University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Possible Reasons for Few Apples in Backyard Orchards

September 28, 2000

Harvesting apples is a highlight of early fall. For many, it means a trip to the local orchard to purchase quality apples. For the backyard orchardists, it means harvesting the crop that has been cared for all season. But what if there is no crop or just a few apples? There are several reasons to consider when apple trees have a poor crop.

When growing any type of crop, the weather always has a major influence. For apples, one critical time is when trees are in bloom, as poor weather conditions during bloom can have a devastating effect on apple production. Cold, wet, windy weather while many apples were in bloom reduces the activity of pollinating insects. So even if your trees were in full bloom, those flowers may not have been pollinated. Without pollination, there will be no fruit.

If an apple tree blooms every spring but never seems to produce much if any fruit, it could be there is no pollinating source. Most apple varieties require another apple variety or a crabapple for cross-pollination. So if only one tree exists, or an isolated group of the same varieties, poor pollination means poor fruit production.

Pruning on a regular basis is needed to keep trees productive. Neglected trees will decline in fruit production. For good fruit production, apple trees need branches that are horizontal in orientation. If all the branches on a tree are vertical in growth, fruit production is likely to be poor. Early spring is a good time for pruning apples.

New plantings will take some time before fruiting. The exact time will vary, but trees need to become established before they start flowering.

Overall tree health is also very important. Water trees during dry periods. Avoid wounding the trunk or root system. Manage diseases and insect pests. Sound pest management helps keep trees healthy so they set fruit and also helps protect fruit once it has set.

So a variety of factors influence apple production. If your backyard trees are bare, hopefully a local orchard will still have the apples you are looking for. Then start thinking ahead to next season and getting your orchard back into a productive state.


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