It can be disheartening to step outside to admire your fruit trees, only to find that some fruit have fallen to the ground. However, fruit drop in fruit trees is a natural occurrence and shouldn’t be cause for alarm – anytime you have visited an orchard, you have probably witnessed a mild scattering of undeveloped fruit on the ground. In most cases, there is little that can be done, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce fruit drop. Below are several strategies to address premature flower or fruit drop issues commonly observed in various types of fruit trees during the summer months.
Reasons for Premature Fruit Drop
When the branches are laden with heavy fruit, they will shed some to lessen the strain. Other factors may be more pernicious, from adverse environmental conditions to pests and disease. Poor pruning, inadequate pollination, and poor growing conditions can also exacerbate fruit or flower drop. Some species, such as apples, encounter several periods in which fruit drop occurs. Fruit trees will undergo a thinning process in which unpollinated flower petals and very small fruits fall off, a phenomenon that often goes unnoticed. Apples and other deciduous fruit bearing trees will shed fruit for a second time during May or June. This process is known as ‘June drop’ and is caused in response to increased competition and inadequate resources.
Fruit drop may be attributed to:
- Fungal diseases or pests
- Inadequate pollination
- Inconsistent watering regime
- Lack of nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, or calcium
- Insect attacks
- Subpar soil, especially heavy soils with poor drainage
How to Lessen Fruit Loss
1. Water Fruit Trees Properly
An inconsistent watering schedule can lead trees to drop fruit, as there isn’t enough energy to support fruit production. To help young fruit trees become established, water them once or twice weekly. Apply a bucket of water slowly so that the roots soak it up. During periods of intense heat, they will require more frequent watering every three to four days.
In the midst of scorching temperatures, protecting your trees from moisture loss is crucial. This watering ring kit utilizes donut-shaped bags that surround your trees, allowing you to easily control the soil quality, neatly contain mulch, and protect your tree from moisture loss and other adverse environmental conditions. Placed under or over mulch, these UV-resistant watering bags provide slow-release irrigation to the roots of your tree, reducing shock and stress.
2. Thin Fruit Trees and Compost Scraps
Periodic fruit thinning can prevent fruit drop and lead to better producing fruit trees. When your fruit trees are forming fruitlets (small or unripe fruit), typically in June, is the ideal time to assess your fruit trees and remove any excess fruit. Depending on the variety of tree, the quantity to be removed varies, but usually comprises 50 – 90% of the fruit. Try to locate underperforming or malnourished plants and then remove them from the tree using thinning snips or scissors; you may also pluck them using your fingers. Leave about 6 inches between clusters.
After you are done thinning, discard the fruit into the compost bin. For a sustainable way of composting that eliminates the hassle, invest in an in-ground worm composter. Designed to be implemented in Vego raised garden beds, Vego Garden’s worm composter is an in-ground composter that enables you to compost in your garden bed.
Apples: The process is fairly simple: locate clusters of fruits and remove small or blemished fruit while keeping the largest fruit. In instances of poorly formed clusters, all the fruits may need to be removed.
Pears: Typically pared down to two fruits per cluster, pears usually require less thinning than apples. Unlike with apples, there is no central cluster, but rather the largest fruit are positioned near the bottom.
Citrus: For citrus fruits, only 20 – 30% of fruit is removed. Citruses usually produce pea-sized fruit about a month after bloom, and it is recommended to wait until then to thin.
3. Grow Fruit Trees in Raised Garden Beds
Some proven benefits of growing your plants in raised garden beds are improved fruit blush color, more even fruit maturity, and an increased total yield. The reflective material technology in Vego’s galvanized raised beds have shown to be conducive to fruit development. Circular garden beds, including this compact twin pack, are perfect for berries, shrubs, and small fruit trees.
Those that are seeking something different can consider growing the striking dragon fruit plant using this self-watering planter. The dragon fruit plant is actually a cactus, and requires a specialized trellis to support its water-filled branches. Preferably grown in US hardiness zones 9 – 11, dragon fruit can be wheeled inside or grown indoors, provided they are in a location that receives plenty of light.
4. Cover Trees During Periods of Adverse Weather
Freezing temperatures can cause damage to flowers, resulting in fruit drop or fruit loss. Dry winds can also damage citrus fruits, and while they may still cling to the branches, the flesh will dry and become desiccated. If you suspect an upcoming cold wind or freeze, protect your trees using frost covers.
5. Maintain Nutrient Levels
Nutrient deficiencies or excesses will produce abnormal fruit or stunt development. A soil test can be conducted to identify any problems linked to nutrients. Citrus trees are heavy feeders and should be supplied with a fertilizer high in nitrogen. Potassium deficiencies in citrus, reflected in yellowed leaves, can decrease yields by causing drastic fruit or flower drop. This can be remedied with a balanced fertilizer or fertilized with seaweed extract, wood ash, or potassium sulfate.
6. Attract Pollinators to the Garden
Most apples are unfruitful, meaning they must be pollinated by those of another variety. With the dwindling number of honeybees, it is more important than ever to promote pollinators to your garden. To attract pollinators, dedicate a plot towards pollinator-friendly plants – asters, bee balm coneflowers, sunflowers – which are often native to the area. Often vibrantly colored, they integrate well with vegetable blooms and fragrant herbs.