couple ounces of soil was missing, but the weight of the plant was 40+ pounds. Drying it out substantially reduced the weight of the plant – but still, half the weight remained. So where did it come from?
Turns out plants are mostly carbon compounds, and the air is full of… you guessed it! Carbon Dioxide. Most the the feritilzer and trace elements that go into plant production are part of the chemical process that fixes carbon from carbon dioxide from the air.
Burn a plant. What do you get? Heat. Light. Cabon Dioxide. Carbon. The oxygen comes mostly from the air (you can prove that by simply covering the flame and letting it die out.) So basically, you’ve got a lot of carbon and little bits of other stuff.
So why do plants grow better in some areas than others?
Well, disease and pests have a lot to do with it. And if you drown the roots or dry them out, you are seriously interfering with the trace elements NOT found in air that are necessary for plant magic. Chemical reactions take place preferentially at certain temperatures – most do better at warmer temps (accounting for the relatively slow growth duing winter).
I’ll go one better and suggest that most of the reactions that facilitate plant growth require a fair amount of water – to keep reactants exposed to each other if nothing else. And the trace elements are critical – perhaps as elements that are taken up on one reaction, then released in another, catalysts that may greatly increase rate of reaction (and therefore growth).
Great information Bambi, Thank you!
Tim Adams says
I enjoy these articles immensely. So informative. I LOVE CHERRIES. There is nothing better than a sour cherry pie, hot, and piled with vanilla bean ice cream. I mow my sister-in=law’s yard and these sprouts come from bearing cherry trees. I decided 3 years ago to try transplanting from the sprouts. I now have about 10 trees five foot tall or better. I put the sprouts in 12 inch pots and they took off. My two main trees have full flowering but they are not bearing. I have surmised three causes, two of which are indicated in this post. Lack of pollination due to minimal bee activity though my closest neighbor has four hives. Secondly, I have no alternate varieties. McMinnville, TN, (near me) is referred to the “Nursery Capital of TN,” but they’re having trouble getting good cherry trees. I’m going to keep trying on that. But I was wondering if for some reason the offspring shoots will not work. The parent trees bear but not prolific, however one of those had a full crop this year. Is there some genetic reason I’m missing here on the trees. Oh, also my trees are healthy by all observation: full healthy leaves, no problems in the bark or the trunk, only June bugs after the flower blooms are long gone and no fruit. What sayest thou O gardening guru. Keep up the great work. We need you!
The trees that you are collecting are seedlings and therefore will not be exact clones of the parent plant. That means that you do not know for sure how good they’ll be at fruit bearing. They might be fantastic, or not so good. That’s why growers graft and bud to get the trees that they want, exact clones of the parent plants. But it’s important to note that those desired parent plants were originally grown from seed, found desirable and later cloned.
Tim Adams says
Thanks for the info. Question: will these trees I’ve grown be good for grafting trunks and I can go get a couple of good parent trees from a nursery and graft them only my trunks?
That should work fine.
Michael Domnitei says
I had a pear tree which I bought from a nursery and for 12 years it did bloom very nice but never had a single pear. So, I did cut the upper half of the main trunk and grafted in its place a branch from a pear tree from a park which had different fruit trees. Well, the graft worked amazing and I started to have pears and I decided to do some more grafting with different pears kind. So now I have one pear tree which has 4 different kinds of pears. However, I don’t know how it happened but one branch had a few apples for a couple of years (I screwed up there since not all my grafts were successful but I like to experiment).
That’s amazing and sounds like a lot of fun.
Louis DePaolo says
Couldn’t find my problem in your directory but I’m hoping you can send me in the right direction. I’ve been trying to grow grapes in my back yard and while I got a few clusters last year and the year before they all turned black and shriveled before ripening. This year there vines are loaded with clusters of nice green grapes but I am afraid the same thing might occur. Can you tell me if this is because of some disease or am I doing something wrong. I’m not some kid but 88 years old. The problem is that the only farming I did was poultry with my grandfather and later my uncles. Then the rest of my years were spent in skilled trades. What I’m getting at is that I’m a poor gardener and I could use some help. I’d appreciate any advice you might give. Didn’t know how to contact you other than this.
Lou De Paolo
Maybe you need to prune your grapes during the winter to minimize the number of grapes the plant tries to produce. Or now remove some of the fruit so the plant is not trying to support too much fruit.
Nancie Dover says
I have a twenty plus apple tree in my back yard, We bought the house last year and the tree only produced 3 apples. This year the tree did not produce any flowers or fruit. Not my husband had the tree pruned by “professionals” last fall and they removed alot of thin branches pointing in toward the middle. I don’t know if this made the tree not bear. Our soil is very good and it isn’t sand or has clay.
We live in Washington State in Centralia about 1 and half hr from the Oregon boarder. Can you give me suggestions as to what I can due, please?
It sounds like the trees were trimmed properly. I don’t think there’s much you can do, the trees know what to do and usually do best if left alone other than pruning.
Spank the tree This may sound off the wall idea however If you use a baseball bat or stick about 1 inch in diameter. Spank the trunk before the tree buds open in the spring, do not brake the bark about 4 or 5 sound raps should do. What this does is wake up the natural defence system in fruit trees to heal the wounds. Thus sending more sap and causes more blossems. P,S. you may laugh now but try it and see for yourself.
Awesome stuff- I like the old ways- thx man
lol, I did try that about 30 yrs ago, an extreme measure. Guess what, nada, nothing. A neophyte at that time, I made the mistake of planting many trees of differing varieties. All they basically needed was consistent pruning, Soil was great. Patience.
jim wendel says
We have fairly heavy clay soil around here in SE AZ with a very high PH of 8.5, and one person recommends placing 2-3 inches of gypsum in the bottom of the planting hole. but I contend that that is too much and rather use a handful of epsom salts instead knowing that our soil is also high in calcium but also needs loosening and lowering of the ph by a sulfur product. I also do this on an annual basis by watering it in as the alkalinity keeps coming up from below and the roots grow down into it. Since we are also very dry much of the year I have been able to get away with using 6 mil black plastic covered by gravel or dirt to block out the weeds and I have not been bothered by root rot taking care not to water too much. I have an important question and another comment about dwart and semi=dwart fruit trees. Is it true that they only live for about 10 years as I once read about years ago and is the reason I have a mature apricot tree which produced very well from the second year after planting it bareroot but last year only had a one third crop and this year gave only six fruit?
I really don’t know but I do know how long they live.
jim wendel says
We have fairly heavy clay soil around here in SE AZ with a very high PH of 8.5, and one person recommends placing 2-3 inches of gypsum in the bottom of the planting hole. but I contend that that is too much and rather use a handful of epsom salts instead knowing that our soil is also high in calcium but also needs loosening and lowering by a sulfur product. I also do this on an annual basis by watering it in as the alkalinity keeps coming up from below and the roots grow down into it. Since we are also very dry much of the year I have been able to get away with using 6 mil black plastic covered by gravel or dirt to block out the weeds and I have not been bothered by root rot taking care not to water too much. I have an important question and another comment about dwart and semi=dwart fruit trees. Is it true that they only live for about 10 years as I once read about years ago and is the reason I have a mature apricot tree which produced very well from the second year after planting it bareroot but last year only had a one third crop and this year gave only six fruit?
Jewel Groom says
I have a 7 year old sour cherry tree I bought from mail order as a bare root, the tree was supposed to be dwarf but is now 15-18 feet tall. It has bloomed for 3-4 years now but as soon as the cherries start to come on they fall off. can’t figure why the fruit falls off every year, I noticed aphids on the newer leaves, but since I have lady bugs on the tree dealing with them I don’t know if I should spray to kill the aphids, I’m trying to be patient, but I’m 63 now and would like a few cherry pies before the next decade. any suggestions!
The tree could have cherry borer or another issue, you’ll probably have to research cherry tree care or diseases.
I have several Evans Bali Cherry trees that are planted in a 6″ base of pea gravel and coarse sand with good screened topsoil… The depth is a total of 24″, and it drains well…
They are happy, but I’m wondering about mulch… I have read dissenting opinions on bark mulch, but some say pea gravel right up to the base should be fine… Do you have an opinion on that, and if it’s okay, how deep should it be???
Thanks for any help
Given what you’ve told me I’m not sure I’d mulch the trees, I’d concerned that the root zone might stay too wet. But I really don’t know what the natural soil was like before you amended to plant the trees.
It’s heavy clay / rocks /soil… For the tree holes, I used a dingo with an auger and they drain well within 30 seconds… I forgot to say my moisture meter says it’s normal, in lieu of wet or dry… I just checked again after a deep watering yesterday and a heavy rain, and it’s still normal…
They are fine without mulch it seems, but I read that the gravel helps for rodent control… That’s my focus, and I place deer in that category as well
I’d say they are just fine as they are. The deer? You can spray the trees with a deer repellent, especially in the winter, but only a tall fence really works, or a fence around each tree.
Sounds good to me, Mike…
Will Shirley says
We live in Upstate NY at the base of the Adirondacks. I have a lot of apple trees and recently planted two dwarf pear trees. I planted them about 15′ apart and one has done quite well, putting out leaves etc, whereas the other has just sat there looking vaguely green and alive but no leaves, no buds. I have been careful watering and they have lots of sun, but I wonder if i should add some kind of minerals, vitamins…. to kickstart the growth? How long before I should give up and take it back for a replacement tree?
I wouldn’t start adding anything to the soil, just give the tree a chance to recoupe then replace if it doesn’t improve.
I have two pear trees right next to each other. They are both dwarfs, one Seckel and the other is Anjou. They both bloom every year but neither produces any fruit! This has been going on for years and they are its tall and healthy. Can you please help?
