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Plum Tree Help
updated: Dec 21, 2012, 11:24 AM

By Edhat Subscriber

Are there any tips from Edhatters to help my sad plum tree become more fruitful in spring?

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Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 356420P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-21 11:59 AM

Trim it now, before the leaves come back. Go online and you will find detailed instructions. The toughest thing (for me) is the amount of trimming down you have to do (like with rose bushes). But it works!


 BECKY agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-21 12:07 PM

Trimming right is the answer. Most fruit trees need 1/3 to 1/4 (depends on species) of their foliage trimmed each year to continue to produce good fruit. You also will benefit from the right mulch and lack of rotting plums under the tree. If you don't want to hire a gardener/ arborist/ orchard expert who understands these things, either go to Sumida to get educated about it yourself, or educate yourself online, or get a copy of Sunset's Western Garden book. Sometimes it's worth it to hire an expert once (perhaps Billy Goodnick?) to do it and educate you, and then you can take over in subsequent years. Good luck!


 COMMENT 356425 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-21 12:08 PM

420p is right .Dont forget to seal the ends of your cuts .It is not a 100% solution but, it helps with the bugs that want in.


 COMMENT 356426 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-21 12:09 PM

Definitely needs pruning. But, the leaves don't come back till the spring. Good fertilizer at the right time.


 COMMENT 356436 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-21 12:35 PM

Yikes. The above posters are being very polite. Whoever did the trimming in past years has done you a great disservice. I love old fruit trees as much as anyone, but please ask an expert if it is even worth trying to rehabilitate it. You might be better off replacing it.


 MTNDRIVER agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-21 01:05 PM

Don't seal the ends of cuts, natural healing occurs and sealing pruning cuts often leads to fungal disease!!

First thing to do with any pruning is to remove branches that cross in the center of the tree. Let there be space for sunlight to penetrate. Be sure you read up on how to prune plum trees and how much to leave before you start cutting. Different fruits have different requirements. With plums, general rule is to head back branches by about half. But if you have a lot of old wood that is no longer producing fruit, you will need to cut more.

Some fruit trees bear on little spurs that come off the branches, and plums (especially European plums) are one of those. If you cut off all the old spurs you are not likely to get much fruit the next year. Japanese plums (lie Santa Rosa, the most commonly planted in our gardens) also bear on new wood.

There are some good pruning demonstration videos on YouTube. Do a search. Also some pretty good books--Sunset has a book that's good. It's kind of an art, pruning deciduous fruit trees. If you have a friend or neighbor who has trees that produce good fruit, ask for help. You get a feel for it after a while.


 COMMENT 356462 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-21 02:26 PM

This looks like a very old tree with a lot of previous poor pruning cuts. I would also consult with a fruit tree expert to find out if it's worth it.

You will need to do heavy pruning, and I would wait until after the frost warnings are over before cutting anything. (I'm surprised nobody mentions this, because it's very important).


 COMMENT 356480 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-21 03:48 PM

Get him a date.


 COMMENT 356481 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-21 03:50 PM

Some varieties of plums benefit from a pollenizer.


 COMMENT 356544 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-21 06:48 PM

Do it yourself and don't worry about making a mistake, that's the pleasure of growing your own fruit. There's always next year to get it right. My personnel choice would be to pick-up R. Sanford Martin book "How to Prune" Simple and proven methods for anybody new or old to the world of pruning. When it comes to pruning, you'll need to know what type of tree you're dealing with, (yes I know it's a plum we're talking about) because they all have different "fruit wood's" i.e peach fruit wood is different from plum. (Plums and apples will flower from the same fruit wood were has peaches have yearly fruit wood). As when to prune, I would wait until late January to mid February, all the tree's sugars are down in the root's and won't start moving until spring.


 COMMENT 356545P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-21 07:02 PM

481 said a mouthful. And I feel so stupid, that I didn't think of that myself. Some plums just won't produce without a pollinator. Do you know what kind of plum you have? You may well need a second tree as a cross-pollinator.

