Fruit trees are fickle, and while everyone wants a bumper crop of pears and apples, but few realize the delicate balancing act that must be maintained. For most of my childhood, my dad always wanted to plant fruit trees. He’d done the garden thing to death and wanted something new. I remember how excited he was when his peach, apple and pear trees arrived. Every day, he was out there and those trees grew and flourished.
He knew that it would take a few years before they would bear any fruit, but after about four years without so much as a bloom, he started to worry. Were his trees diseased, duds, or was there some other reason why they bore little or no fruit every year? It turns out there was a simple explanation and few years later, we had our first bumper crop. Here are a few reasons why trees may not be blooming or bearing fruit.
Is Your Area Right for the Tree?
Many times people want the fruit and nuts from the trees, but don't think if their climate and area is right for it. One tree is not the same as another. They may look the same on the outside but their tolerances are different. You’re not going to grow an avocado tree in the coldest reaches of Alaska. You need to do some research on your area's average temperatures and see if the tree can survive and thrive in a harsh winter. Frost and cold temperatures can keep trees from blooming, even though they may look fine. On the other hand, some trees required temperatures to be below 45 degrees during dormant periods. Too many or too few chill hours and good luck getting any fruit. Pears have a high chill hour requirement, while peaches have a low requirement.
You hear food gurus talking about empty calories and how you can eat and eat, but still not be getting the nutrients you need. It’s the same way for a tree. If you soil doesn’t have many nutrients to make the tree strong, then it will look stunted, bear little or no fruit or drop it early. In essence, your tree’s eating plenty of ramen noodles, but not getting any nutrition. On the flipside, a soil high in nutrients, but not much food can have similar effects. The tree may look great with lush leaves because it’s getting all the nutrients it needs, but won’t bear fruit because it doesn’t have enough food in the soil. This is what happened to my dad. He put so much nitrogen into the soil that the trees never bloomed.
My dad thought that a big tree that had lots of branches meant that it would bear much fruit. He pruned off dead limbs and such, but didn’t do a thorough job. It wasn’t until he called in a professional trimmer that the trees were pruned correctly. He was shocked at how much he trimmed and turned the trees basically back into sticks. Like everything else with fruit trees, pruning is about balance. Too much pruning and the branches that are left could be over burdened with fruit and too little and you might not get much fruit at all.
(For more particulars on pruning, check here.)
My dad only had a few good years with the fruit trees before we moved, but I can still go by those trees today and see how they’ve grown. I don’t know if the new owner has had any luck, but I’ll never forget my first pear from our fruit tree… it was hard as a rock.