Apple 10 yr old dwarf very few apples now

I have a pristine on G11. Approx 10 yrs old. (2 yrs old when I got it.) Started fruiting nicely yr 3-4. Did fine to great for a couple of yrs but last 3 yrs or so… little or no fruit. 1st I thought maybe it had slipped into biennial fruiting but it has been at least 3 yrs with minimal to very minimal production.
PLENTY of vegetative growth! Keeping size in check with thinning cuts (no heading cuts) usually made in late summer to fall. Tree is about 7’ tall by maybe 7’ or so wide.
Branches are well angled for production. I don’t fertilize it… never have except maybe 1st year or two …can’t remember.
I just went out and looked at it. Again… 95% + of the buds are vegetative. Don’t have this problem with any other tree. This is the only one I have to fight with to keep it in check… and has so little fruit. I think this year there were maybe 12 apples. Also, very few blooms… maybe 12-15… so it isn’t a pollination or fruit drop problem.
Never tried notching for fruit production. Do you think that would help?
It is too dark to get a pic or two of the tree but could do that tomorrow if that would help with ideas.

Any ideas?

Thank you.

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Check the soil and do a soil test. See if the soil test results are the same in several locations at different trees that are actually producing apples. Another possibility is too much nitrogen fertilization , that usually causes more vegetation than fruit. Use a even balanced fertilizer like a 10-10-10. Just a couple of suggestions.
Usually do not fertilize after about May or no later than early June. I didn’t follow my own advice and fertilized later in June or early July one year. It was a disaster.


thank you, Mike.
Yes… soil test is probably the next step. I was sure discouraged to look at it today realize that…once again… very little fruit for next year. :unamused:
I haven’t given this tree any fertilizer since it was 1 or 2 yrs old. Not even sure I gave it any then. I don’t fertilize the pasture grass around the tree either.

It can be such a fine line between doing too much and not enough. I usually fertilize the first year or two, give them a little kick in the pants to grow. After that pretty much nothing. Maybe I should give them some of the 10-10-10. I will probably forget to do so. Too busy spraying them on a regular basis, or trying to between the rains. By the time the spring rains are over with it is into June, so no fertilizer at that time. Circular reasoning wins ever time, lol.

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Did your rootstock get covered or buried with soil? Could be that your scion part of the tree rooted and is now growing into a full size standard tree.

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Jaypeedee - that is an interesting thought! I will check that when the sun comes up! thank you

I second checking that the graft union is above ground. I am actually experiencing similar problems on a couple of trees. My graft unions are high above the ground so that isn’t my problem.

I think my main problem is the water drainage from the field behind my house has shifted so the trees are now getting a lot more water. Unfortunately, the field is planted in corn and heavily fertilized so now am I getting more fertilizer too. And the trees are on fertile silt loam which compounds the problem. I have been bending down branches and that has helped but it isn’t enough.

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I checked… the graft union is well above the soil line.

But… Mroot got me thinking. My mound septic system is about 75 ft away from this tree. I have terrible clay soil with a high water table… (hence the mound septic). I am thinking that perhaps the soil there has just a little to much nitrogen from the influence of the septic.
thinking that maybe the tree did fine for the 1st some years but now the roots are deeper and are absorbing more nitrogen. there is an ever so slight a slope from the mound system through and past the orchard. I will get a soil test but I am feeling pretty bummed about this. All other the trees are doing fine but this one is the closest to the mound. All the apple trees are the same age and have the same rootstock except a couple. .
Also have done some “clean up” of brush past few years between the mound and orchard so those plants are not using up the nitrogen. I have also been doing a better job of keeping the area between the mound and the orchard mowed very low to discourage voles the past few years… again… less grass …so less nitrogen being used up.


That could be a good reason that the tree is not producing fruit. Good thinking. Bummer that those years have been wasted with no fruit.

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I got a question for you guys. Do you think removing the mulch around the trunk and allowing grass to grow up to the trunk would help to increase the number of flowering buds?

Normally, you keep a grass free region around the trunk since the dwarf tree roots can’t compete with grass very well. I think in my case the mulch goes about a 1 1/2 feet out from the trunk. But for me it seems vigor is too high with the mulch.

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I have been wondering the same sort of thing. I am going to pull all mulch back and let weeds/grass grow up to the trunk. I am also going to see if there are some plants that have somewhat deep roots that LOVE nitrogen and plant them maybe 10 ft away from the tree in between my mound and the tree. At this point I feel like it can’t hurt! That tree was doing much better before I tried to take good care of it! lol


That is unlikely. Septic systems are designed to drain downwards. If your tree is 75 feet away it will not get additional nitrogen from the septic field unless you have a major problem.

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My septic system is a mound system because clay and high water table = poor downward drainage. Water can’t drain down as easily as it would in a typical leach field. I know it seems a little strange but I am wondering if there is a little more nitrogen coming to the tree because of the poor downwards drainage of my mound system. We have to have the system checked every year and so far no problems detected.

If they detected no problems, then the system is draining down.

My concern is that it is indeed draining down through the mound but when it hits the clay and high water table, some small portion of nutrients are filtering slightly down hill to the tree through the clay and high water table.
I hope this isn’t true but the behavior of the tree does seem consistent with too much nitrogen but I have VERY limited knowledge of such things. … and I haven’t given the tree or anything around it any fertilizer in years… perhaps never. I just started put a sawdust mulch around it last year. Before that… pasture grass/weeds.
I will get a soil test.

Don’t remove mulch & allow grass to compete. That would stress the tree; especially vulnerable on dwarfing rootstock.
I’d make some heading cuts this spring, bend what branches seem best for encouraging blossom buds & hope for a difference the following year.

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Thank you… it is hard to know what to do. branches are already at good angles. Pretty much all my cuts in recent years have been heading cuts as I have been trying to control growth on this tree.

I am going to graft a replacement tree this year to be planted elsewhere. I got LOTS of scion wood. lol

I really do appreciate everyone’s thoughts on this troublesome tree. thank you one and all.

If your soil did not perc down in the area of your septic field they would not have issued a building permit.

How about some pictures of the area?