Jesse, this might help https://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/Resource000587_Rep609.pdf
Charles J Wilder says
Thanks, Mike; it is what I needed also.
Richard Bistodeau says
We have a Tangelo tree in our yard we planted 6 years ago. We had thousands of blossoms on it this year and every year. This year we got oranges about the size of peas and they were green. Then they turned yellow and fell off, Now we don’t have any oranges again as this happens every year. Can you tell us what we’re doing wrong? In the 6 years we’ve had the tree we only got about a dozen oranges on it. It looks very healthy and we have a lemon tree next to it and have hundreds of lemons every year. We appreciate any advice you can give us. We live in Mesa AZ. Thank You.
I don’t know that I can be of much help. I do know that apple growers actually thin the apples when they first appear so the tree has to support less fruit but produce much better fruit. But I think they only remove about 10%. The issue that you have seems different. It could be a poor variety that just doesn’t know how to make good fruit, or it could be something else. I’d contact your county extension office and see if they can help you. This might help http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ch072
Gloria Flora says
Thinning out fruit, especially apples, is very important. :Leave one apple per cluster (the ‘king’ or largest apple) and fruit no closer than 6 inches apart. It’s hard to remove so much fruit – it could be up to 30 or 40% — but it’s worth it. Your fruit will be less susceptible to disease and produce bigger, well-shaped fruit. And you’ll have very good production every year.
Have you noticed how apple trees will typically bear a lot of fruit every other year and hardly any the in-between year? That’s because a tree with a lot of fruit produces a hormone that signals the tree to cut back on production the following spring. If you thin correctly (grit your teeth) you’ll enjoy a fine crop annually.. (Information confirmed from a local commercial orchardist, personal experience and Michael Phillips’ excellent book, The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruit and Berries the Biological Way.)
Will Shirley says
My father used to grow citrus in Glendale, AZ, often multi-grafted trees. When the fruit turns yellow and falls off it is often a problem with water or pH. Check the soil near the roots. AZ soil is highly alkaline, you might need to toss in some sulphur. I now live in upstate NY and have had to augment the soil for my blueberries.
I have four pear trees that are four years old that have never blossomed. I live in Clinton, NC. Can you tell me why they don’t ever bloom and therefore don’t have any fruit?
If you know the variety I would research that particular variety making sure that they are desirable trees. Beyond that I would expect them to bloom if they are planted in good soil, not too wet or too dry. If you are fertilizing them I would stop and give them a chance to do what they need to do.
Gloria Flora says
My pear trees (five varieties) took six years to start blooming. Be patient.
Tonya jobe says
I live in tenn on a hill on a peninsula on the lake , all clay ,rock and what little soil is there is from dead leaves and trees before we ever moved here.I love love love plants all plants but struggle over the soil ,I’ve planted fruit trees 7 yrs ago I get nice blooms and spray then right before time to get fasting they swivel up turn black and die or fill up and fall before done.any ideas would be greatly appreciated from one nature lover to another thanks
I’m not really an expert of fruit trees, but most fruit growers actually think the fruit when it’s about the size of a dime so the tree has less fruit to produce, therefore better fruit in all. They remove at least 10% of the apples on the tree. I would assume they do that for other trees as well.
It sounds to me like you might have a virus such as black rot affecting your trees. Check with your TN Agriculture extension agent (each county has one I believe) and he/she may be able to help you figure it out. Its funny Mike would address this. I also live in TN, in Sevier county, and i have similar non-production issues. Only two apples out of 5 and my pear trees produce, and they are 13 years old. The cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines, are virtually ornamental. They arent supposed to be!
Lynn McMillen says
My neighbor raises apples, peaches and pears. We are in eastern PA not too far (less than 100 miles) from Gettysburg, PA, a HUGE producer of peaches, so we must have the right climate for them, and we have good soil. I watched him thin his peaches one year – he pulled off about 3/4 of the tiny peaches. The remainder produced a lovely crop of fruit. So I think 10% is low if you have any sort of decent production at all.
sir I HAVE 2 WHITE WALNUT TREE WITH MY APPLE PLUM PEAR CHERRY AND PEACH WILL THEY BOTHER THE REST OF MY TREES
To the best of my knowledge, I’d say no, they won’t create any issues at all as long as none of the other trees are not planted under the drip line of the walnut trees.
Why hasn’t our five year old miniature cherry tree produce fruit? A couple of years ago it had a small amount of blossom but nothing scince. Also it doesn’t seem to have a main trunk it just has two big twig things. We fed it with tomato feed but that did not make a difference. It has plenty of room too, so why won’t it produce fruit?
If it blooms fruit should follow. Are sure it is a fruiting variety?
LeAnn Lewis says
I have heavy clay soil here in SC as well. On top of that there is about 6 inches of regular dirt. I just received my apple trees from Gurney and they are bare root. How should I plant those? 2 apple and 1 peach.each about 2′ tall. I need to get them planted in the next day or so.
If it were me I’d just dig holes and plant them, making sure to not plant them too deep. If anything plant them just a big high. Back fill around the roots with the soil you remove from the hole. If you put a really loose fluffy type material in the hole it could allow water to stand in the hole. That’s why in poor soil I back fill with the soil that came out of the hole. You can add some well rotted compost or cow manure if you want, just mix it with the soil you back fill with. Many fruit farms are not on ideal soil. Your trees should be fine.
Bob Jones says
2 citrus trees(orange & lemon), planted in ground, good soil, BUT never produce flowers nor fruit. One year one of the trees bloomed in the winter of the year(wrong season). What can I do to help these trees start producing? I know they need a match for pollination, but now there are no flowers to think about pollination???
I have four avocado trees and one of them has large avocados , but when you shake the avocado. Instesd of hearing the seed uou hear wster. Why is tbis occuring..
what a great article! So much info! But now I have a question. It appears that my dwarf peach tree that is getting black spots and splitting before ripening is probable getting too much water? Can I dig it up, it’s been where it is for 4 years, and raise it up for better drainage? Would that solve the issue?
You can dig it up and move it, but not right now. You have to wait until Thanksgiving when it’s dormant. Transplanting season, different than planting season, begins around Thanksgiving and ends around early April depending on where you live. In the south it would end near the end of February.
The Mangos on my tree are starting to turn red and then start turning brown and then seem to dry up and fall off. I don’t know how to treat this. Part of the tree has new little green fruit also. Please advice. Thanks
Worname William says
I plant a rock garden around an orange tree. Can it prevents the from fruiting.
I would say not as long as you don’t pile mulch or soil up on the stem of the orange tree. Other things planted in the drip line of the tree really shouldn’t hurt it at all.
Marbette B says
I learned a lot from ur site. One thing years ago i topped off my plum tree then put root powder on the bottom to root it. I didnt know that was wrong well anyway the topped part turned into a full beautiful tree with never a bud or bloom. Will this tree ever bloom or should i dig it up and transplant it out of my orchard. The mother tree never made it or had fruit
We have a 9 year old satsuma and 9 yr old blood orange tree next to each other. Both were producing fruit for several years and now have none. It is dec 1 and no flowers or fruit but green leaves
I my house almost 6 year ago and it came with this one cherry tree, it has not change over the years I been here. I have cut dead branches off it only grew cherries onces there years ago and one cherry this past season, is it ok to put potting soil around on the tree throughout this winter?
bought my house
Mulch would be better than potting soil. Soil can rot the bark at the bottom of the tree. Even mulch shouldn’t be piled up on the tree. Check the tree for dripping sap. Older cherry trees often suffer from boring insects.
Please I need serious help with my Grapefruit tree. I was not a native of Flori hda, but have lived here now for 13 yrs. When I first purchased my home my Grapefruit tree looked so beautiful and produced such nice fruit. Now 7 years later the tree is not producing fruit, and it has andts all over it. They look like the working ant and they have bared a hole in one of the old stumps that were left behind after a trimming. I have to admit, I just kind of let it be on its own, not really feeding it, basically just letting nature handle it for me. Please help me save my tree, I feel so badly that I neglected it. One of the larger branches on the left side of the tree is actually bare not a leave on it, however on the right side it has leave with ever a few new growth. Thank you for your time.
I don’t know much about grapefruit trees, but I know about plants. Water it regularly, prune as needed, mulch around the tree covering the root zone with mulch and give it some time. You can fertilize with tree spikes, they are fairly safe. Then give the tree time to get healthy. Then it will make fruit.
my 3-1 cherry tree is 5 years old ,this year put out about 2000 flowers.They all fell off no cherries I have a ton of black ants on the tree could these be the culprits
I’m guessing that the ants are on the tree because the tree is leaking or dripping sap. That could be a sign of some kind of boring insect. Look for little holes in the trunk that are oozing sap. The flower drop could be weather related. ?????
Thanks for speedy response!
Some pictures here if you’d like to see;
I’ve also been told that I should cut them all down and start over or start a new patch on fresh, clean ground.
Looking into “no til” farming now.
What about weeds, actually mostly grass growing among fruit bushes. I’ve heard this can cause fruit production issues. I have rows & rows of Saskatoon berries which have tall grass that appears to not have been maintained for a couple years. Much of grass is now taller than the bushes.
Pull the grass out by hand? is this the only way? (I have a few acres planted by previous owner)
Great question. If the grass/weeds are taller than the berry plants then the weeds/grass will shade the berry plants and decrease fruit production significantly. As far as completing with the plants for nutrition I don’t know. Those who use no til farming intentionally allow weeds and grass to grow among their fruit crops.
