Gardening: Why aren’t my apple trees producing fruit?

Question:

I have an espalier apple tree with three different varieties of apples in a pot near two apple trees growing in the ground. Last year I had many apple blossoms but only a few apples. If I move the espalier apple away from the other two apple trees, do I need another apple tree to plant alongside for pollination?

Sally Wong, Vancouver

 

Answer:

It sounds like a pollination problem from lack of bees. Insufficient cross-pollination problems of other apple trees is also a possibility. But with five apple varieties in your yard, I don’t think all are incompatible.

I wonder how many bees you have in your neighbourhood. Honeybees are in short supply everywhere., but in densely populated areas (small lots/townhouses etc) wild bees are also hard to find.

Wild bees are vital for pollination and die from pesticides just like honeybees.

I’d recommend your starting to keep mason bees. Their nesting tubes need very little space on house or shed walls, they never sting and are easy to keep. It’s too late this year to get kits of mason bee houses/egglaying tubes/cocoons, etc., but it’s something to keep in mind for next year.

Because the cocoons contain little living creatures, it would be best to order from a garden centre in very early spring. Usually when you buy a kit you are given instructions with it. Mason bees make a big improvement in fruit tree and berry crops and once you begin caring for them, you don’t have to buy a kit again.

There’s also a very good book, Pollination with Mason Bees, by Dr. Margriet Dogterom. It’s a gardener’s guide to managing mason bees for fruit production.

I doubt that adding another apple tree to your yard would help. Some varieties of apples are self-fertile, others pollinate only certain varieties and a few don’t cross-pollinate any other apples. Trying to match five apple varieties isn’t practical.

But did you know that crabapple trees are great pollinators for all apple trees.

I’d suggest adding a crab-apple tree to your yard. The fruit is small and acidic but makes delicious jelly and is quite decorative and so are the flowers.

A third possibility with your low fruit production is that the in-ground trees are just too young to bear much fruit. They may be concentrating on vegetative growth.

Your espalier tree may also be young, but it also could be the pot hasn’t been big enough. Planting this in the ground is a good idea.

 

Question:

How can I plant peppers from seeds  – in soil and in pots or in the ground?

Florence, Vancouver

 

Answer:

Peppers need to be started in sterilized potting soil in pots. This can be done on a windowsill or under a plant light in your house – or in a greenhouse or cold frame.

Now is the best time to do this because peppers are very slow-growing and can’t be put out until frost season is well over. The end of May is the very earliest it’s safe to plant peppers in the outside garden.

garden show this weekend. The Alpine Garden Club of B.C. Spring show and sale will happen noon to 4 p.m. and Saturday, April 4 in the Floral Hall VanDusen Garden, 37 & Oak, Vancouver. Alpines, shrubs, perennials – many treasures. Info: rose_marie_adams@
hotmail.com

Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her by email, amarri
son@shaw.ca Please add your region or city.

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