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bloom and fruit set

Posted by displacer 6 (My Page) on
Sat, Aug 21, 10 at 2:20

Hello! I am new to the forum (but have spent some time reading back) and I am hoping to get some advice on how to get fruit to set.

I have four trees. Two came from Four Winds Growers and are an Improved Meyer Lemon and a Eureka Lemon. They are currently 6-7 years old (I bought them as 2-3 year old plants in 2006). Two came from I know not where - they were a gift from my parents, and were bought at some local nursery or other here in Louisville KY. They are a Minneola Tangelo and a Washington Navel Orange. I got them in 2006 also and I have no idea how old they are. They each started out about 5 feet tall but seemed to be fairly recent grafts (maybe 2 or 3 years post-graft) despite the height.

All four live in containers and get full sun all day in the back yard during the summer, and come indoors for the winter to live next to a window and under grow lights. I keep them propped up on bricks, both outside during the summer, and indoors in the winter (the bricks are put into the drip pans so the plants don't stand in water).

The first year I had the plants, the tangelo produced 12 fruit, and the navel orange 2 fruit. The lemons were tiny so I pinched off their flowers, and furthermore the Meyer caught a bad case of foot rot and nearly died.

Since then, I have had great difficulty getting fruit to set and I'm hoping I can get some advice. Every fall when it starts to get cool the trees bloom like crazy, and then they do it again in the spring when I start the outdoor sun-hardening, but I'm lucky if I get 3 fruit to set on one tree, and I've never gotten more than 6 fruit in any given year off of the four trees combined.

Every other year I knock the oranges out of the pots, claw a bunch of soil off the root ball, trim the roots, and then repot them back into the same containers in a fresh soil mix (32-quart plastic pots). The lemons, which started out very small and have been growing rapidly, have gotten a pot upgrade every year until this year. They went from 8 inches to 10 inches to 12 inches, and then this year the Eureka went into a 21-quart. The Meyer lemon didn't get a pot upgrade because it was busy re-growing all the leaves I cut off it in November to get control of an Alternaria outbreak. It is doing great now! But it didn't need to be repotted because it didn't really grow this year. Next year it will get the 21-quart treatment.

In general, the trees grow quite well, and aside from the bad luck the Meyer keeps having, they are pretty healthy.

They just don't set fruit.

These last two years, the Eureka lemon has wanted to just explode with vegetative growth and it's hard to keep the size of it in check, so I'm wondering if I'm giving them too much nitrogen. My fertilization schedule is really not a schedule at all - I give the lemons, which are smaller, two tablespoons each of Citrus-tone and a little handful (maybe 2 tablespoons - it's not much but I don't measure it) of extra blood meal. The oranges, which are much bigger, get double that. This is about once a month but I don't keep a rigid schedule, and this year it's been less than that due to having to handle a scale issue.

Most years, whenever I think about it, I give them a liquid seaweed foliar spray + drench, but this year they haven't gotten that due to the scale thing. The scales are cleared up on three of the trees, so I'm going to start doing that again on the cured trees as soon as this brutal heat lets up.

I don't really grow the trees for the fruit. I really grow them just because I enjoy them, even when they bite me. But it was pretty discouraging to once again, this spring, see flowers break out everywhere on all four trees and get only 4 fruit total to set.

Any ideas would be appreciated!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: bloom and fruit set

Hello and welcome..:-)

If you are not growing them for fruit, then why do you want fruit to set..?

If you are getting lots of blossoms, then most would feel very lucky!
The scale thing is a concern though....What makes you think that feeding them or spraying them with seaweed fertilizer will make it worst?

Have you tried spraying your trees with a very good FE or garlic water, or Neem oil? I would definitely rid your trees of these nasty critters right away...They do affect fruit set. It is also normal for most lemon meyer trees to drop tons of fruit in a container, although some are lucky and manage to get a lot of fruit, depending on the tree and their cultural habits along with the environment and temps they are subjected to....