You can til under as much of that grass as you can get to with a nice walk behind tiller. Just til the area over and over and that will eventually kill off the roots of the grass and weeds. Up close to the plants you’ll either have to pull it or mulch it down with a heavy layer of mulch, straw, sawdust, compost, something organic. Newspaper, 9 layers thick then mulch works great!
In this corner you are preaching to the choir. This is just plain common sense. Unfortunately as we have become more and more urbanized so much common sense has become lost.
I am a third generation gardener with clay soil. You can never have enough compost so compost every bio-degradable thing in sight – starting with your kitchen scraps. Most importantly amend your soil before you plant – whether it be ornamental or edible and mulch, mulch, mulch with bio-degradable materials. Every year as that mulch bio-degrades it improves the soil beneath it and adding new mulch renews the benefit of applying the mulch in the first place.
How could I missed this post! Just this morning I posted a question about non-producing fruit trees in the burlap post.
The accused is a mango tree, born from seed in my So Cal garden. At about 5′ height, it’s been flowering for about 4 years, every year increasing the amount of flowers and it produced only a couple of mini-mangoes (about 1″) The parent mango was a normal size mango, handsome and very delicious.
There are some parts of the garden where there is clay, so may be, after reading all the entries here, may be that is the problem. I’ll excavate around and check, but if anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears.
We do have to transplant because it is very close to my neighbor’s wall, so next year I might do that.
As I said in the other post, Mike you are the best!!!
I’ll bet that Mango parent was a hybrid, so the babies from it dont grow true to form. If you know what the variety is, maybe you can look it up.
Raised beds are essential here in the wet tropics. I’ve even had ginger and lemon grass die if planted direct into the clay soils which make up my garden. My fruit trees are planted on raised mounds to aid drainage. However, I still have to contend with the rampant insect life (especially termites that eat the trees), flooding rains, and cyclones that blow all the fruit off the trees!
Hi, you”all. now you know i am from the south. Read the entire contents of this post, comments and all just so I can get my investment in my apple, peach,pear, fuyu parsimmon and poemergranite trees to a good footing. Thank you Mike. Learned a whole bunch of stuff. need some really good organic way of controlling fire blight and brown rot. Any ideas always welcome.
Marsha LaVere says
Hi Mike I started taking a Master Gardener Course this Spring and every thing you seem to comment on I hear at my class too. Keep up the good info for all us green horns!
Another great article Mike. Bought several end of season plants last fall. Have made nice clay bathtubs for them while rushing to get them into the ground. Will revisit some and lift and compost if needed.
Pat McFarlen says
I enjoy your articles. Sometime I can’t get them to pull up. Today they did just fine.
Mike, You need to know, in this crazy stressed out life. Some of us.. OK me.. need and look forward to your articles, you are like our “pastor in Gods garden” OK that was a bit deep.. but I do feel closer to Him, when I’m out there growing and harvesting. and every email form you is like an ol’ friend checking in.
have faith in those of us that do care, and brush the others off like the dirt that gets on your knees when weeding.
Thanks Debra, I do appreciate that.
Bert Pisciotta says
Hi Mike this is for Marti ov March 3. I had the same problem and after about7 years of my two chery trees not producing nothing but pea size fruit. I found that whle growing the trees, I neglected them and when i did maintenace such as pruning and cutting suckers off the base i had let a sucker grow that was from the root stock below the graft. This is what I let grow to form the trunk of the tree. Not good. My cure was to cut them down and start over. It pays to maintain and prune trees regularily. New wood below the graft should be removed Or you have wasted your time.
My thought of the article, is well written, and focused. My focus of the article is the tree, the struggling tree needs to conserve it nutrients, so first prune off diseased limbs, next prune off limbs growing to the inside of the tree, to allow light to enter and third since the tree grows from the top, keep the tree to a practical height, also forcing some latent buds to grow, and to keep the natural sap to the highest level possible, also nourishing the specimen.
Bob Bulmer says
I have a Pear tree that has been around since I bought this property 30 years ago. It always produced a handful of pears but none worth eating. I started pruning the tree using your method of pruning from one of your articles. It has produced a better crop of pears but I think that the Mulberry tree in my neighbors yard that hangs over part of my pear tree is taking away some of the potential fruit that it could produce. My neighbors property is at a higher elevation than mine and the branchs reach out over top of my pear tree. Am I correct in assuming that that is the problem? Also,in August some of the leaves start to turn brown and fall from my pear tree. I also have deer who like the pears as much as we do and pick them off the tree.
Teresa Grippe says
Thanks for the information on fruit trees. I have planted a few peach trees and pear tree in the south. But now I am in the North and planning to plant some peach, pear and I planted an apple tree that I started from seed. It took a year indoors and then part of the following year outside. This winter she has done very well so far in the ground and is 18 inches tall, and I can’t wait to see how much she will grow this spring and summer. I planted her in my oldest granddaughter’s honor. Thanks again for all the information you deliver Mike.
Teresa, remember that apples need to cross pollenate so there needs to be several types in the area. Here in So-Cal it is common to see several apples on one trunk. I assume that would solve the pollenation problem. Maybe Mike will chime in here and verify that. How close do the other apple trees have to be and would it work to have several grafted as long as they bloom at the same time?
The closer the apple trees the better, which is why you should have more than one variety in your yard. I can’t say for sure, but I’m fairly certain that when you have more than one variety grafted onto the same rootstock the tree should be able to pollinate itself since each of those grafts is in fact a unique variety.
Better than sex, Mike.
Jim, I’ll bet you wouldn’t have thought that 20 years ago and I don’t even know your age!
Thanks mike.i am now retired and can enjoy being out more often.your advice on non bearing fruit trees is greatly appreciated. I have several fruit trees that have bever even bloomed after sever years of being planted and has barely even grown.many thanks
Another factor to concider why fruit trees don’t bear fruit is the number of “chill hours” received for your area. I have a couple of Manchurian apricot trees that I brought from Wisconsin zone 4 to North Carolina zone 7 which in the last ten years have not set fruit and I’m thinking that we have insufficient “chill hours” for them to set fruit.
Also check out Luke 13:6-9.
Sharon Bogues says
Mike, I guess this is where being stupid comes in handy. Where I used to live, I had fantastic soil…drop something and it grew. Where I am now, CLAY. I planted an apple tree (supposed to be a red delicious-not a red one in sight)before we even built our house. Not knowing anything, I just dug a hole and stuck it in and left everything else up to the Lord. Well, that apple tree grew and produced apples the very first year (only 4 and the deer got them before me)and just got better from there. My neighbor has one that in the 12 years we have lived here has never produced an apple. Mine was supposed to be a dwarf not needing another for pollination. They were within 50 feet of each other. Last year my tree just up and fell over. All of the roots appeared to be on top of the ground so I guess it had no foundation.
Barb Malone says
I think you solved my problem with fruit trees. I was killing them in clay bowls filled with compost. I am getting a couple of apricot trees this year and will try this method. I thought since I was planting on a hillside I would get drainage. THANK YOU
Charline Jolly says
Dear Barb, Put rocks in the bottom of the planting hole! Apricpts hate wet feet. They are from the holy land and do best in gravelly soil.
I appreciate the advice for clay soil. I knew not to fill the hole with drastically different dirt, but the 50% above ground is new to me. I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks!
Viki Steiner says
This is great information. I live near Mt. Rainier and have about 2 inches of soil on top of clay as far down as I can dig. I am going to do as you said, plant my fruit trees high. Thanks.
I totally love your articles, even though I am new to your operation.
Say, I live in NC and have the dreaded clay soil –came here from NJ with beautiful rich, loamy, well draining soil–what an adjustment!! However, that soil and good deli’s are about all I miss from there. The first year here in NC it took a pick axe to even get into the ground, yikes! Never really thought about the “bath tub effect” although it makes sense as to why I lost sooo much. I chose a different tack and went completely with native plants, aka “wild things”. I figured if they were already growing ‘over there’ then surely they would grow ‘over here’, and they did. Been here 12 years now. Here’s a few more things that have helped over the years: a pig tractor during the winter months. Yup, let Chubby do the digging and the fertilizing; turns out he also ate the grubs an ddug up very large rocks. Also made it easier in the Spring when it was time to till that soil. Plus we have always composted with the other barnyard maures. For the most part with the seasonal stuff, we have not had problems. It is mostly my prized shrubs and flowering bushes. I have beautiful apple and peach trees planted on a slope, so I guess that has helped with them. Get great fruit yields.
Recently I have begun with the raised beds, but not because I was bright enough to think that that my plants were drowning, but because I wanted not to bend down so far to pick. Have been successful with old tires stacked 3 high. Works especially nice with a “you pick ” operation too. Folks can walk all around the plants; the vines hang over, the bugs don’t seem to like them, and you can paint them any color (the black of the outside of the tire is too hot in the NC sun. You can also begin your plants early in the tires by placing old windows or plexiglass on top of the tire beds.) Began this last year on another part of the farm we wanted to begin growing, but really did not have the time to go through our years of soil ammending as we did out front.
Anyhow, you are a delight! I am thankful to have found your site and look forward to a whole new venture this year with the great seeds I purchased from you.
Thank you so much for you story and your input and suggestions. Sounds like you’ve adjusted to the country life quite well!
My main interest in the horticulture world revolves around fruit trees, mostly Apple. Several years ago when my boys were small we worked a small orchard most of which was planted in a heavy clay type soil. I found the best way to prepare the soil was to “GUT” the soil with a large bottom plough for an area about four feet wide. This loosened the soil adequately to provide good growing area for the trees. I therefore agree with the bathtub analogy that you put forth. I have just finished grafting 250 apple trees to line out this spring.
