Plum disappointing

Here in non-coastal S. NY state I’m seeing very poor plum set and I’m wondering why. There were days when every variety was in full bloom and fully tended by pollinators. There were no threatening frost events all spring.

I remember last fall that there was one very cold night out of nowhere when trees may not have been adequately hardened- so maybe the ovules froze.

Not even the reliable Shiro is showing much crop and in the Euro category, not enough Castletons or Empress fruitletts seem to be fattening up. This issue is wide spread from favorable to not favorable sites that get varying lows- I’ve been down by the Hudson river where lows average at least 5 degrees warmer than elsewhere.

Nectarines, peaches and cherries seem to have set fine, although some spurs rotted from excessive rain- mostly small weak shoots.

I tried to find the lowest temp in my area in 2018 and couldn’t find a quick reference for that. I ended up checking every day in Nov. and Dec. and I didn’t find anything as low as I remember that one day being.

Mostly, the apple crop is setting very well.

That is my experience this year, too. Japanese plums are worse. Like you said, even productive Shiro set very few comparing to tons of flowers it produced. Of all J plums and pluots, only Beauty still set reasonably well. Toka blooms up and down its branches, not sure if there was a single fruit set.

On cherries, although Black Gold set well but not as many as other years. Juliet bush was cover with blooms. I could hardly set any cherries. I would be lucky if I have a handful cherries from it this year.

Euro plums have done better. Mirabelle Parfume de September set tons of plums again. Coe’s and Castleton’s production are down but still far more than J plums.

We had a good winter. No extreme cold. No temp fluctuation. No freeze damage. I think the continously cold and raining weather during bloom time really made it difficult for pollinators to do their job. Fruit trees that bloomed a bit later like peaches/nectarines have done noticebly better.

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Actually, after I wrote that I took a closer look at my own trees and maybe was a trifle pessimistic. My Shiro has plenty of plums and it looks like the Reema part of the tree is loaded as well.

I’m not really sure yet about my E. plums. The Castletons fatten up very early but it takes a while for others to do so, so I’ve not quite given up on my own trees.

However, other J. plums on my prop and elsewhere do look bad. Varieties like Early Majic, Ruby Queen and Satsuma are clearly poorly set.

During J. plum bloom at your place were there no warm days when trees were in full bloom? I wouldn’t think it would take more than a day of beezy activity to accomplish the mission.

We had rain almost every day. In fact in April, we had 21 out of 30 days of rain. Sometimes, it rained several days in a row. The other 9 days were not that sunny, either.

Temperature was also lower than average for April, too. Both the number of rainy days and low temp days pretty much set the new records.

I did not see any pollinators around during those many days. Who wanted to fly on those rainy, windy, cold days? To me, the trees that set well like Parfume de Sept., Black Gold are outstanding for their resilience.


You are at home every day and can view what is happening every sunny day?

We probably had a few more warm days, but I also sponsor a platoon of carpenter bees who will come out when it’s pretty cool, but often not until about noon. However there were days when the mason bees and others were also out in force, even if there were a lot more days when they weren’t.

The thing is that when it’s cool the blossoms stick to the trees much longer increasing the odds of one good day in the cycle.

This is good and bad, the bad was waiting for last apples to finally be ready to spray. That is when I usually put down first insecticide on everything in the orchards I manage. The first orchards I sprayed this year I had to just lay off the latest bloomers, and hope that just the second spray accomplishes protection.

It probably will- always has.

There is always some risk of damage when you go bare bones, least chemical intervention you can.

Same here in Wa state Seattle area,some varieties have none, some did very well setting while my yellow plum that always over 20 years had abundant fruit,is very sparse this year even though the tree was covered at blossom. One thing I have done given the decline of the traditional honey bee population has been to create some mason bee hives to hang under my eaves so that I can buildup a more robust local pollinizer group. Very simple to do, take a wood log several feet long and at least 3”-4” diameter, drill 5/16” holes in a 30 degree angle so that as you hang the hive in a vertical direction, no water can enter the holes where mason bees lay their eggs. I have read that every region of the US has mason bees of various species. So chances are your local masons may be some help. It’s not too late to hang hives for this suumeer’s bees to nest.


If the sun god appears, the masons come, in my neck of the woods to orchard.

For me it was sweet cherries that didn’t set well this year. I got limited sweet cherries on all trees; Monty as usual set a ton but it’s a different beast. All the other stone fruits set as well as they ever do.