Are you against using chemical fertilizers? Why are you putting things in your mix that clog the pore spaces and encourage root problems?

Nutrients that citrus needs in relatively large amounts are nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur and "calcium". In lesser amounts, citrus requires iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, boron and chlorine.

Do the organics your providing have all these? How quick will they take up the nutrients and how reliable are they for your fruit set or at the time of fruit set?

Watering habits, environment, fertilizers, soil mix, salt damage, pH, pests,are just some factors that cause fruit to not set..Have you eliminated one at a time..? Can you remember a time when they did set fruit and what you can attribute to that?

My Orange trees will set at least 12 fruit if I let them, and right now I have at least 15 lemons on one of my meyer lemons. I also had at one point 9 grapefruit on my tree..But last year I had more or less, can't remember. The year before that I had more..But as you say, I grow them for the fun, but most of all for the fragrance! I usually pick off most the fruit when they start to develop.

You will get many more ideas...

Mike


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RE: bloom and fruit set

I don't grow them for the fruit, but I still want fruit! :D

The scale are being dealt with and are not an issue. I am using a combination of acetamiprid and dinotefuran applied in the shade, either of which will kill scale alone (I have tested this) but since I am not in the business of trying to breed a more resistant scale I am hitting them with both. It works really, really well. The scale are only one one tree now, and that's only because I had to do them in series instead of all at once due to space issues.

The dinotefuran is a drench and the acetamiprid is a foliar spray, so both of them interfered with my usual fertilization/drench/foliar routine. I didn't want to mix in extra stuff with the pesticides, apply it on top of them, dilute them, or frankly encourage the trees to grow while they had pests on them. Growth is for when the pests are gone.

So I am obviously not opposed to chemicals. I use the more organic fertilizers mainly because I know what is in them. But apparently there is something missing because the fruit rarely sets! All the nutrients for vigorous growth seem to be front-and-center but whatever a plant requires to set fruit is missing.

I mean, it's not why I grow the plants, but I still want fruit. Dinotefuran is not labeled for edibles and so it's probably a good thing I only got 4 fruit this year because I had to cut them all off anyway, but next year I would like fruit.

"Have you tried spraying your trees with a very good FE or garlic water, or Neem oil?"

Every pest I've used Neem oil on has eaten it for breakfast, and that includes both spider mites and scale, and I was using the Dyna-gro Neem. I am not a believer in Neem. The most Neem ever did was give my leaves a slight sticky feeling the one time I mis-measured and used too much.

I had never heard of using FE as a pest preventative, and I will definitely be trying this in the future. I went out today to pick up some FE for future use. What dilution rate do you use? I have a 1-gallon sprayer for my foliar spraying needs - how much of the FE goes into the gallon?

While at the plant place, I looked at one of the shop's custom mixes for blooming plants and brought home the label. It contains:

N 3%
P 12%
K 6%
Ca 2%
Mg 0.5%
B 0.02%
Cl 0.17%
Co 0.0015%
Cu 0.05%
Fe 0.1%
Mn 0.05%
Mo 0.0009%
Na 0.1%
Zn 0.05%

It seems to have a wide array of nutrients, some of which I had no idea were considered nutrients (boron? Seriously?) so maybe I should get that or something like it. It calls for a huge dilution rate (1 tsp/gallon).

"It is also normal for most lemon meyer trees to drop tons of fruit in a container, although some are lucky and manage to get a lot of fruit, depending on the tree and their cultural habits along with the environment and temps they are subjected to...."

My Meyer is unlucky in love and life and has had issues every year since I got it. I don't expect fruit from it. If it tried to put out a lemon for me, I would probably break it off after thanking the plant profusely for its heartfelt effort. It really needs energy for itself, not fruit right now.

"Can you remember a time when they did set fruit and what you can attribute to that?"

