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Fruit Tree Care: Watering & Fertilizing

by Elmer on 05/04/2011
Mature Fruit-Bearing Tree

Life can often be paralleled to shooting an arrow into the air: it rises, climbs, peaks, and descends. Since trees are a part of life, they are part of that pattern. As everything in life grows older, deficiencies for various reasons begin to develop. I’m a firm believer that supplements can not only help and enhance the performance of people, but plants as well.

The Nature of Fruit-Bearing Trees

When a tree is old enough to bear fruit, it enters a different phase of its life — much like a new mother. No longer is it in self-serving mode; it’s taken on a new purpose. Did you know that it requires 40 leaves (on average) to adequately sustain one fruit? That takes quite some effort for the tree! Some trees are biennial-bearers because of this, which means they overbear one year and tend to rest the next year.

Fruit trees, like Golden Delicious apple trees, are prone to biennial bearing because they tend to be prolific bearers. You can thin the fruit crop each year to help avoid biennial bearing.

Watering Fruit Trees with Purpose

Through these changing years, it’s important to take care of the tree itself through adequate watering and replenishment of nutrients. Newly planted trees require a gallon of water every 7 days or so during a normal growing season. This water amount will naturally increase as the tree puts on new leaves into the summer. If you are experiencing rainfall in that time, you should not need to provide additional water, but use your best judgment since water availability and soil drainage may vary greatly from one location to the next.

As a tree grows older, its roots become established, and the need for watering moves away from “survival and growth” to “fruit size and quality”. Timely waterings, especially during droughts, will make a big difference.

Water-related stress occurs at both ends of the spectrum. Overwatering can cause yellowed leaves and defoliation. Underwatering can cause curled leaves and defoliation. Try to keep things at a happy medium: your trees will tell you what they need if they are unhappy!

Measuring Trunk Diameter

Fertilizing Fruit Trees with Purpose

Growing to maturity, a tree sends out feeder roots that match the circumference of the treetop. Often the premature decline of a fruit tree occurs because it has exhausted all the nutrients in its growing area – not to mention the depletion of its nutrient reserves, which get used up by sustaining crops of fruit. For this reason, and if your trees show signs of premature decline, I strongly recommend testing your soil. Often the solution is as simple as replenishing soil nutrients.

For trees that are fruit-bearing aged and have been planted for more than 2 years, I recommend using Stark® Orchard Fertilizer – a pellet-form fertilizer that is high in nitrogen; an element that encourages vegetative growth. Fruit trees tend to be great consumers of nitrogen, especially in their fruit-bearing/sustaining years.

Go to “How to Fertilize Mature Fruit Trees” here »

Go to “How to Fertilize New Fruit Trees” here »

When a tree becomes calcium-deficient, problems like “bitter pit” emerge. You may notice the tree bears small, sub-standard fruit as well. Nutri-Cal® is a good liquid calcium supplement — used as a foliar application — to improve the health of your tree and its fruit. It’s not uncommon for the Honeycrisp apple to have calcium deficiency issues, so, if you’re growing Honeycrisp apple trees, be sure to have a calcium supplement on hand!

Dear Gardening Friend,

Watering and fertilizing the right way can help fruit trees achieve their purpose: bearing delicious fruit. As caretakers of this aspect of life, we should embrace our role in how effective that purpose will be.

– Elmer

Shop All Fertilizers & Soil Additives »


  1. KAthleen M Kusel permalink

    I have 2 fruit bushes….one is a Meyers lemon, the other an orange bush.
    I put them on the front porch during the summer… after they have wintered in my sunroom during the winter.The Meyers lemon always produces at least one lemon a year…how do I assist it to produce more?
    The orange bush is a lovely bush but never flowers and has never produced a fruit in it’s 2 years with me.
    I am not a natural gardner and could use any advice you can share with me…
    PS…how do I know if the bush is dying as the orange bush looks very droopy since I placed it outside on the front porch. We have had a lot of rain in Maryland since I placed it outside..

    • Juanita S. permalink

      Last year i purchased two dwarf pear trees from your company. The rabbits really liked them. They did not leaf out this Spring but at the base of the trees there is growth of new leaves. Are my trees dead and only the root stock alive , should I buy and plant new trees?

      • Brenda permalink

        Hello Juanita! Thanks for the post! I’m sorry to hear about your trees. Those darn “wabbits”!
        If the new growth is coming from below the graft, then that would be the rootstock. I would suggest trying a scratch test on the tree trunks to see if they’re alive. Gently scratch off a piece of the bark with your thumbnail about halfway up the trunk. If you see green, the tree is still alive; if it’s brown, the tree has died.
        Your trees should still be under our one-year warranty. Please contact us at 800.325.4180 or to see about a replacement or refund. We’d be happy to help! :-)

        • Anthony S. permalink

          Juanita, did you buy the Stark Tree Guards? I have been using them religiously for forty years. Never any rabbit damage although we have plenty of rabbits.