I thank you for the very informative articles that you publish. I seem to learn something new each time.
Sorry for the typo. I ment to say “around” fruit trees, not “round” fruit trees.
My main interest in the horticulture world revolves round fruit trees, mostly Apple. Several years ago when my boys were small we worked a small orchard most of which was planted in a heavy clay type soil. I found the best way to prepare the soil was to “GUT” the soil with a large bottom plough for an area about four feet wide. This loosened the soil adequately to provide good growing area for the trees. I therefore agree with the bathtub analogy that you put forth. I have just finished grafting 250 apple trees to line out this spring.
I thank you for the very informative articles that you publish. I seem to learn something new each time.
Jalé Dalton says
Thank you Mike!
We have clay soil, and I didn’t know much about it, except that you can’t really amend it. I will share this with my husband and our Garden Club; I know they will appreciate the article.
All the best to you and your family,
Jale, Thank you for sharing my article with others, it is much appreciated!
Can’t imagine why anyone would say mean things to you. If they don’t like what you have to say they should just leave.
Do pear trees and apple trees react similarly? My pear tree gets quite a few blossoms then maybe only one or two fruits. Soon I notice scabs on them. Wondering what I should do about that. Also, I have one small apple tree I bought and planted last year. The neighbor across the street has crabapple trees; will that help mine or do I need to buy another tree?
Diana, I’m pretty sure the crab apple will pollinate your apple tree, but I’m not sure what to do about the pears.
Love your article….I have several apple, peach, plum, cherry and pear trees. My biggest problem, one of my apple trees has NEVER bore fruit, I dont think it even has many blossoms, if any in the Spring. When I planted the trees I made sure they were self polinating or polinated with another tree I have. II have forgotten what type of apple I planted, but is very healthy and has no bug or disease problems and is about 7 years old now. What is the problem?
Laura, frost possibly getting to blooms before they set fruit? I’m really not sure.
Ros Hodgins says
I must tell you about my gardening blunder which resulted in a crop of only two apples at the top of my tree. I don’t like chemical sprays, but I also don’t like worms. I came up with the bright idea to spray my tree with an emulsion of water and garlic, thinking the flies that cause the worms wouldn’t like the garlic and would stay away. Well they did, because my two apples were worm free. But apparently the bees don’t like garlic either, and didn’t pollinate the blossoms. I couldn’t reach to spray the top of my tree; hence the two apples. We had a good laugh, when we realized my mistake!
we all get brainstorms that “should” work. Then we realize how imperfect our ideas are! Thanks for sharing.
Louise McAdams says
I move all your emails to a folder and reread them at times. I wish I had had some of your advice when I was younger. Since I do not send for any of your plants,I feel somewhat guilty just reading and soaking in information. Just the same I’ll probably continue ’til you stop sending me emails.
Thanks for what you do.
We have clay soil at our place. I have tried to plant trees but they all died. Now I know why. But what I read is planting have the root in ground. well that’s great but were I live we get a lot of high winds and I always see tree toppeled over. It is sad to see it. That is why I haven’t tried again.
sharon bertrand says
hello from the far southern part of louisiana. I have learned a lot over the years from your articles. Thank you for being out there for us plant lovers.Now to my plant problem STINKBUGS on my plants I do not like to use pesticides someone told me a few months ago that they use cornstarch for these pesky stinkbugs I am going to try it and my other delima this year has been the dollar weeds in my flower beds I have found something that I can put on my lawn but it says not to use in beds and I have tons of beautiful daylilies (these are my babies)so I spend a lot of time pulling up the dollar weeds they even come through the mulch.
Sharon Smith says
Great articles. There is alot of information that was very helpful.
I live in SC…the land of the nightmare clay soil. You are so right when you say plants drown in it. I come from Long Island, NY where the soil is king and anything grows wonderfully. Your info on how to plant in clay soil woke me up to the potential. I have 15 nursery plants to get in the ground and have new found faith in seeing them to healthy adult plants. Thank you so much! You do a great job and are very down to Earth…no pun intended!
Thanks Deb, I appreciate that!
I have a sweet cherry and a sour cherry tree that produce blooms like crazy, put on fruit, and then it falls off before it matures. What can I do? I bought bigger, older, more expensive trees than the rest of my fruit trees when I bought them 9 years ago, and so expected them to produce along with everything else. The sweet cherry may be under stress as the Japanese beetles attack it almost every year. The orchard was put in on former pasture with lots of rotted manure and hay with a sandrock subsoil.
I’d try to do something with the Japanese Beetles. See this article. https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2010/07/how-to-get-rid-of-japanese-beetles-and-grubs-in-your-lawn/
I used nematodes and they worked great!I only saw one or two Japanese beetles last season.
Lynn Washington State says
I have 3 apple trees we grafted onto M-26 rootstock with my Horticulture class back in 2008. The trees are now 4 years old and healthy. However, I don’t think the grafts really took and I suspect I am only left with the M-26 rootstock. Will they eventually produce apples and at what age? If so, will they be edible?
I am not familiar with that rootstock but didn’t want to throw the trees out. Lynn
I’m guessing that the root stock will produce apples. When? In the next year or two I’d guess. What kind? That’s a good question, but you might be presently surprised.
Lynn Washington State says
Thanks for the response regarding my M-26 rootstock. I will hang in there and continue to care for them and hope they produce within a few years. Again, Mutch thanks. Lynn
Dorette South Africa says
Hi! Thank you! I enjoy all your articles! Keep up the good work! Dorette
I also love your news letter and appreciate all the tips you give us. My husband and I have 30 acres of land in Maine and it is mostly ledge..we are trying to grow fruit trees…i didn’t know about planting 2 of each so thank you for that and will planting as you explained for clay soil work for the ledge also. You laugh about moving….we are thinking about it as we want to have a nice vegtable garden also.
Is it true that fruit trees can “take a year off” from producing fruit or should they produce every year? I have an apple tree in my back garden which is quite sporadic in it’s production. My neighbour also has an apple tree so polination shouldn’t be a problem!
Peter, you’re right, it’s called biennial production and usually occurs when a fruit tree produces a really heavy crop one year and that heavy crop actually interferes with bud production of the fruit crop for the following year. Many fruit varieties produce buds this year for next year’s fruit crop.
Anne in France says
So Mike, if you’d got that house on clay, and you’d planted your fruit trees on a slope, and you’d roughed up the ground underneath to help with drainage, and you’d put some good stuff around also, but (being new to this) you hadn’t probably put enough good stuff (theory) and after two years they weren’t growing (even though the cherries produced well a year after planting) what would you do? I note they are attracting bugs too, so probably are stressed.
Anne, if the trees are not doing well I’d seriously consider digging out during the dormancy season and re-planting in a raised mound so the roots could breath. It’s possible that they are planted a tad to deep, or really at the correct level, which is really too deep in heavy clay.
Mike Sims says
I have trouble with my plum and peach trees. They produce and just before the fruit ripens it develops a fungus(?) a brown almost powder like substance on the fruit. I have been told it is because of cedar trees in a fence row several yards away. Any ideas?
Mike, I don’t know any thing about fungus and correlation between the cedar trees. I’d start looking for more obvious things like air circulation and maybe a fungus that is common among plum and peach trees and maybe you can treat for that.
Donna lee says
God Bless- Mike,thanks for this well done teaching!!This article has a great & numerous perspective on hows & whys in fruit tree success. Very informative! Donna lee
Michael Vilkin says
I’d like to share my experience with heavy clay soil.
There is really bad clay soil in my yard. Luckely, there is also a slope. I cut the slope at 90 degrees, like this |___ , dump a dozen bags of all purpose sand, the cheapest, from Home Depot, then dissolve some clay in a bucket of water and poor on the sand. When rain comes, water can easily drain down the slope.
Nothing grows in this sand-and-clay mix, except figs and pomegranates. They are absolutely happy. I live in Encinitas, California.
Thanks Michael, interesting concept.
I have 2 dwarf apple trees 1 Macintosh 1 Granny Smith the first year I got a few very small green apples no Mac’s.2nd year even fewer green apple’s and the flowers bloomed on the Mac tree but the heavy rain knocked them off and no apples grew.Hoping for a better year this year.Also to keep the birds and critters from eating my apples first someone told me to cover the small apples in brown paper bags and let them grow covered.Also what is that green stuff that grows on trees?The Granny Smith one has it on it.
I’ve never heard of covering apples and I’m pretty sure commercial growers don’t do it. Therefore neither would I. The green stuff is probably lichen, a combination of fungus and algae, pretty much harmless.
Great article Mike. The advice you gave is spot on but it doesn’t just relate to fruit trees, as most plants prefer well drained soil. The slope of the land plays a big role in how trees and shrubs can be planted as even partial terracing can achieve a huge improvement in hydrology and moisture availability. Cheers, your articles are appreciated even on the other side of the world (Australia)
Great article. Our garden is clay so lots of good tips, thank you
Michelle Beauregard says
Argh, my fruit trees were all planted last year; too deep and in clay soil. Is it too late to save them?
Michelle, no it’s not too late to save them. Ideally you should move them while still dormant. Just raise them up and fill around them with good topsoil.
Thanks for the info Mike.. I don’t have any fruit trees in my yard.. But I do have about 20 seeds that came from Oranges and tangerines that I got sprouting.. Will these eventually turn into fruit trees and bear fruit?.. I started these seeds in zip-lock baggies in peat moss.. I did an avocado pit.. It is now a Bonsai tree.. Thanks again.. I love your news letters..
I love to read your articles. I have saved them all for the past few years even though there are some I hadn’t read at the time that I saved them.