The only time they've ever had a significant quantity of fruit was the very first year I got them. Really, the only difference between then and now is that then I was an ignorant fool who planted a young tree with a big open wound so that the wound was right under the soil. I wouldn't do that now, but I did then. Other than that, I got nothing.

This year has been insanely hot, but last year wasn't and so I can't call it the heat.

They bloom. They bloom like crazy. They get the cute little baby fruit. Then a week or two later I get a huge fall of cute baby fruit abortions. It's saddening.

"Watering habits, environment, fertilizers, soil mix, salt damage, pH, pests,are just some factors that cause fruit to not set.."

Other than the pests, which I have covered, what should I be doing about all of these things? I'm not prepared to start switching out my soil for something radical - it's not like my trees need CPR here - but I can make some changes that don't involve that.


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RE: bloom and fruit set

If you're getting good bloom on healthy-looking plants, then I have to wonder about pollination and ovule fertilization. What is the temperature when they bloom outside? Do you see bees working them? Have you tried hand pollinating? The 'Minneola' needs cross pollination (pollen from a different vairety) but the others should be fine with their own pollen, and the navel neither makes nor needs any pollen.


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pollination

They bloom in the fall just before I bring them inside. This would be high-mid 30s at night, and probably 50s during the day. I always have to knock bumblebees and wasps off them when I bring them in. There are always flowers when I bring them inside.

They bloom again in the spring as I am sun-hardening them. I start this when the 10-day forecast shows lows above 40 for the next 10 days, but it is always wrong and occasionally they get a light frost in the spring when I'm careless. Again, days are cool when this happens. I don't know about pollination then. If it happens, I don't see it.

Twice they've bloomed during the winter indoors. Temps in the room where they are kept range from high 60s to mid 70s depending on time of day. Ironically, they are more likely to keep one or two fruit then. It's weird you should say that about the tangelo, because it set two fruit this year (which I had to cut off due to my off-label use of pesticides). If it needs pollen from another variety, and the navel is not the source of this pollen, where's it coming from?


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RE: bloom and fruit set

You can get a low percentage of fruit set from unpollinated (or selfed) Minneola, but not much. And if you removed them, we don't really know that they would have held to maturity.


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fruit set + some pics

I only removed them this year, because they'd been rendered inedible. Other years I left them. Once they get to half-dollar size they are (usually) there to stay.

So what you're saying is that I would get more fruit on the tangelo, at least, if I had a second orange tree that wasn't a navel orange?

Would a blood orange work for this?

I found some old pics and took some new ones:

2007
This is the Meyer Lemon in 2007, about to bloom. Of all these flowers, 100% of the baby fruit dropped.

2007
This is the navel orange in 2007 in the process of dropping its fruit. This is the stage at which they often drop. Sometimes they drop much smaller, without any real development beyond the ovary stage - I presume that these are the ones that failed to get pollinated - but many many of them get this far and then drop anyway.

2010
This is the Meyer Lemon today. All of this is new growth. None of these are leaves from last year.

2010
You can see the Meyer and the navel orange together in this pic. It's hard to get a good shot of the navel orange because of its size and the fence back there.

2010
I get a lot of leaf curl in both oranges. These are not varieties I would have chosen for myself, but they were gifts so oh well. I'm not going to throw them away.

2010
The Eureka Lemon.

2010
Another shot of the Eureka.

2010
The Minneola Tangelo. It doesn't look too hot but it still has scale all over it.

Here is a link that might be useful: I uploaded a couple more pics but didn't embed them here.


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RE: bloom and fruit set

I ahve a couple of questions for you Displacer, while Malcolm puts his thinking cap on for this one..:-)

When you said "This is the Meyer Lemon today. All of this is new growth. None of these are leaves from last year"..

Does that mean that all the leaves fell in the winter and your plant was bare by the time winter was over and you placed it outdoors? How do you winter yours? In a window only or with artificial lights too? At what temps?

