Apple Tree not Fruiting

(Question)

Hello== I live at Sauble Beach. Since I moved here 8 years ago, an apple tree in the front yard has never produced a blossom and therefore, an apple.
It gets very little sunlight, which I think is the problem. I do fertilize. The tree is about 12 feet tall and is staked and mulched.
There are mature maple trees 20 and 30 feet away, as well as a 12 foot tall cedar hedge, about 40 feet away.
If it is never going to produce fruit, I prefer to cut it down and plant something ornamental, or make another hosta bed.
Many thanks

(Answer)

Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners.

There are many things that can inhibit an apple tree from producing apples. Because your tree is not producing blossoms we can assume it is not an issue of lack of pollinators.

There is a good chance your problem is over fertilization. You mention you are fertilizing regularly. Is there also fertilizer being added on nearby lawn and other plants? If a tree receives too much fertilizer it can become over vigorous and spend its energy on new growth rather than fruit production. Most garden soil has the nutrients needed by trees especially if you are using mulch which adds nutrients as it breaks down. It is often recommended not to add fertilizers without having your soil tested first. I am including a link below with places you can have your soil tested.

Another concern you have is the amount of light reaching the tree. Is your tree in a bright area getting indirect sunlight as well as some direct sun or is the area fairly dark? Literature says it should have at least 8 hours of sunlight a day.

You did not say you had pruned the tree so I am assuming this is not the issue. Incorrect pruning at the wrong time of year can cause issues if the buds are inadvertently removed. The links below have information on how and when to prune apple trees.

You mention that the tree is staked after 8 years. The latest guidelines on tree planting recommend staking only when there is a lot of wind in the location and even then for a maximum of a year. Staking for long periods does not encourage strong root growth and creates a weakness on the trunk at the level where it is tied. It can also cause damage to the bark of the tree.

Before giving up on your tree it may be worth stopping the fertilizers, removing the stake and giving the tree a fresh ring of mulch around its base. Please ensure the mulch does not touch the bark. Leave a ring of bare dirt so air can get to the trunk to avoid damage and rot at the base of the tree. Make sure it is well watered before the ground freezes.

I have included some links below for further reading. Good luck.

https://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/resource/soillabs.htm

https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/growing-apple-trees-in-the-home-garden

https://extension.psu.edu/home-orchards-why-is-there-no-fruit-on-my-tree