The Worthy Work of Fruit Trees
When delicious fruit – from your own trees – appears on the table, your labor will be well worth the effort.
Few emotions are as predictable as pride from harvesting a bountiful crop from the garden. Something primal about the harvest is encoded in our DNA; a sense of worth that still affects all of us even though we may no longer rely on this harvest for day-to-day survival.
Unfortunately, some gardeners will be disappointed in this year’s harvest, and this fact may already be apparent this early in the season.
“Why won’t my fruit tree produce fruit?” is a question that will echo from the walls of garden centers, extension offices and local coffee shops, as it does every year. And, just as in years past, there will be no one correct answer.
Producing a good fruit crop from an apple, pear, cherry, peach or other favorite fruiting tree is not as easy as putting out that tomato plant, adding some water and fertilizer, and shazam the fruit starts coming.
Fruit trees tend to be a finicky bunch when it comes to bearing a good harvest. That is unless the home orchardist has a good understanding of the plants’ needs.
The most common cause for lack of fruiting is simply the age of the tree. These plants need to gain a maturity before they have the energy to produce fruit. This time frame varies with the type of fruit tree. Apples may begin to put on fruit in 3 to 5 years, peaches in 2 to 4, and cherries may take up to 7 before they are ready to produce a crop.
Fruit trees also do not like competition for food and water from neighboring plants. A fruit tree may look like it is growing well in a situation with grass growing right next to the trunk. But this grass is competing with the tree for energy sources needed for flower initiation and fruit production. If you look at commercial orchards, plant growth is kept clear well away from the trees. Grass nestled under the tree may be fine for other landscape trees that aren’t expected to produce fruit above and beyond their normal growth, but it can slow the productivity of your fruit trees.
Annual fertilization should be applied to aid fruit trees in meeting the high energy requirement of fruiting, along with irrigation during dry periods of the year. When we see plants blooming outside their characteristic time because of extreme stress, these fruiting areas will most likely not be regenerated in time for the next season’s bloom and fruiting.
Regular pruning of fruiting trees is a must. Pruning accomplishes several things important to fruit production. Opening trees up to allow sunlight penetration into the canopy helps create a better quality fruit because it is exposed to sunlight, and the sunlight that reaches all the branches will encourage new buds that are able to produce fruit.
Know what trees and varieties are best suited to your climate. In my climate zone, peach trees grow very well. But the bad part is these trees may only produce fruit every five years because blossoms and buds are often damaged by late spring freezes.