Apple Tree not Producing Apples

Credit: LyaC/iStockphoto


Q: We’ve been in our house for almost two years now and we have a great apple tree in the backyard (east facing). I think it might be gala apples, but I’m not sure. Last year (our first with the tree) it produced a lot of apples in Sept, but most had holes or some sort of damage so only about a dozen could be eaten. The tree appeared to have been neglected and rarely, if ever, pruned so this winter my husband pruned it quite extensively. This year the tree started to produce a lot of apples, but almost all have fallen prematurely. I have collected about a shopping bag full of ping-pong ball size apples. I think we only have about 3 or 4 apples left on the tree. What happened? Did we prune it too much, should we have done something else? We did also sod our backyard this spring but we made sure to leave a 6 inch well around the base of the tree and it has been getting a lot of water since we frequently watered the new sod.

I believe your problem is either that your pollinators (e.g. bees) were inadequate or another apple tree was not present to supply pollen. Most fruit trees require another tree for pollination.

Mason bees (Osmia spp.) are ideal native pollinators, which should be used more often in urban edible gardens. For further information about mason bees, follow this link:

Since we don’t know the actual name of the apple tree cultivar, I would suggest planting another apple tree within 30 meters (100 feet) of the existing one, if room permits. The other option is to “bench” graft another apple cultivar onto the existing tree. For this, use a mid-season blooming apple cultivar, which should give you coverage for either early or late flowering times.

Your other problem with holes in the fruit is usually caused by codling moths.

As for soil, I am assuming the soil grade is at its original level. Try to keep the grass further away from the trunk – the further the better, about 2 meters (6 ft.) or more.

I would suggest pruning in summer and winter. Limit to no more than 20 per cent removal at any one time. Follow the link below to more GardenWise articles on pruning: