No fruit on my apple tree in my back yard !

(Question)

Hello, I live in the Victoria Park and Danforth area of Toronto. About 7, or 8, years ago I planted an apple tree, not sure what variety, but it produces very few blossoms, and practically no fruit. I also planted cherry trees about 3 or 4 years ago, that grow no fruit, and a plum tree, and a pear tree that seems to be diseased, I’m not sure. I’ve been trying to find out as much as possible on my own. But perhaps I need someone to come to my house to look at my trees?  Thank you.

(Answer)

Thank you for writing. Well, it’s definitely a shame that you’ve hit a patch of bad luck with your fruit trees. But there are always solutions, and the best place to start is at the beginning. Because you’ve already begun some research yourself, herein I’ll outline, in broad brush strokes, the 6 basic needs for healthy fruit tree development.

1. First, fruit trees must be of a certain age before they produce. Depending on the type, and variety, this can vary from 3 to 7 years. Try to identify the variety of your trees, and then check the specific fruiting age for each.

2. Pollination is key: trees require pollination to be able to set fruit. If any tree is not self-pollinating, it needs a compatible pollinator planted nearby. Hence, pollinators like bees, birds, and wind need to be present. Regarding self-pollinating, or not, tree ID will be necessary.

3. Weather hardiness: fruit trees need a sufficient amount of days of cold, for a consecutive period, during their winter dormancy, or fruit production will suffer. Conversely, a late frost can zap  blossoms, or young fruit. Not too warm, not too cold, but just right! 

4. Pruning: trees that are regularly pruned are much more apt to produce quality fruit. Knowledgable pruning is worth studying, related to each type of tree. 

5. Soil conditions: it is very important that your trees have the right balance of reserve food, soil elements, and ground water. And having your soil tested will give you plenty of insight into your garden’s — and trees’ — condition.

6. Spacing: fruit trees that are planted too close to one another will compete for soil nutrients, air and light. You didn’t mention the size of your back yard, but it may be possible that your trees are planted a bit too close to your house, or garage? Your area of Toronto has homes, as do many of our century-old city streets, with lot sizes averaging from 25′ to 35′ wide, to 150′ deep. From one who knows, it might be a tad difficult to expect more than 2, or 3, mature fruits trees to stretch their limbs comfortably, and flourish. 

On this note, rest assured that many gardeners share your concerns, and you are by no means alone! Susan Poizner’s Growing Urban Orchards contains a full palette of concise, well-presented information.  You may also be intrigued by her e-book on growing fruits, and, further, you will see, Poizner offers seminars.

The link to her book: http://www.orchardpeople.com/book/

And finally, related to your interest in a house call, you could contact Landscape Ontario to help with consulting an arborist:   http://www.landscapeontario.com

You’ve possibly discovered that many of your issues have been addressed in related Toronto Master Gardener answers, and guides, a few listed here:

Regarding pollination:  http://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/index.php/askagardener/apple-pollination/

And cherry trees: http://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/index.php/askagardener/fruiting-cherry-trees/

And for your apple tree: http://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/index.php/askagardener/pruning-fruit-trees/

And regarding pear trellis rust: http://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/index.php/askagardener/pear-trellis-rust-3/

All the very best  as you discover more about your trees, and nurture them to become healthy, robust and productive. Please let us know of your achievements!