  2. David Wigley permalink

    I have two Apricot trees I bought from Stark. Bros. 2 years ago. They were growing great and leafed out this year then all of a sudden they started wilting. Both of them at the same time. I have 48 other fruit trees of various types and all of them are doing just fine. I thought maybe they need water so I watered them well 3 days ago and still no change. I also have one other Apricot 20 feet from the two I bought from you and it is doing great . What could possibly be the problem?

  3. Urban Oen permalink

    Several years ago I cut down my large fruit trees and planted Starks dwarf trees. I have been disappointed with the apple trees as they have not grown since I planted them. You cut off the central leaders and no new ones emerged. Do you have any suggestions on how to get these guys to take off? My pear and peach trees are doing fine.

    • Meg permalink

      If they haven’t grown since you planted them several years ago (esp. since nearby trees *have* grown), they are probably not alive. :( What year/season did you order & plant them? I’d recommend contacting our Customer Service Team & checking with them. If it’s just been in the past year, we can send you replacements. :) Their contact info: 800.325.4180 |

  4. Vera permalink

    I ordered two apple trees from Stark Bros. last fall and planted them. I would like some info. on how to take care of them now, this spring. You sent me some info. when I got the trees but I misplaced it. Thank you.

    • Elmer permalink

      Vera, this article on watering and fertilizing is a good start for taking care of your trees this spring. I recommend using our Stark® Tre-Pep® fertilizer for trees as young as yours; next year you may benefit more from the Orchard Fertilizer mentioned in my post.

      About an inch of water a week (& more during extreme heat/drought) is needed from now until fall. Fertilize before mid-June for best results.

      When winter comes around again, be sure to prune your trees. We’ll have more information coming on the blog, soon. Good luck with your apple trees!


  5. Gina Andreoli permalink

    When should I spray my peach tree against insects and blight (the leaves ore getting bumpy and discolored).

  6. Carl W Pietsek permalink

    About 4 years ago I planted 2 Plum trees I got from Starks. 1 Alderman Plum and 1 Starkling Delicious Plum. The Alderman Plum is fantastic. The fruit is large and juicy and a heavy barer. The Starkling Delicious Plum is a BUMMER. 1 year I get a fair crop which is not nearly as large as the Alderman and the next year I get nothing off of it. I been thinking about cutting it down, and YES I do all of the necessary pruning, fertilizing and watering etc. What do you think is wrong with the Starkling Del Plum? Yes I do have cherrys, nectarine, and apples that bare OK.

    • Brenda permalink

      Hello Carl! Glad to hear about your Alderman. :-) Does the Starking Delicious bloom or leaf out the years it doesn’t fruit? I would love to see a couple pics of the tree, if possible. If you’re able to send pics, please send them in an email to: I’ll take a look at them & see what I can find out for you. I look forward to helping you! :-)

  7. How much fertilizer do you put for plum trees that are in huge pots on a deck? I can’t follow the drip line because of the pots. I grow them in pots because of a bad deer problem where I live. This is the first year that they’ve had plums.

  8. Fr. Chuck permalink

    M+ I much appreciate your email articles. Early last year the fruit trees blossomed and then…a brief snowfall. produce. A local farm lost the entire apple crop.
    Two issues: bartlet pears poorly formed. Peach trees have never produced blossoms (6 yr old trees)
    Location: Bath, NH-North Country. Please advise.

  9. Yvonne Graffam permalink

    This information has been invaluable to me. I love receiving your e-mails. I always learn something new. Plus your products have always been winners and are reasonably priced. Thank you

    • Meg permalink

      So glad to hear, Yvonne, & thanks for taking time to leave us a comment! :)

  10. Nancy permalink

    It would have been helpful if you would more explaination on ‘timely watering’.

    • Meg permalink

      I agree, Nancy. Ideally, you want your trees to receive about 1″ in water/week. During drought, the heat can quickly evaporate water, so you’d probably want to give each tree at least 2″ of water/week. This would probably equate to every-day waterings (but only with no rainfall). :) I’ll ask Elmer to see if he has anything more to add to this!

  11. thank you for the important information, it is a great help, enjoying your products. JOHN

  12. Gloria permalink

    Thanks for the information. It has affirmed everything we’ve done. We gave planted your trees in the yards of three homes over the 39 years of our marriage, and have never been sorry.