A several hundred years ago the land we live on was part of the Mississippi River and a lot of the soil is a silty sand. This is topped off by a storage dump of coal literally across the street from us with the nearby horseshoe lake on the other side of that. The prevailing wind is usually blowing from the lake over the coal and then on to us, leaving coal dust on everything.
My irises grow well as do many types of lillies. My tulips were wouderful until two years ago when most of them died. My grass is unsucessful to say the least. Any ideas or thoughts would be great.
Debbie, the best thing to do if you suspect a lot of coal dust in your soil is have soil test done by your local county extension office. They’ll give you back a page of recommendations of what you need to do with the soil.
First of all I would like to thank you Mike for all your informative articles. I have learned a lot of new info that I use in my landscape. I live in Oklahoma and we have apple trees, peach trees, pear tree, pecan trees, grapes, blackberries and strawberries. Our fruits normally produce well every other year. Growing up Ive always heard fruit trees and vines produce well every other year. Also if the trees have set bloom and we get a really heavy frost or freeze the blooms fall off and we do not get much for fruits. If we know it is going to freeze we cover the trees with sheets and it seems to save most of the blooms. When we get a really wet spring the strawberries do not do well.
Franny, I think you’ve got it down. A nights of heavy frost you can also wash the frost off your fruit blooms early in the morning before the sun comes up. But ice will form and most growers who do this just keep the water running until all of the ice has melted away. Lots and lots of big growers do this.
Jerry Baker many years ago had what seemed like crazy ideas on how to grow things. One of the things he said was to threaten your fruit tree if it is not producing by whacking it with a ball bat or branch as to thunk it but not damage it. I thought it sounded crazy, but because my pear tree was five or six years old and had never had the first blossom I followed his advice. The next season the blooms and fruit were profuse. Ha! Coincidence? I did the same thing with my apple trees and voila!
GOOD job , its well written and i learn a lot from you. THANKS
I really enjoyed your email on fruit trees. I have a tangerine tree in florida This past year it seems to be getting sick. It doesn’t look good with some dead branches and did not give me a lot of fruit like last year I am hoping maybe it just needs to be fertilized? Thanks for all your articles. Joy
Jennifer Harvey says
I planted 14 fruit trees last year and several sweet cherries 4 years ago. I am hopeful that the sweet cherries will finally bloom and bear this year. Glad to see that they take 5 years to bear–I was beginning to worry. Hopefully my plum, pear, apricot, peach, apple & fig trees will be a little quicker–they certainly grew well the first year in the ground! Thanks for the advice.
I have fruit trees that don’t produce and have been in yard for years, I also have that awful clay soil! Thanks for the tips I will see what I can do to correct our problem. I live in ohio and was wondering should I transplant my trees so I can put ball not all the way in the ground? When should I do this and will it hurt the trees?
Sandra, transplanting your trees will probably do them a world of good. But you have to do it before they leaf out in the spring, or after Thanksgiving when they are completely dormant. Don’t do it during the growing season. Transplanting is actually a form of root pruning and root pruning stimulates new root growth. The new roots do a better job of picking up nutrients etc.
Great job as usual. Please continue to pass on your knowledge and experience with future articles. I know that I need all the help available for my nursery, garden, and yard.
Thanks for sharing
evelyn boriskie says
We have an orange tree, it is loaded with oranges,
however the oranges are sour, what can we do, to
sweeten the oranges.
Evelyn, I don’t know, but maybe somebody else does. It be the variety of the tree, but I really don’t know.
Unfortunately that orange tree is going to produce what it is. I know of nothing that can change the taste of fruit other than things like picking the fruit when ripe versus green. Fruit trees grown from seed, especially orange/citrus trees, commonly do not produce good fruit although there are exceptions. From experience I can cite a completely reverse example. My grandfather grafted a good orange that never produced fruit that you wanted to eat. On the other hand, an orange seedling that he planted produced the sweetest fruit. Go figure.
I always learn something from your great information. I enjoy watching your hands on videos.
Thanks Mike, I think I’ve found why my trees don’t do so well
Phyllis Poole says
I tried gypsum and I believe it worked. The plant gree ok. But I planted two cherry trees , Manchurian and Bing. One year Japanese beetles almost killed one. Next year lots of cherries but they shriveled. A kin showed me a maggot in one. So I sprayed an oil on them in the fall and a maggot killer around the trunk so they would die before getting to the cherries. The fruit all fell off, Next year lots of blooms on one and no cherries. I have plenty of bees. any more suggestions?
My sister had a peach tree that didn’t produce any fruit to speak of for several years. Then when my mother got into bees she put a hive in my sisters backyard. She had more peaches than she knew what to do with and has had since. The lack of bees is my opinion of why fruit trees are not producing. We need more bees…. Love your stuff and enjoy all your wisdom and inspiration.
Ron K. TN says
Mike, This is one of many Great articals that you have written. Thanks for sharing your knowlage, it is much appreciated. I inherited a few apple trees a peach and pear tree. I am thinking of taking an older Apple tree down it had never been trimmed proper and is 20 feet tall. Do you have any suggestions what to replace it with?
I’m thinking of a Dwarf breed.
Thanks for your time.
Ron K TN
I’d definitely go with a dwarf variety, maybe more than one for pollination. As far as apple taste? I like Honeycrisp and Pinata. Not sure about what zones they do well in, but those are my favorites.
Do you grow and sell any flowers? Your articles are so interesting and I have learned a lot from reading them.Keep up the good work and keep us inspired. Thanks
I always appreciate your articles even though I am in Australia and the seasons don’t match! I have clay on a hillside and didn’t take the precautions you mention. Wish I had read your article a couple of years ago 🙁
Thanks Glen! I’ve got a pretty successful backyard grower in Australia but I don’t remember what city she’s in. Over the years we’ve had a number of people from Australia growing and selling small plants.
Anne Dolan says
After all these years, I now know why our dwarf apple tree no longer bears fruit! Several years ago we removed a diseased crabapple…this was the only other apple tree in our area. I never realized that apple trees were not self-pollinating.
Thanks for another wonderful article.
Mike I have a heavy clay soil but my fruit trees are doing fine. What I found made the difference was wood chips. I mulch each year with about 4 to 6 in. of wood chips all the way out to and beyond the drip line. I do not lay down any plastic or weed block cloth under the bark. When I first started doing this the soil was as hard as a brick and hell to dig in. After the first year I saw improvement in the trees and in the soil. In just the first year the first 6 inches opened up and now it’s down quite deep. Drainage is no longer a problem and night crawlers have dug deep to channel away the rain and keep the soil from water logging. The earth worm population exploded and now they are my best friends.
John, good for you! You’re right, repeatedly adding organic material to clay soil will make all the difference in the world. But it takes a lot of a patience and persistence to keep it up.
I planted a Passion fruit plant some time ago and it took on very nicely and spread like a disease all over the creeping area I had provided.Just recently it bloomed profusely. Flowers everywhere,attracted lots of bees. I thought that I will have a bumper harvest of Passion fruit. But alas the flowers just dried and fell off, NO FRUIT.!!!!!!! I got so frustrated that I even threatened the vine that I will chop it off if it does not take on fruit. IT DID NOT WORK. I am seriously thinking to kill it by spraying ZERO all over it to kill roots and all. I welcome advice and assistance from anybody before I go for the KILL.
Earl Bayer says
Mike I liked your article about planting trees in clay soil until where you said: “Now your tree should be partially planted, at least 50% of the ball still exposed to the air. Now start filling around the exposed part of the ball with good, rich topsoil.”
Mike, try planting your tree only about two inches above soil level with [all] of the same soil you removed [clay or whatever}. About 30 inches away dig a water ring to water when weather is dry so water will be available for tree and won’t run away. Water tree well. Now side dress with any animal manure that is aged enough to have cooled down. This rotting manure will attract earthworms. Now mulch with about four inches of mulch and re-apply when needed. I like wood chips which are delivered by tree cutting crews which you will find in most all areas and they are free. I get many tons of them every year. It won’t be long before the earthworms will be breaking this down and be working this in with the clay. Yes, they do a better job than we can ever do.
Mike, when you add at least 50% height which as you say “with good rich topsoil”, you are creating a banquet table for the roots and they will stay in this area and never go down to the area where the hobo table [ tin can] meal is. When and before you add more mulch side dress again with composed down manure with the mulch over it. After the first year you probably won’t have to water again. It won’t be long before there won’t be a hobo table any more.
Earl, thank you for the detailed explanation of another approach. No matter how you slice it, planting in heavy clay you need a game plan.
Earl Bayer says
Thanks Mike for your reply to me You are the tops—very tops—Keep doing what you do—Earl
howard mozel says
as always, you enlighten me with your knowledge of plants & trees. I think you hit the nail on the head, happy trees make good trees. i live in colorado springs, co and the soil is CLAY.i have ammended the soil around my fruit trees and they sit in water. not doing so good. i will replant them (young newly planted) as you explained in this newsletter. thanks again for passing on all your knowledge. i always enjoy your e-mails and look foward to receiving them. thanks again and God bless.
Thank you Howard!
Thanks Mike for the information on fruit trees. I learned so much.
What is with the thing in the middle with like and tweet on it I can’t read the article and I can’t remove it.I like to read what you have to say but this is not worth the fight
Benedict molinas says
I love reading your articles. I wouldn’t worry about those people
saying mean things to you, your doing a great job.!
I SALUTE YOU DUDE!!!!
My late grandfather had the most beautiful yard, flowers, fruit tree’s and garden on sand and gravel. The yard did turn brown in a dry summer, but recovered when the rains came back. His garden was the best, over 1 acre in size, and grew a huge variety of vegetables. He did have to water, mulch, and use a dry balanced fertilizer. His cherry orchard was prolific, on exceeding well drained soil. You verified what I had thought.