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I love that mason bee log idea! I live in Vancouver, WA. I may give that a shot!

That’s odd. I have a Black Gold sweet cherry tree. I grafted 5-6 sweet cherry varietiesto it all bloomed and now are setting fruit. Meanwhile my sour cherry bush, Juliet, which was covered in blooms barely set any fruit.

Black Gold and Co. look like this

Juliet does not look promising.

J plums barely set any fruit except for Beauty that is loaded again,

E plums are as productive as they have been.
Parfume de September.


One thing I omitted was the preference of hanging the log hives where they can get the best sun exposure preferable a southern one, as this seems to bring them out working early in the spring.
Good luck


Good to know. Lucky for me my apartment get full sun in garden, and bees like it there. I seen a few wasps, tiny bees that may have been masons, and bumble bees so far this spring. Last year bumbles madea home under my home at edge of garden. I am cool with that! Watching one then another go in and out the hole in dirt was fun.

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My peaches didn’t set well, but everything else OK. Strange as what sets where is really mixed this year. Everything seems to be late. i was waiting for bloom to end to spray. My first spray was today. latest ever. Like a month later. Maybe it will mess up the pest population too! PC all comes out and nothing for them to bite into! Squirrels seem to be bad this year too, people here been killing them left and right this year. My dog keeps them away, no need to trap. Plus I can’t anyway due to city ordinances. I have to work on a campaign to change that! My fruit trees are in the center of the yard and the squirrels won’t risk it. If caught in the tree the dog has them. No good escape routes so they leave them alone. Once a squirrel bit into my hot pepper and I never saw one run in circles so fast, stupid thing! I saw it running in circles and chased it out, then saw the bitten hot pepper Ha! A Carolina Reaper too! :slight_smile: I was going to use them for a squirrel spray but too much particulate matter in them to use in a sprayer.
One thing I saw in a garden on property I recently bought was stones painted like strawberries. the birds take one peck, and well they won’t being do that anymore! Not sure if it works? Left them in, see what happens.

On the worst squirrel year in my history of growing fruit here, I created my own spray with habenaro pepper seeds my wife acquired as part of her food business. The spray was deadly hot, but didn’t discourage my squirrels. I guess their tastes have been affected by all the Guatemalan immigration in my area. They like their green fruit hot! Those midwesterners just aren’t used to hot food.

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HA! Yeah in the squirrel thread lot’s of reports of problems. Here it is still too early. I have seen ton’s of them though. last year they figured out my dog doesn’t protect my three plum trees in the front and got some fruit.
I can’t trap them, I can’t shoot them, but I can use this to put a hurt on them!

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What percentage of shucks need to be split before the first spray?

Huh? My apple trees tell me when to spray when they’ve dropped their petals- peaches are always fine to spray by then.

The bees also keep me informed- when they are interested in a tree, I’m not interested in spraying it with anything toxic to them.

I also scalp flowering weeds with a whacker the day before I spray my own trees, and plead for similar behavior from my clients- with mixed success, unfortunately.

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High speed wind storm blew all the petals off on my apple trees at the beginning of the week. Peaches and plums were still in shuck days after that. I just checked and most plums and peaches are now 80%-90% in shuck. Shiro is probably closer to 65%. Is it too early to spray?

I only have euro plums, however, my plum set this year is excellent until June drop! My mirabelles are finally great this year (so far). Metz and Nancy would have had more set, but my pruning interfered with the blossoms and pollination! My Italian prune/plum has set buckets of fruit, but always suffers from June drop, which I do not mind as it takes the job of thinning away from me. My monty has set with tons of cherries. I will need help covering that tree this year! My peach set is thinner. Black Boy, Elberta, early Crawford and Shui Mi Tao have all set and are in shuck split right now. My biggest disappointment is Harglow apricot. After thousands of blossoms it has set 4 cots, the other two tomcots dropped all of their fruit. No pollination.


Re. Your question if I am home to observe weather everyday? Yes and No. Yes I am home everyday, per say as my job is 15 mins away.

I also check weather everyday, sometimes twice a day. Also, we have good local weather people who give us interesting tidbits including how nay days of rain, how many weekend that it rains, temp that closer to or break records, etc.

NY is a large state comparing to MA. Your local, weather vs, the finger lake region vs Manhattan could be vastly different. My weather and Boston, only an hour away, is not much different, a couple degrees cooler and more snow. That’s about it.

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