    New trees are all doing well!

    • Meg permalink

      Excellent, Gloria, thanks for stopping by & letting us know! :) How many trees do you think you’ve planted over those 39 years? (Congrats on such a long marriage, too, what an accomplishment!)

  13. Raymond permalink

    Really enjoy your information letter you are sending out. Perhaps you can answer this question. I have Plum tree and this was its first year to bear. It was really loaded with fruit. Sadly it has dropped most all of its 3/4 size fruit. What does this tree need to prevent this next year? The tree looks healthy in all other respects.

    • Brenda permalink

      Hi Raymond! Sorry to hear your plum dropped most of the fruit. :-( I would suggest thinning your fruit. The branches may have been too heavy with fruit to support it all. This is the most common reason for premature fruit drop. Let us know how this works! :-)

      • Chris permalink

        I’ve had issues in the past with fruit drop, but found that insects were the cause. Each fruit that dropped had a “guest” living in it, which I believe caused the stem to give way. Timely spraying has helped significantly.

  14. Veronica Wendt permalink

    Well, I did not yet fertilize but was planning to do so as soon as it stops raining here in Ohio. However, I see you said to do it two weeks before bud break. This has already happened here, and some of the trees already have tiny fruit on them. Should I wait until next year, or go ahead and do it as soon as the weather breaks? Thank you.

    • Meg permalink

      Veronica, I ran your question by Elmer… & he said you’d be just fine to fertilize now. It’s past the optimal time, but it’s not too warm yet. We don’t recommend fertilizing past mid-June.

      The midwest rain/storms have been such buggers this year! Wishing you sunshine soon. :)

  15. thanks for the tips.

  16. G H Hall permalink

    The information is great but I have three trees starting their second year. One Apple, Peach and nut. Does the info.apply to these trees?
    Thank you

    • Meg permalink

      You know, your best choice for the start of their 2nd year will be the Stark® Tre-Pep® fertilizer

      Next year, your trees should be old enough to use the Orchard fertilizer (which replenishes nutrients that are depleted during fruit-bearing years… at this point, your trees probably aren’t old enough to bear fruit, so they’ll benefit most from the 22-24-12 balance in the Tre-Pep®).

      Hope that makes sense! :)

  17. Lila Barnhouse permalink

    We recently bought a winter home in Florida. It has a orange tree, grapefruit tree and tangerine tree. How do I fertilize these properly and with what?

    • Meg permalink

      Congratulations on the new home, Lila. :) You’ve got a fruit salad in your backyard! I’d recommend using a fertilizer specifically for “citrus” trees. Your local garden center should carry something like this. We currently do not have a citrus-specific fertilizer, or I’d point you to! ;) Let me know what you find/use!

  18. Dear Sir,
    Thanks for the information on trees.
    This year, we planted Stark Bro’s 2 each Cherry Trees, one (1) Apricot and one (1) Pear.
    They are all doing well.
    Unfortunately, Texas is under a very severe drought plus many grass fires this year.
    We’ve taken your advice in fertilization and watering agenda.
    Now if we can only control the rabbit infestation the rest of the garden will do well and so will the water billing!!!!!!!

  19. Paul Allred permalink

    Thanks Elmer for the great article on watering and fertilizing fruit trees. I could use your assistance on the following matter. A few months ago I purchased a Methley Plum Tree from my local nursery. It was in a 15 Gal. pot and the tree was about 7-8 ft. tall with leafs on every limb. It stated to blossom while in the pot awaiting my preparing the correct hole to re-plant in my backyard. I tilled the selected area and then dug the correct hole (both width and depth). I then mixed an amount of dried ‘composted horse manure with my good garden soil’. Planted the tree and watered thorougly and slowly. That was about a month ago. It stated getting new growth on various limbs with tiny new leafs, etc. But as I write you many of the older leafs have started to turn a ‘yellowish’ color and I certainly don’t want to loose this magnificent tree. I do have a brand new box of your ‘Orchard Fertilizer’ (45-00-00)but I have not put any on at this time. As the tree lacking in iron or what would you suggest I do??? I estimate the age of this tree to be aprox. 5 years old. The poor thing was ‘Root-Bound’ when I took it out of its 15 Gal. container. I did loosen all the roots and removed much of the mulch that they were tied with. I gave it as much TLC as I knew how to do when I re-planted it. Would a ‘foiliar-spray’ of Orchard Fertilizer help? Any suggestions you can send my way is much appreciated.
    Paul Allred
    (long time customer of Stark Bros.)