Also: your soil looks like concrete to me. Or heavy clay, at best. I would roll on out to Island Seed & Feed, get a 25-lb bag of "Landscape Mix" and a few (at least) bags of worm castings. Dig this in NOW. It takes a while for natural fertilizers to break down and feed your tree. We will get more rain and your tree will be fully fertilized by spring. (Be sure and get copy of instructions: number of cups/pounds to apply per square inch of tree trunk.)

MTNDRIVER gave you the most sensible advice and 544 told you when to prune. It really is an art, and takes time to get the hang of it----but, boy is it satisfying to do your own pruning and then harvest the bounty!


 COMMENT 356625 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-22 07:55 AM

Much good advice posted already. Steamed bone meal incorporated into top few inches of soil. Top dress with compost. Don't seal the cuts. Sterilize your pruners,saw before starting. Too soon 2 prune now, wait till leaves leave.

The American horticultural society Encyclopedia of Gardening has a well detailed fruit care section.


 COMMENT 356652 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-22 08:49 AM

Our plum tree had fruit right away but the birds ate them all. Now the tree does not bear anything. It's been years, may as well take it out put in a lime tree!


 COMMENT 356665P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-22 09:18 AM

I would cut it back really hard and see how it does next year.

Here is the R. Sanford Martin book:

If it doesn't do well next year, I would put in a new tree. If you prepare the soil and take good care of it, the tree will grow really fast.


 COMMENT 356671P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-22 09:28 AM

I would take a branch in to a nursery before pruning and have it inspected for signs of disease or root rot which can happen when the tree gets weakened by age, impacted soil, lack of nourishment, etc.


 COMMENT 356715 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-22 01:03 PM

Lots of factors come into play regarding fruiting of backyard trees. Soil, fertilization & watering, climate, weather at blossoming, correct pruning, etc.

Fertilizer plays an important part in flowering and fruiting after the tree has been rehabilitated by correct pruning. Most flowering plants require an adequate supply of phosporus in the root zone in order to form tissue that will grow flower buds and fruit. You can use a synthetic 5-10-10 fertilizer, from spring to fall, according to the pkg directions. Or you may use a natural source such as rock phosphate or steamed bone meal. These break down much more slowly than synthetic fertilizers; it's best to apply them 2 or 3 times a year. Be sure not to neglect fertilizing with phosporus in the summer, as this is when fruiting buds start to develop. They then go dormant for the winter, to be awakened by the spring sunshine and warmth.

Giving your tree some protection against disease will increase your chances of fruit set. When the tree is empty of leaves, spray with a "dormant spray" you can get at any hardware or nursery. Spray to ensure full coverage. Do this again in January, then one last time just as the buds start to swell. They will go from tight pointy cone-shaped buds to plump, fat buds. You must spray just before the two-part bud scale coverings shed, to give the best protection against disease. Don't use this dormant spray once the tree is blooming or leafing out as it can burn.

Remember that weather also plays a part in successful fruit set. Rain during bloom will prevent bees from pollinating. 'Chill factor" means some trees need a minimum amount of sub-45 degree weather to produce blooms.

Nowdays, most professionals recommend summer pruning as the time to remove most excess growth. Pruning too hard in winter can force a tree to produce non-fruiting whips which will quickly take a tree into needing a 14' ladder range! Here is an excellent source of info on fruit trees, including need for pollinating varieties, chill factors, and some advice about pruning for the home orchard: http://www.davewilson.com/homegrown/BOC_explained.ht
ml Dave Wilson Nsy. (wholesale producer of bare root fruit trees) gives seminars on Backyard Orchard Culture at various retail customers; both Terra Sol and La Sumida carry Dave Wilson stock, so call to see if they have a seminar scheduled. Very valuable info for the home orchardist.


 COMMENT 356816 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-22 07:18 PM

I don't see this comment made. My sister had the same problem for many years with her plum tree. She packed several bags of ice around the trunk for several nights during the winter and it did the trick. It bears copious amounts of fruit yearly.


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