Where did you get your trees? Especially the Eureka? I love the size of the trunks and height of the trees.
I think you are doing a great job with yours, and add to that they are beautiful..:-)

Those darn Scale, right? I hope you work that out and find out why they are dropping their fruit..

Mike


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RE: bloom and fruit set

Mike:

The Meyer lemon caught Alternaria last fall. I was having personal issues and had no time/energy to do anything for my plants except do a daily check if they needed water and apply water if they did, and I literally didn't notice that my tree was covered in Alternaria until I brought them in for the winter. We had a wet fall last year, and that made it spread everywhere on the tree. By the time I saw what was happening it was too late to spray, as it was freezing outside and I don't want copper stains all over my bathroom. My trees are crushed together in the winter to fit under the window + lights and I didn't want the Alternaria to spread to my other plants.

My solution was to cut every leaf that had any sign of Alternaria on it off the tree, and then wipe down the remaining ones and all the twigs with copper soap. That left me with maybe 12 leaves on the tree. Needless to say, that tree didn't require much water over the winter, but it made it through.

In the spring I left it in a corner of the screen room where it got direct sun for only about 2 or 3 hours a day, and was in indirect sun for the rest of the day, and as soon as it broke bud I cut the remaining leaves and all the lanky winter growth off the tree so that it would give me a good flush of new growth. The result is what you see here. The leaves would be darker if I'd been able to fertilize it normally while it was growing, but alas, it also had scale and had to be treated for them.

It is a very tough little tree. It also survived a really crushing case of foot rot its first year. That was my fault - it came to me with half its roots sliced off at the crown, and I ignorantly planted it with that slice wound just under the soil's surface.

They winter in the upstairs bedroom next to a big double window (which unfortunately faces east but you do what you can). I place a screen made of plywood boards around them and have clip lights that can be placed whenever needed to provide good light coverage. This year, however, I think the plants have gotten too big for the little clip lights and I'm going to mount a shop light over them. The upstairs bedroom ranges from mid-60s to low 70s.

The Eureka and Meyer lemon both came from Four Winds. They looked really odd, top-heavy almost, for about two years, when the scion tried to outgrow the rootstock and was actually wider than the rootstock. But that has resolved itself and they have a good proportion now.


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RE: bloom and fruit set

Wow...

First off, that is exactly where some of my best trees came from....We have that in common...

Your trees look absolutely amazing through it all...I can't beleive that your meyer is so resilient..That is encourageing for me anyway...At first sign of something wrong with them, I go into panick mode and blame the tree for it's problem instead of maybe lack of light, pests,or over watering...I got gusty and tried growing a couple of meyers over the winter again, since I ahve the watering thing down, and it worked..Finally..

Like you, I had a problem with one of mine too though...
My meyer caught a bad case of thrips, and scale...Then maybe mealy to all at the same time...I brought it to work to set in front of big windows, returned a few days later, just to see the surrounding work plants loaded with mealy..I threw those out and then a cleaned everything up..

A few days after I killed the mealy, I noticed the flowers falling off my meyer..I looked closely, and saw thrips running in and out of the flowers, and scale all over the branches..I too had to cut it back hard out in the snow, one winters day, ripping every leaf off the tree and watch it sit bare, until the sun grew high in the sky come Feb, when the new leaves started to appear..I stuck it outside by March, and this is what it looks like now..;-)

I think I give these trees a lot less credit than they deserve, after hearing your story and experiencing that of mine..

You are doing a great job with yours, and it is nice to meet you..

I hope you figure the fruit thing out fast..Mine is setting fruit like crazy. I will link you the thread that shows a recent picture of it now..The 8th picture down.

I like how you made wintering them sound easier than most think they are...Many will invest big bucks on big lights, when the ones you had did just fine...It also got 3-4 hours direct sun, that is it, with indirect all day, and it still lived on..

They are a lot of work, but far worth it, arn't they?

