Did your fruit trees flower and set fruit this spring? If not, what can you do to encourage flowering and fruit sets? In this segment, we'll explore some common problems and how to mitigate them.
If your trees are young, less than four years in the ground, you may not get any or few flowers in the first two to three years. It’s best to remove all fruit from trees. Trees that have fruit too soon don't have the vegetative growth needed to bear fruit in later years. Remove the fruit early in the season to encourage vegetative growth.
If your trees produced very heavy crops last year, they may not produce many flowers or fruit this year. On the other hand, if you lost the 2020 crop to frost, your trees may have set a huge crop this year. This is called alternate bearing, and it can be a significant problem.
If you have a heavy crop of fruit, it needs to be thinned. Apple and peach fruit should be roughly six inches apart on limbs. When thinning, you would like to remove more fruit than is left. Try to leave the largest fruit as you thin. Thinning will improve fruit size and encourage flower buds to develop for next year as well.
Many apple and peach trees want to grow branches that grow straight up. Positioning limbs from vertical to horizontal reduces the vegetative vigor and encourages the formation of flower buds for next year. These buds are already forming on fruit trees for the 2022 crop. You can encourage limbs to be less vertical by hanging weights on them or using twine to tie them to a less vertical position.
Sometimes older apple trees become reluctant to set fruit. If this happens, they can be encouraged to produce fruit buds by taking a clean knife and making a single cut around the trunk about a foot above the ground level in early June. Cut about one eight to one-quarter of an inch deep.