Good afternoon and thank you for sharing all of your valuable skills. I read all of our articles faithfully and do everything I can to follow your advise. This morning I attended my church where the scripture reading today was Luke 13: 1-9. Verse 6 reads, ” A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard,and he went to look for fruit on it but he did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, For three years now I’ve been coming to look for for fruit on this fig tree and I haven’t found found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil? “Sir, the man replied,leave it along one more year, I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not then cut it down.”
How ironic that I come home this afternoon and read my email to find out that barren fruit trees were the topic of your sharing this week.
I want to grow pecan trees. I am a pastry chef by day and a grower by night. What kind of soil do they like? Again, Mike thank you for sharing.
I don’t know much about pecans except to say that I have a few backyard growers around Arkansas that grow them quite well. I’d say that like any other plant they’d prefer soil that is well drained and high in nutritional value.
So much great info on here! Spent all day making raised beds out of my pine trees to plants my apple trees in!
Hey mike! Can I send a few photos to make sure I followed your directions correctly? Thanks for your time!
No, I can’t review photos. I never see incoming email. I don’t even go to the office. In our members area http://backyardgrowers.com/join, we do share photos all the time, but I just don’t have the time to do it here.
donna tunstall says
thank you mike i’ve enjoyed your articles, the information is so valuble. i’m gald your willing to share from the years experence. i watch you on youtube. again thank you, donna and God bless
Steve Evans says
Hi Mike, Good article, good information and good how to. The one thing I did not see was you telling folks to get a soil sample done before they amend their soil. I do the soil sampling for one of the counties in Florida and we only charge $3 per sample. Quite a nominal fee and if you are spending a fair amount of money for plants it is well worth the cost. I can’t tell you how many homeowners have come to me at the county extension office and told me they put down x amount of lime and then planted an azalea. Get to sample done!
I like to keep things as simple as possible, but you are right. Especially if you do things to alter the ph. It’s good to know where you are before you start changing things. I did make that recommendation in one of the comments under the article.
Thanks Mike for your advice.
Here is something I would love to share with you to man.
C-ya agine soon.
It is a very good article. Thank-you.
I find it amazing that common sense gardening is not all that common after all! If a tree or plant is wet after 3 days don’t water it, because it is sitting in clay! If it is bone dry after a day chance are you great drainage and need to amend with something that will hold onto the water. A good compost, until its time to water again then add a layer of mulch to keep the moisture in a little longer. Really not to difficult.
You can buy a book to tell you that but somewhere deep down inside of you (I hope) you knew that! I know that we all have those “DUH” moments and the older we get the more “DUH” moments we have.LOL!
If you are really into gardening, flower or vegitable, the first thing you do is take care of the soil. In ground you till it up and amend the soil. FOr raised beds you add good growing medium that will last a couple years. Then you amend the soil every couple years with some new compost.
Well your trees should be treated with the same respect.
Know your soil if it is a clay pot build it up. Raise the roots, raise the bed with stone or even landscape timbers. You can compost the nasty clay or purchase a product like “Revive” that helps break up a clay soil.
So in the long run, Know your soil amend regularly and you would be suprized how happy your trees and plants will be. Just a bit of common sense! LOL!
Mike, I have been in love with plants since my Grandfather began teaching me when I was 4 years old. Most of his teachings were about food crops and plants but, he had a small orchard of Peach, Plum and Apple trees and every harvest time, my Grandmother and my Mom would be in the kitchen canning and preserving basket upon basket full of fruits and vegetables. What my Grandfather was teaching was cut short however, he passed on to the other side when I was but almost 5.
I went to College to learn Horticulture but found out that after 3 years of hort. classes, my Colorblindness was really causing my advanced studies to suffer terribly so my Advisors suggested(strongly) that I find a different vocation or passion. I was not a happy camper to put it mildly. Then a couple couple years ago, I came across a link to your site.
I signed on right on the spot and have learned an absolute ton from you. Your ideas and practices have been such an inspiration to me that, you re-ignited my passion and love of all things green and flowering. Thank you so much for doing what you are doing, and I hope that you can continue for decades more. You and I are about the same age I would think and if we can keep our passions alive for growing things and of course making a few dollars in the process, we will always have something to look forward to. Thank you my friend for all your hard work and what you have been teaching.
Tom, thank you for your kind words. It delights me to know that what I do helps people I’ve never met. It’s one of the reason I do what I do. Thanks again.
they have colorblind glasses now. i hope that you can get a pair and pursue your love of growing things.
PDG Jake Karpfinger says
Thanks mike great info can you tell me where I can pick up yellow plum trees, and what type of soil do they like? Also do you know if goji berries can grow in waterford wi.Thanks again.Jake
alssasda asdam says
wow! many thanks for that amazing post. I really cherished it towards the main. Hope you retain posting this sort of amazing content pieces
Hi Mike – thank you very much for all the helpful information you pass along to all of us. I’m especially interested in the fruit tree info because I have, what I believe to be, a sick tree on the property. It is a peach that oozes a clear, gelatinous substance from the trunk at ground level. I’m new to living in TN and have never seen this before and am wondering if you or one of your readers can point me in the right direction. I went to the Extension Office and was told “the tree is going to die” with no other explanation. Hmmmm – seems like that should have had a “should have done” message attached. Thanks again.
If I had to guess I’d say that your tree is infected with Peach Tree Borer. A tiny boring insect that drills into the trunk of tree which is what causes the sap to run. Can you save it? On a non edible plant I’d suggest a systemic insecticide but for a fruit crop I wouldn’t use that. It might not die for a long time, but it won’t be all that healthy either.
I am all too familiar with these horrible pests!they emerge from their eggs in the soil around the base of the trees and attack in spring-pheromones have proven effective,but they have to be hung out in sticky traps by early May.Peach tree borers attack alot of trees,so control is a good idea.The traps can be gotten online at an organic gardening website.
About the bees.Mason,or wood bees,are the really big,but harmless(no stingers!)bees that eat into wood to lay eggs-but they are native bees that are FAR more effective than the (European)honeybees at pollination.Put out Mason bee houses(easy to make or buy)plant some zinnias and bee balm and watch them go!PS Avoid pesticides-they often kill the good bugs that eat the bad ones!
Charline Jolly says
My grandmother would dig around the base of her apricot trees and scatter something that smelled like mothballs, then cover it up again. We had no problems with borers!
Howard Morgan (Albuquerque weather man) recommends spreading moth crystals around base of tree about 1 foot out in the fall, cover with s layer of dirt. This will rid your tree of these pests. Have used this method and got great results.
Helen-Dig out that sticky goo and you will find the borer larvae-this will not harm the tree anymore than the bugs already have.I you don’t they will continue to bore around the base of the tree until they girdle it and it will die from disease or lack of nutrition.I had this problem and filled in these holes with wood putty and that seemed to work to keep them out of these areas.
The larvae are also dormant in the soil ,emerging in early spring-you can remove ,and replace with clean topsoil, the top 6 inches of soil around the base of the tree and this will diminish their numbers.
Then hang a pheromone trap or two on the tree’s branches by early May and this will attract and kill mating peach borers.Not finding any more new gooey spots will confirm you have conquered them!
John Swansey says
hello I was looking for some one with pear trees . but maybe I can pass this to you and you can help others . I bought a pear tree and planted it my back yard . and after 7 years of growth it did nothing but bear flowers and they would drop off . as I complained about it a friend told me to shock it . ?????
shock it what do you mean ? he said pick up a big stick or board and hit the trunk several times and he said then it would bear fruit , so one day I was cutting the grass and saw a two by four , so I picked it up and hit the trunk several times and said not pare r fruit , WELL on the 8,th year it was full of flowers and they all turned out to be a tree heavy with fruit
this is no joke . I would not tell this if it was not true
Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. Damaged plants often produce more flowers/fruit than perfectly healthy plants. Not sure that I advocate this, but often the tree at the end of the row in the nursery, the one that always gets run over, looks like the devil, but makes the most flowers.
I have that wonderful clay soil! You gave me some ideas to work with. thanks. You mentioned trees that were in a ball. How about bare root trees?
Bob Patrick says
Hi Mike, We have ground with a lot of chert and limestone in it, but it grows trees well enough. When it does not get to hot :(last year was a scorching 116) we get good crops of apples, have gotten good sour cherry crops, and ok plum crops and pear crops. However , we have a terrible time with brown rot on out peach and apricot trees. Nothing organic or non organic has helped this much. The peaches start off fine, but just as they are getting ripe the brown rot sets in.
Bob, I really don’t know the answer, here are some suggestions from OSU http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1406.html
Me,too-but when I read up on it,Mike’s advice on pruning and culling fruits is spot on-especially peaches-the growers remove all but the best one developing peach from each cluster,and prune in the dead of winter to open up the center of the tree.Apparently,peaches need lots of sun and ventilation!
I did this last year and had better success.I noticed that the ones I didn’t cull fizzled and rotted,so nothing was accomplished by trying to get more!
Charline Jolly says
Hi Bob Patrick, Blossom End Rot is caused by rain or too much irrigation while the fruit is forming. My grandfather watered his orchard only twice a year! The winter rains took care of the rest.
Try a worm bin to improve drainage. The worms aerate the soil and amend it too. Improves drainage and deep fertilizes too.
Karen Gadbury says
Thank you for the article, I have apple trees that havent produced well and since reading your article, I think I should transplant them. I started apple cuttings, and grape cuttings and my new grapes are already started leafing out. My forsythia cuttings are blooming. I enjoy learning and doing all that I can. Im ready for spring, and producing more.
