FRUIT TREES – – – HOW TO INCREASE YOUR HARVEST
The subject of pollination is seldom written about in PLAIN ENGLISH! And that is why many people bypass it. But there is no surer way to increase the size of your harvest and ensure your success in Growing Fruit Trees.
Planning for adequate cross pollination is something you do only once! You don’t have to keep doing it year after year. Do your research now to find the right combination of trees that “get along well together.” Once they are in the ground, they’ll do the work for you each harvest season.
THE NEED FOR CROSS POLLINATION
Many fruit trees require a tree of another variety that blooms at the same time to be planted nearby as a cross pollinator. Not all yards have room for this. I have found that the good old fashioned “Bartlett” Pear tree will bear fruit prodigiously without a pollinator. (My own tree bore so heavily that it became an absolute nuisance!)
“Montmorency” Cherry also does not need a cross pollinator, and has the most wonderful, pure cherry flavor. It is a tart (pie) cherry, but it is not so sour that you can’t eat them fresh. Dried tart cherries can be used in place of raisins in cooking, and many people prefer the taste.
I have an antique apple tree in my yard called “Grimes Golden.” It is sweet and spicy and just bursting with juice, and it produces more fruit than I can use without having a neighbor planted near it. It is excellent for cooking as well as fresh eating.
The “Green Gage” Plum will produce plenty of fruit with just one tree and is ideal to can, freeze, or make plum honey. More than once, I’ve stood at the tree and made a meal on the sweet, ripe fruit.
METHODS OF POLLINATING FRUIT TREES
Bees are a necessity for pollination of fruit trees. A well placed beehive or two will benefit your orchard, although your ability to run needs to be factored in.
Creating a flower and herb border or planting flowering shrubs will enhance your chances of successful pollination. Honeybees are enticed to visit or take up residence near your garden and orchard by planting echinacea, bee balm, roses, butterfly bush, etc. for them to feed on.
Some people are die hard do-it-yourselfers and you have to give them credit for imagination and persistence. Some do their own pollinating with a tiny paint brush or a cotton swab and absolutely swear by it. You will need a very long reach and the ability to remember where you’ve been.
This activity is not necessary as long as you have the right combination of trees planted together. Nature, and wind, will do it for you.
Others cut a few blooming branches off of a neighbor’s fruit tree and hang them amid the branches on their own tree to aide pollination.
Long ago, an elderly man told me he would roll up a newspaper or magazine and “slap the dickens” out of the trunk of his apple tree early every Spring. “Stimulates the darn thing!” he assured me. (No, I didn’t laugh!) He always had beautiful fruit with just one tree. Who can argue with success?
Self-pollinating trees will produce more fruit when planted with a good pollinator. Conversely, self-pollinating trees make excellent pollinators for non-self-fertile varieties. There are exceptions to every rule, and some fruit trees simply do not get along well together.
Because of this, it is good to call the garden nursery first. Ask to speak to a horticulturist to make sure your chosen varieties will pollinate each other.
- APPLES: Most apple trees require a pollinator. “Winesap,” “Staymen,” and “Crispin” Apples cannot pollinate other varieties. Ornamental Crabapple trees make wonderful pollinators for apple trees.
- CHERRIES: Most sweet cherries require a pollinator. Self-pollinating sweet cherries make excellent pollinators. Most tart (pie) cherries do not need a cross pollinator. Tart and sweet cherries will not pollinate each other.
- PEACHES AND NECTARINES: Most peaches and nectarines are self-pollinating. Peaches and nectarines can pollinate each other. Keep both of them away from plum trees for on occasion they will cross and produce a strange, and not necessarily very tasty, new variety. Keep almond trees completely away from peach and nectarine trees. If planted together, it will sometimes adversely affect the flavor of the fruit, as well as the nuts.
- PEARS: Most pears require a pollinator. “Bartlett” and Kieffer” Pears are self-pollinating and are also excellent pollinators for other pear trees. “Bartlett” and “Seckel” Pears do not pollinate each other. European and Asian Pears can pollinate each other.
- PLUMS: Most plums require a pollinator. European and Japanese Plums do not cross pollinate. The pollination of plums and prune plums is complex. The more varieties you plant will increase your chances of successful pollination.
DISTANCE BETWEEN TREES FOR ADEQUATE POLLINATION
Opinions vary on the required distance between pollinators. Some people tell me that a fruit tree should not be more than 200 feet away from a suitable pollinator.
I have heard others say its 200 feet maximum for pear trees and 100 feet apart for apple trees. I disagree since too much depends on the way the wind blows to carry the pollen in the right direction.
Many people don’t have property lots that are that big, and trying to depend on your next door neighbor’s tree to pollinate your own tree is folly.
My preference is for a maximum of 50 feet apart. A bee that collects pollen from your neighbor’s tree might visit several other trees and plants before it reaches your own, and rub off most of the needed pollen. Or it may fly in the opposite direction.
Drive around the neighborhood to see if nearby gardens have fruit trees that are close enough to pollinate yours effectively. This might work while you are just getting started, but a tree that is there now might be chopped down at some point.
It’s much better to plant your own pollinator. Also check for plants and trees in the vicinity that may create a problem in your garden, such as walnut trees or conifers, and even too much shade.
Finally, dwarf trees are ideal if you need cross pollination. If your lawn space is limited and you still require a lot of fruit, you can plant one standard sized tree and a dwarf tree of a different variety as a pollinator.
HAPPY PLANTING! Susan