I hear what you mean about not growing for the fruit, and yet still wanting them to hold on to the fruit...There is no peace of mind in growing any plant, if it is not funtioning 100% as it should in good hands...Now to find a good explanation and kill the curiousity...

Mike..;-)

Here is a link that might be useful: lemon meyer after pest attack


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RE: bloom and fruit set

I like the Four Winds trees. They are very hardy! If I do end up getting a blood orange, that is where it will come from. I ordered my lemons over the internet and they came via UPS but this past spring I saw some for sale at a local nursery. Next year (I'm not buying any trees this late in the year) I will check there first before ordering over the internet and paying the huge shipping charge.

"Your trees look absolutely amazing through it all."

Thank you very much! :D I checked your link - yours are beautiful. I wish I could have that many, but space constrains me. I gave all mine (except the tangelo) a seaweed spray today, and as soon as my predator mites have had a chance to do their thing in the yard, I will start with the FE.

How do I dilute the FE, by the way?

"I can't beleive that your meyer is so resilient..That is encourageing for me anyway."

It is ridiculously tough. When it had foot rot, I stopped watering it entirely and let it dry out for a MONTH. Then I gave it a good soak and then let it go another MONTH without water. Halfway through the second month, the sores started to dry up, so I think that's when the fungus deceased. I am still, however, to this day very careful about transferring anything from that plant to others. It's always the last one I check with the water meter, for instance, and then I wipe the meter down with alcohol before I put it away.

The following winter it suffered spider mite attack. The winter after that it dropped almost all its leaves because it was, unbeknownst to me, in a draft during the day. I moved it as soon as I figured out the problem, but too late! Then this last winter was the Alternaria.

Yet it lives. It has a strong survival instinct. It is my favorite tree, despite having never given me a single lemon.

I think all the adversity it's faced is what has given it that nice tree-shape in such a small format.

"I stuck it outside by March, and this is what it looks like now..;-)"

That's the one you had labeled as being almost destroyed by thirp and scale? It is gorgeous! :D

I think the Meyer lemons are made of titanium. By way of contrast, if I do even the slightest thing wrong with the tangelo (move from outside to inside too fast, or vice versa too fast, not enough humidity, too much humidity, not enough light, even the tiniest hint of a draft) it drops a ton of leaves. It is a big crybaby, but at least its temperamentality has taught me a lot about what citrus don't like. I have heard that blood oranges are very persnickity trees, but I think I'm ready to tackle one.

"You are doing a great job with yours, and it is nice to meet you."

Nice to meet you, too!

"I like how you made wintering them sound easier than most think they are."

It would be totally easy if not for the tangelo, which whines and cries and takes up a huge amount of space. We are going to screw some hooks into the ceiling next month, the kind you use for hanging plants, and suspend a shop light from them, and I think that will solve all my light problems for a good long time.


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RE: bloom and fruit set

"I think the Meyer lemons are made of titanium".lolololol

That is a good one!

Where were your tree pictures, when I started my threads in June, July, and August pictures?

Since you live in Zone6, and your trees can look that good after a long winter, I think you are going to be a very usuful tool and asset around here..:-)

Thank you for coming to us with your trees, views, questions, esxperiences, and personality..

Mike..:-)


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photos

"Where were your tree pictures, when I started my threads in June, July, and August pictures?"

I don't think I took any pictures in June. I took a bunch in July, but they were all of the cats.

I originally joined with the intent of posting in the carnivorous plants forum with a question about my Nepenthes but then I answered the question myself so I never made the post. My fruit drop problem has been very persistent, though, and it's so depressing. I have not been able to solve it.

"Since you live in Zone6, and your trees can look that good after a long winter, I think you are going to be a very usuful tool and asset around here..:-)"

LOL. I am mainly self-taught when it comes to citrus and not nearly as knowledgeable as many in this forum.

"Thank you for coming to us with your trees, views, questions, esxperiences, and personality.."

Thank you for your kindness!


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