What to do with apple tree flowering and fruiting right now?

hkg1October 16, 2007

I am a first-timer to growing apples. I got a semi-dwarf 5-in-1 apple in spring this year (all low chill varieties ~ Anna, Dorsett Golden, Einshimer, Beverly Hills and Fuji). I planted it in a 15 gallon container. There has been not much growth and even very many leaves on the tree. It started to flower all of a sudden and is now setting fruits. Is this normal? I thought they should be flowering in spring, not fall. More importantly, what should I do? Pick out the small fruits or just let them stay and grow?

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My guess is you bought the tree bare-root from a home center. Your tree most likely had devistated roots from when the grower harvested it with an undercutting tractor, and has been spending the year recovering from it. You will get more growth next year.

Anna (good) will dominate the other varieties, followed by Dorsett Golden (good) and Ein Shemer (icky). Fuji (very good) and Beverly Hills (never fruited) don't stand a chance and those branches will not ever get much bigger. Fuji is worthy of it's own tree anyhow.

It is normal and expected for them to be flowering and fruiting now. Pick them off if you want, but it won't hurt fruiting in the spring to leave them on. They won't get very big, about golf-ball size. Next spring be sure to thin very heavily, and the Annas will get humongous.


    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 4:12PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

It's best for your very recently planted tree to remove all the flowers and fruits on the tree right now.

In fact it would be wise to remove the flowers for the next several years also, this to allow the tree time to develop a sturdy root system.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 12:54AM
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Agree with Jean. I would remove all the blossoms and fruit, at least until the tree is large and healthy enough to support a few. I don't know whether this would take one more year, or two, but certainly the root system must be given a chance to establish.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 2:57AM
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Ordinarily I would agree with Don, but given that you have it planted in a 15-gallon pot I would try to control growth by allowing it to fruit heavily, especially the Anna trunk. Otherwise, you're going to have to summer prune it back to keep it in balance with the other varieties.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 5:12PM
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Oops, Applenut, you are right. I failed to focus on that 15 gallon container. I always make the assumption that most people here plant fruit trees in the ground, but there seem to be an awful lot of containers too.

The average semi-dwarf rootstock, such as M-7, will normally develop a root system at least 10-12 feet in diameter, with feeder roots extending beyond that. Root depth can be 3 feet or more, depending on soil type. In a container of this size, a semi-dwarf apple tree could be rootbound in two years or less, with roots curling around and back upon themselves.

As for topgrowth, I have some vigorous varieties on M-7 that would easily be 16 feet tall absent regular pruning, preferably in the summer. Having said that, there is great variation in growth vigor among varieties. Spigold is the highest vigor cultivar I have grown; Braeburn the lowest.

Fully dwarfed rootstocks, such as M-27, would be better for containers, unless you are prepared to dismantle the pot and root prune every 2-3 years or so, and what a chore that would be.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 7:35PM
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If he got the Home Depot bare-root 5-in-1 tree, it's on M27 rootstock. I got the same thing 4 years ago and it's barely 4' tall with a trunk as thick as a hockey stick. I will say it's all heart, exploding with blossoms and apples, which keeps pruning to a minimum (about 4" a year off the top) An early borer attack probably helped stunt the growth also.

I also have a Scarlet Sentinal columnar tree that I've heard derogatory remarks about, but ours bears reliably and heavily and the apples are very good and unaffected by the late heat. This would do well in a pot also.


    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 10:26PM
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Thanks everyone for your advice! It is very helpful!

Applenut, you are 100% correct! I got my tree from Lowes when they had it on clearance for $5. Wasn't planning to get it but just couldn't resist the price. Like you mentioned, the Fuji and Beverly Hills are definitely not competing very well with the others ~ they did not have much growth and no flowers. I am planning to plant it in the ground next spring. I am also planning to get a separate Fuji tree next spring. In the meantime, I guess I will try to let the Anna and Dorsett Golden to keep some fruits like you suggested. But I do have another question: you mentioned the tree is expected to flower and fruit this time of the year. Does it mean we can have 2 crops of apple every year, one from spring flowering and one from fall? It would be great!

By the way, can anyone advise me on the difference between bareroot trees (I mean like the ones you find in the home centers) vs. bench graft trees? Are bench graft ones better than the bareroots?

Also, does anyone know of a good source to buy low chill apples? I have heard of a variety called Tropic Sweet but could not locate a place to buy it in So Cal.


    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 11:29PM
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You will get two crops, but the second crop won't get very big- golf ball sized typically. On Anna and Dorsett Golden it won't hurt the tree, as these are both maniacs and anything you can do to slap them down is helpful.

Forget worrying about getting low chill apples. I grow about 100 varieties here in zone 10a and they fruit just fine. From what we picked the last couple of weeks, I recommend Wealthy, Rubinette, Tydeman's Late Orange, Hawaii, Royal Limbertwig, Rome Beauty, Gala, Williams' Pride, Golden Delicious, Delicious (Hawkeye), and any of the classics like Spitzenburg and Newtown Pippin.


    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 2:38AM
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