Alice’s favorite cat, Chessie, said something to the effect that if you don’t know where you’re going, it makes no difference what road you take. In other words, if you drop $30 to $50 on fine root stock, and you don’t spent $15 on a soil test, you don’t deserve the apples that won’t grow. Every state in the country has some version of an Extension system at a College or University that can arrange a soil test. If not, most garden supply merchants can help.
Clay soil? Gypsum!(Calcium sulfate aka Sheetrock) No need to carve up the walls in the back room, just about any garden store has it by the bag, or can get it. It’s cheap, too. If you may be the type that wants to “put something on it,” try gypsum. It flocculates the clay particles. You should see what it does for tomatoes! And blueberries! Yikes!
Gary Marcell Weed says
Thank you for all you do Mike. I read all your articles and watch all your videos. It’s a little different zones because I live in New Orkeans. I am a licensed Landscape Horticulturist with a associate degree in Hirticulture. I learn a lot from you and I appreciate that.
Gary, coming from and industry professional I appreciate your comments. My son lives in Baton Rouge, I’ll be spending a few days in New Orleans soon then up to his place. They just bought their first home in Baton Rouge.
I have a Lime Tree and a number of other plants here in New Orleans and in clay soil, which I think I now understand I have drowned. My Lime Tree is alive and has been in the same spot for almost a year, but has shown no signs of flowering or fruit even though it did last year in its pot. The Agapanthus and Daisies I planted all look to be in various stages of death….
I just couldn’t understand.
My question is –
Should I try to dig up the Lime Tree and replant properly?
The tree should be replanted but digging it during the growing season is a bit risky, depending upon how long it’s been planted. The safest time to move the tree would be winter when the tree is dormant, or very early spring before it leafs out.
Mike, Great articles. You could write an entire chapter on each topic. I work at a 70 yr. old, family owned retail nursery. I’ve learned a lot in five yrs. there. Visit Edu. websites that have Fruit Science Depts. as part of their Ag Cirriculum; i.e., OR, WA MN, Cornell and more. Find the Growers websites, Dave Wilson’s is one I like. Learn about and support Mason Bee populations,(Genus Osmia, Family Megachilidae) as compared to honeyees(Family Apiae.)Mason bees, aka, Orchard Bees can polinate 1000 flowers/day. Proper planting is key and you’re right on with your suggestions. Also, Integrated Pest Mgmt, works well. Thanks for staying inspirational.
Richard, you lost me on the bee families which means I have something to learn. I agree on the Intergrated Pest Managment. We all need to work on that.
Mike, check out an article at urbanfarmonline.com,March/April 2013, on Mason Bees.
Daniel Koshak says
Your writing is absolutely correct and very helpful. It is also the method for Rhododendrum. You described an ideal scenario.
Your writings are familiar to the writings of Albert Glass,who published”Surgery with a Spade”.
He lived in Alta Vista, VA. and had a nursery there also.
Gloria Cortez says
Thank you for your valuable advice I just bought a pear tree and learned that I will have get another one for company. I have gravel and rocks in my yard and will need to buy top soil. Thank you.
David Ormond says
I have powdery mildew in my old red delicious apple trees. How can I get rid of it?
I don’t know where you live, but….I read somewhere that lavender is a companion plant for citrus trees. I grow lavender in pots [started doing it 3 years ago] beneath the orange trees as they seem more prone to powdery mildew and they have been free of the powdery mildew since then.
I live in north Florida and we have bug problems that are the stuff of nightmares! Add to that the humidity and salt in the air and many plants suffer because of that. The lavender is in pots because it can’t take our climate in the summer……I can move the pots to the shady side of the trees in summer.
Debbie Sheets says
The article had some good information for beginners. Would like to see some pruning articles on fruit trees. Also an easy guide to pollinators and why they are important to setting blooms for fruit. I have 40 + young trees and am right in the middle of a huge learning curve! I can use all the help I can get.
Ray Mason says
Try You Tube. Lots of videos about pruning fruit trees. Hope this helps.
I now know what’s wrong with my apricot and my asian pear.
I have clay soil out here in CA,and yes it is a challenge.
Thanks for the article. Do you think amending the soil with
clay busters is a good idea?
Linda, I don’t think clay busters will do any harm, but at this point I’m not sure how much good they will do.
Most people will think I am crazy but this works. We had several apple trees that never had fruit. In the early spring, my husband and I rolled up newspapers and beat the heck out of the trunk. Going all round and over the entire trunk. That year we had so many apples that we gave them away. Don’t know why it worked but it did.
Alan Bailey says
There is an old saying in England:
A woman, a dog and a walnut tree,
The more you beat them, the better they be!
I think we should just stick to the walnuts, or trees in general? Let’s not beat our dogs – or women! lol
Straus Davis says
He did say, it was an old saying, in England.. . He didn’t say, he believed in it…
Hi Mike, great info here. We have young fruit trees in our back yard, aiming at becoming self sufficient. 2 years ago we had so many peaches on the 2 trees we started with, that many of the branches broke, even after thinning the fruit. We pruned the trees back below the broken parts and shaped them up, then last year got no fruit whatsoever. Hopefully this year will be a happy medium, especially with what we’ve learned from this one article and the following comments. Our soil is clay (yuck) so we already knew about the bathtub effect. Once we master our own trees, we can branch out (yeah, pun intended) to offer our services to existing and future clientele. Thanks for all you do!
Charline Jolly says
In my childhood I saw fruit trees propped up with long poles so the heavy ripening fruit would not break off the branches. Maybe you can find a local contractor who would let you salvage some scrap wood for this purpose.
Sherrie Alleman says
I just wanted to thank you for all of the fantastic gardening advise you have given me over the years. I have learned so much from you and have corrected many of the mistakes I have made because of your advice. You have been a godsend.
Thanks Sherrie, I appreciate that.
I have enjoyed your writings for awhile now. Every gardener can learn something new even if it’s just a thought. About fruiting trees. We’ve had apple trees for years, sometimes they produce lots of fruit and it’s usually buggy and then some years not so much. Deer don’t care what apple it is, they love them buggy or not. You’ve got me to think that maybe our trees need a little loving care in the soil ingredients. We’ll try that this year. Keep me thinking, just like the good gardener that you are !!
Mike, Another great article, keep them coming. Here on the Gulf Coast of Texas we have heavy clay soil. When planting fruit trees, vegetables, and perennials, we use raised beds at least 2 to 3 feet high. We then compost all twice a year along with some feedings. This method has enabled us to have an abundant harvest of fruits, vegetables (year round)and flowers and berries that attract a large variety of birds and of course bees.
I been learning as I went along on my dwarf fruit trees. I have a pollination issue with my apple trees. Two are planted within 10 feet of each other but they won’t bloom together. Yes they are mates to each other. I studied hard on that issue. My 3 pear trees pollinate each other so pears are not a problem with them critters are! Ha! My peaches do well and since I got a Cocktail tree I now had plums , ( the name of the plum tree were lost so I had to get a tree that would pollinate any plum tree.) I got a heirloom eating cranapple tree to use as a buddy to the two. The problem is it blooms in April . The other two blooms in May. How do I get them to bloom together?? I have tried to everything in the tree growing book you can get. I have tried pruning the three together to see if that was the magic potion? One suggestion is to pour dishwashing old water into the roots. I plan to do that this year to see if it works. MY major issue with them is our hot wet spring and ceder trees for rust problems- the old time remedy is to drive a copper pipe next to them to prevent it. I did it on one tree last year and it worked! ( plus, chopping every ceder I can find) I enjoy your stories The two problem apples are in a drain off of poor soil, I will try to dig them out to see if that will work for me. Keep up the great tips!
John Mozina says
I can’t thank you enough. I was always wondering why I was not getting production out of my fruit trees. I have alot of clay in my soil. The first 2-5 inches is topsoil and underneath is clay. I put the trees in deep and put manure and topsoil down in the hole. I thought I was doing good but, I guess I was not. I put 10-10-10 around the trees for the season or the fruit stakes. I then have a layer of mulch on top. My trees consist of Apples, Peaches, Apricots,Pears, cherries, and Plum trees. I have a total of 29 trees.Some of the trees are between 1- 6 years old. Should I try to replant some of the new trees with the way your article states? What precautions should I do? How can I amend the soil around the older trees?I want to do this ASAP because the trees are still dormant. I live in Western Pa any and all help will be appreciated
replanting your fruit trees would probably help them a lot but you have to do so when they are completely dormant. Here in Ohio we usually have until mid April to dig plants, then as soon as the leaves appear the digging season is over until Thanksgiving. Just dig the, raise them and replant as described in the article.
Hey mike, thanks for the great info. I like the way you cover any topic with a mixture of wisdom and humility.
I honestly do not know why my cherry trees only produce pea-sized fruit that never get any bigger. I have four varieties of cherry trees and many other kinds of fruit trees and it is only the cherries that have a problem. The trees are very healthy and all my other trees produce excellent fruit, just not the cherries. I’ve tried to find the answer but haven’t so far. Is there something cherry trees need that other fruit trees don’t? They’re in the same dirt, same conditions, same everything. I don’t get it.
kathy isenhart says
Hi Mike, I have 2 peach trees & 1 apricot. The apricot & 1 peach tree do not do very well. The apricots that do grow usually fall off before they ripen. The peach tree only gets a few peaches. Help!
You do have a way with words, keep the good info coming!
Mike, I believe you!
