Hi. I have a large old crab apple in the front yard. Normally it is covered in pink blossoms in the spring. This year it had maybe 10 blossoms. What would be the cause of not flowering at all? Then to add insult to injury a squirrel built a nest at the top of it and has been “harvesting” the crab’s twigs and leaves all summer to fortify it’s nest so now the top of the tree is quite bare of leaves. Is there any worry for the tree being stripped of leaves like this? There still are some and I know it may stimulate growth for next year but part of me wants to evict the squirrel and the other part just wants everything to take it’s natural course. Love to hear your thoughts. I have no pics this unfortunately.
Sorry to hear that your crab apple tree did not preform well this year.
There are a number of reasons why bloom production could be reduced: age, fertilizer, weather, sunlight, disease, and pruning practices.
If a crap apple tree is either too young or too old bloom production is greatly reduced. Older trees that are declining may also stop flowering every year. There are also some cultivars of crab apple that bloom lightly one year and abundantly only the next. This type of of biennial flowering is called “alternate bearing” and it’s largely genetic. Do you know if your cultivar is an annual bloomer?
Most trees and shrubs benefit from a yearly application of organic compost. This will add much needed nutrients to your soil along with improving the texture and quality of your soil. Have you been feeding your tree on a regular basis?
Weather can be a major contributor to bloom production. A dry summer the previous year can lead the tree to taking a year off blooming in order to recover from the trauma. If possible, always water your crabapple deeply during a drought. If the tree forms buds in early spring and there is a late frost or freeze ( as there was this year), the buds can be killed.
Crabapples require full sun inorder to flower. If your tree is shaded this will also result in poor flower production. Is your tree located is a sunny location?
Apple trees suffering from various diseases (scab and fire blight are the worst) may see their flowering reduced or eliminated, especially when the disease goes untreated. It may be necessary to treat certain crabapples with fungicides in order to obtain good flowering. One crabapple disease that affects flowers directly is fireblight. Fireblight is a bacterial disease. If the tree is infected, the petals will fall from the flowers and the flowers will turn brown and dry up. The infection runs through the tree, blackening branches and killing foliage. Are you seeing any evidence of disease in your tree?
Lastely, improper pruning practices can result in a tree with no blooms. Flowering crabapples should be pruned after the fruit has been harvested but before new growth begins in the spring. If you prune the dead, damaged and diseased branches and remove crossing branches only,this type of pruning will not prevent your tree from flowering. But, if you cut back last year’s growth for size, you are removing all the buds that would produce the current year’s flowers.
Now, on to your next issue , squirrels! We have a lote of information on our website on controlling squirrels. Simply type Squirrels in the Find It Here box, located to the right of the page.
The following information is from one of our archived posts:
“Squirrels chew off the ends of branches for a number of reasons: to build nests (usually in late spring), to access the nutrients or sugars in the tree, to sharpen their teeth, or out of boredom. Usually this activity only occurs for a short while and will not damage your tree.
If you have bird feeders on your property, you may want to remove them as they may be encouraging squirrels to hang around.
I also have a problem with squirrels and have tried things like Skoot and mothballs and have not found these products to be effective. Another thing I have heard of is sprinkling blood meal about but I cannot vouch for its effectiveness. I have heard that coyote urine is effective. It can be obtained in granular or liquid form from big box stores such as Canadian Tire or Home Depot. If you bought the liquid kind you could spray it high on your trees. It smells bad to people too though and in addition, it would need to be reapplied after rain.
Another possibility is placing a metal band 2 ft wide around the tree, 6 ft off the ground to stop squirrels being able to climb the tree. In order for this to work on a particular tree, there can’t be any other trees within 8 ft as the squirrel will just jump from one tree to another. The band should be fastened in the back by attaching the wire on one end to springs on the other end. The springs allow the tree to grow while keeping the metal band in place.
Pest removal companies advise against trapping squirrels because new animals will simply move in and begin breeding, ultimately increasing the number of squirrels.
It is incredibly frustrating and annoying to have squirrels chewing on one’s trees, but it’s usually for a relatively short period of time and usually does not weaken the tree, although it can cause aesthetic damage. Unfortunately, there’s no sure fix for the problem and you might have to try a few things before settling on the solution for your yard.”
Hope this helps!