Why does my fruit tree have no fruit?

Fruit trees planted in climates to which they are adapted produce good crops almost every year. In many climates, due to varying winter and spring weather, crops for certain kinds of trees are not expected every year.

Failure to set fruit has various possible causes. If a fruit tree variety requires another variety as a pollenizer, the two trees must be in bloom at the same time - which might not always happen. Relative bloom times can vary significantly from year to year and climate to climate.

A common cause of no fruit crop in some climates is a hard spring frost which kills all the buds, blossoms, or small fruit. Backyard trees or parts of trees can be covered to protect from frost, but the main prevention is to plant varieties adapted to the climate: varieties with frost hardy buds that typically bloom after danger of hard frost is past.

Given too much fertilizer and water during the growing season fruit trees can go into "vegetative mode" wherein few or no fruit buds for the following year are produced. Such trees are lush, vigorous and healthy, but have little or no fruit. Most deciduous fruit trees produce better with a little stress: winter cold, hard pruning, and just enough water and fertilizer.

Severe disease pressure during bloom can devastate a crop. Minimize this possibility by planting kinds of fruit and varieties adapted to your climate and learn about local spring spray requirements by contacting your local fruit tree retailer and your Cooperative Extension office and Master Gardener program.

The reason for no crop was probably apparent during bloom or shortly thereafter. Did the tree have blossoms? Was there a hard freeze or hail or constant rain? Were the bees active during bloom? Was the pollenizer variety in bloom at the same time? Were the blossoms free of disease? Observation is essential in learning to be a good fruit grower.

For more about home fruit growing, see Getting Started.

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