I bought a $5 crabapple tree at Walmart one year on the end-of-season close-out special. The label claimed said it was really hardy, and since I lived on a north slope at almost 9,000 feet elevation in the mountains in Colorado, I figured I couldn’t go wrong – it was only a $5 tree! I didn’t have a lot of time to mess with it, so I just kinda scraped a shallow depression on top of the ground (the dirt was really hard to dig, anyway) and plopped the root-ball in that depression. I went and got a couple buckets of composted horse manure from the heap in the back yard that a neighbor had brought over, dumped that on top of and around that little tree’s roots, and stomped it down good. I watered it, then stomped it down some more. I’d learned what the winter sun can do to baby trees, so I spray-painted the trunk and main branches with white latex, then called it a year and let it sleep through the winter. Next spring, that $5 tree BLOOMED! I had bought trees, trees and MORE trees from different nurseries, and couldn’t keep a single one alive for more than a year or two, but that little crabapple survived AND bloomed at least the three years until we moved away – and all I did was cover it up with horse manure, then spray-paint the trunk so the sun wouldn’t split it. It even made a couple of 1/4″ crabapples!
John Koning says
Thank you for the informative and interesting article. I’d like to say that I read them all but it’s not true. It depends on my circumstances and your delivery. This one was a winner! I live on top of a drumlin (look that one up) in southern Ontario and, believe it or not, I need to worry about drainage. I can thank subdivision developers for that. It was sound information and …. you’re back in the will!
Thanks John, I appreciate being back in your will!!!
I grew a grapefruit tree from a seed. It is outside April-November, inside the rest of the year. It is 4-5 years old.Seems happy and healthy. Never shows any sign of blossoms. any suggestions.
I have two “flowering maples” which are inside outside in the same way. They “weeded up” last year, so I cut them back while they were resting. They esach have nicely shaped growth. In the past I’ve had these trees grow and flower for years. Any suggestions as to how they might flower? I really appreciate and enjoy your site and instructions, style and manner. I would love to get a few small trees and grow them here. I am in an assisted facility and don’t get around.
I have a Tangelo tree. It bloomed the first year and had a few tangelos and they were real good and juicy. Ever since that first year the tree has flourished, but not a flower has it made. Don’t know what to do. I have many other fruit trees around it, bees are coming around and it is planted in our ground soil, along with garden soil. Got any suggestions?
Charline Jolly says
Try scrounging a couple of buckets of used coffee grounds from your local Starbucks. Leave them in the buckets to ferment a little, then spread them around your balky tree, Take the empty buckets back to the cafe and get some more grounds. Repeat.
Thanks Mike, I plan to plant trees in my new landscape garden. I guess I will have to plant two apple trees to be successful. Great help in understanding how to plant and what to look out for.
I’ve had luck with a “2 in 1” apple tree. 2 apple varieties grafted onto 1.
Ed Adams says
Many fruit trees try to over produce. It can break branches, produce smaller fruit and stop bearing altogether the next year. Many have seen this curious effect of bearing every other year. It is best to reduce the amout of fruit you permit the tree to produce by removing some when it gets fingernail size. A rule of thumb is leave one per cluster and no closer than 5 inches apart. This will improve the size, quality and anual results.
Fred Moudy says
I have been following you for some time and have used your
advise, I am getting ready to take some cuttings soon.
I seem to have more luck when I cut them just as the buds are showing small signs of growing.
I also will be planting some fruit trees and my soil has
a lot of clay my area is on a grade and I removed about
three feet of soil, that the hole is 3 feet on the upper side and 0 feet on the lower side, now all I have to do is admen my top soil I am planning on using the same sand that you used in the starting beds.
I need some information my top soil will crack when dry
due to the clay in it, I want to turn it into a loam
what percentage of sand, clay, and composted material
would you suggest I use a canning jar to put some soil in
then fill it up with water shake it well then let it set
until it settles then measure the layer with a ruler.
I was planning to raise plants here but it is not allowed
in my area, I can make compost as long as it is for my own use so I had 18 landscapers hauling grass and leaves
in for me, they save money by making a short haul and I
have the compost.
One year I gave the local high school 6 tri axle trucks of compost and I have more than that now I didn’t take on any last fall because like you I am trying to build a business on line, and processing it costs me $200.00 dollars per month for my Kubota tractor and hours and hours of time.
OK I will be watching for your answer.
If you want to improve your clay I would use as much compost as you can til in, but I don’t think I’d add any sand. Sand can really compound problems with clay. Over time the compost should do the trick. Not allowed to grow plants??????? You’re allowed to garden right? That’s all most of us do is garden. As long as you don’t have people coming to your house your just gardening. http://freeplants.com/wanted.htm
Darrell Kilgore says
I don’t have fruit trees at this time ,but would like to have several dwarf type in the future. Great article Mike,keep it up!
Dom Dirienzo says
I have planted many fruit trees over the years, some with great success, and some with not much. But after reading your article I now know why. I have made many of the mistakes you mentioned, I am sure as you said there must be many more that have made these mistakes. I would suggest that you should publish a small article on the subject and put them up for sale. I found the article well written and to say the least fantastic.
I would like to tell you how I grew peach trees from pits.
I would take the pit from the peach and push it down along the outside of the foundation of my house, about 2 to 3 inches (the south side) the cold of the night and the warmth of the day on the cement would allow the peach to crack and start to grow in the spring. I have done this many times and have giving the peach trees to many people.
Keep up the good work, really enjoy your emails.
Gwill Jones says
You talk a lot of sense. It should be common sense but with most people it’s uncommon.
I have two very old apple trees on my property. Can I take cuttings from these trees and root them? The 2 trees that I am talking about bear fruit but the apples don’t get very big. These trees usually bear fruit around the end of July, but the apples tend to be always small, I know they are definately not crab apple trees. I would like to cut them down and plant new ones, but I thought if I could start some new trees from these trees I could aleast keep what was on this farm when I purchased it. Any suggestions?
Frank, most apple trees are grafted onto a root stock or a dwarfing root stock for a lot of different reasons, but if I were you I’d try this. http://airpropagator.com/
Jan K-Hanssen says
Thanks a lot, we do have clay soil, and we are going to plant some fruit trees.
Now they should have a fighting chance of surviving.
Regards from Norway.
Thanks for your articles Mike, I read each and everyone. Some people shall I say are just not great full for anything. Keep up the good work I am learning a lot.
Thank you! I appreciate it.
dick barcia says
I am now a cattle rancher and moving to south St. Petersburg, Fla. Right on the water. Temperature does not freeze so I will be growing avocados and mangos.
I live in Brooksville fla now and it gets cold up here. I am moving 70 miles south. Thanks for the tips on fruit plants. I know the tips will help
CHARLES HULETT says
Mike there stupid people in our lives and around us every day all that we can do is pray for them —just consider the source and don’t let it get unnder yer skin
i like your fine articles i have a file just for your posts alone —Keep up the good work !
Thanks Charles, I appreciate that!
Charline Jolly says
Sometimes people will knock off the fruiting spurs when pruning the tree. I have seen some really brutal pruning jobs. My grandfather had an apricot orchard in loose gravelly soil, and we picked huge truckloads of fruit every year. Sometimes he would have a stingy tree, and he would wrap copper wire around some of the branches. Aggh! Propagate the species before I choke!!
We would call the bee keeper and have hives brought to the back of the property. He would pick them up after the bloom. We were really careful to do any spraying before the buds swelled. Mostly we had healthy, bug free trees. We put something that smelled like moth balls around the base of each tree to keep the borers out.
what is the copper for? How many branches?
Charline Jolly says
Works by threatening the tree with strangulation. Limits the amount of sap to reach the branches. The tree produces a bumper crop to reproduce before it dies. Then remove the wire.
judy whitworth says
My apple trees are about 7yrs old and has never even had a flower blossom. I bend down the limbs this past fall I read that is to shame them to blossom. Will it work? I have no idea, till spring arives. I am ready to do most anything.
these trees look very handsome looks to me to be happy. Thank you for all the teaching that you do. I look forward to all your mailing.
diane d says
Great article ..appreciate it especially since we have clay soil which over the past 25 years we have amended with horse, sheep, chicken manure…garden area. We have 2 pear trees; when the pears are about the size of a golfball, suddenly one day there are NONE on the trees…..I have seen squirrels on the trees…could they be eating all of the pears?….e never see any pears on the ground. Deer?
Thanks for your help.
Charline Jolly says
I had a beautiful Nectarine in my yard. Tons of blossoms, some nice fruit, but I never got to taste it, the squirrels got it all just before it was completely ripe. They also feast on apples and Fuyu Persimmons.
Cindy Bode says
We have a mountain home in the San Bernardino Mountains od California (7,000 feet). The soil is virgin lake bed soil. We have planted 26 fruit trees with no need to amend the soil. The trees grow VERY well. Our problem is a frost each year at the end of May when the fruit tees are in full bloom. The frost damages the flowers
I need to write something on frost damage and how it can be prevented. Thanks for reminding me!
Used to be, in Southern California, numerous orange groves. Frost was always a problem, but growers used to put out ‘smudge pots’ when frost was forecast to warm the air around the trees. With the onset of ‘smog’ rules and laws, that method was eventually prohibited, and many growers saw profit in selling off their land to developers. Now, all of those ‘aromatic’ beautiful groves are gone for the most part, replaced by houses, shopping centers, industry, and malls. Wonderful, isn’t it !!!
Charline Jolly says
Back in the early days, my grandpa would listen to an agricultural radio station that would send out frost warnings before daylight. My uncle and grandpa would go out and light “smudge pots” filled with crankcase drainings. All the orchards had them. Talk about air pollution! There was an oily pall out of the Hobbit over the whole valley. Later they installed airplane propellerss on tall scaffolds to move the air along.