    • Elmer permalink

      Hi Paul,

      Remember that even though your tree is large and advanced, it’s still a “fresh plant”, of sorts. When trees are root bound, I suggest make knife cuts a couple of places on the roots, opposite sides of the circling; that way they will re-root into the soil around them rather than strangling themselves.

      The foliar spray as directed could help and Stark® Tre-Pep® with water wouldn’t hurt when poured into the root zone. As to the yellow leaves, when trees have lived constrained by a pot, they exhaust its nutrients… that’s why it’s important for the root ball to stretch out its roots into fresh soil.

      Pick up the Stark® Orchard Fertilizer a year or two down the road. Best of luck!


  20. California Hal permalink

    Great information but lacking one item …

    AFTER APPLYING THE DRY FERTILIZER, one must water it in or you loose most of it to the atmosphere.

    I always give the tree a deep watering after applying the fertilizer.

    California Hal

  21. David permalink

    Yellow leaves could also be due to overwatering…..and if you soil surrounding the hole you dug is heavy clay soil, you tree is sitting in a soil bathtub….if you have heavy clay soil, plant the rootball with about 1/3 of the root ball above ground level and then mound good topsoil around it and mulch it well…this will allow your roots to breathe which is essential to good plant growth. Most plants do not like “wet feet.” This is a trick I learned while landscaping in the St. Louis area which has a lot of heavy clay-type soils.

  22. Rick permalink

    I have bought 4 apple and two plum trees from your site. I can not find any where on your site that discusses dwarf size vs semi-dwarf size. I am curious how tall and wide a dwarf apple tree will be compared to a semi-dwarf. Also, what about the number of fruit and size of the fruit between the two types of trees?
    Can you spray your apple trees after you see flowers??
    This is a very helpful blog.

    • Meg permalink

      Hey Rick, thanks for stopping by! :) You know, the sizing is kinda hidden in the website atm (something we’re working on) – but here’s the link to the tree sizes & other product words you may find useful:

      Every tree bears full-sized fruit – the only thing that would affect the fruit size is if the tree decides to overbear one year. That’s when it tries to be an over-achiever & taxes its nutrients/resources too much. When a tree overbears, the fruit will usually get about 1/2-2/3 normal size, & the tree will usually drop the fruit early because it can’t support them all. In such a scenario, it’s best to “thin” the fruit by plucking off about 1/3 while they’re still in forming stage (or bloom stage, if you see an overcrowding of blooms).

      Re: spraying – we’ll hopefully have a post on that soon! Dormant oil spray is applied in the winter, when the trees are dormant. Any sprays with insecticides should be applied AFTER bloom-time… gives the trees a chance to pollinate w/o coming in contact with any chemicals. :)

      Hope that helps! Best of luck!

      • Rick permalink

        Thanks Meg for the quick reply. As to spraying: Do you mean insecticide can be sprayed after the flowers fall off. (is that after the bloom)?

        • Meg permalink

          Exactly. :) Once all the flowers fall off the tree, the bees’ jobs are done & it’s safe to spray insecticides!

          • Rick permalink

            Thanks! I love that you have this blog.
            I will be using your company in the future.

  23. Peter permalink

    I’ve a Stark Saturn that’s bearing for the time this year, at first there was new fruit all over the tree, but now I find more of it on the ground than on the tree. I water deeply on a regular basis and fertilized when in bloom. This is my first shot at fruit trees so I’m hopeful.

    • Meg permalink

      Congrats on your new peaches! :) How long has your tree been planted? In the 1st/2nd year, we recommend plucking off any forming fruit – the tree is usually too young to efficiently bear full-size fruit at that age (which may be why your tree’s fruit is dropping already).

      Also – in case you ever come upon a time when your tree doesn’t seem to be forming blooms or fruit – know that most fertilizers are high in nitrogen, which is great for TREE growth (& you want tree growth the first few years your tree is planted!). But once your tree gets to bearing-age, nitrogen doesn’t help in bloom/fruiting. Should you ever see a lack of blooms on your tree, just lighten up on fertilizing for about a year.

      Hope that helps! Best of luck, & feel free to contact us anytime should you have questions. :)

  24. Karyn permalink

    We planted six fruit trees this year, three in the fall, three this spring. There are two apple, one cherry, one peach, one pear, one plum (all self-pollinating). They are doing well and have some buds showing now. There is some growth on the bottom of the trunk right now beneath the tree guard. Do I cut this off? What else can I do to help the growth of these trees?
    Thank you.

  25. John Whetzell permalink

    I give my wife a new tree every Mother’s Day. We have been married for 43 years (43 trees). Most of the trees are from Stark and we enjoy many fruitful seasons. But we have lost some trees and some of the bounty has been corrupted by pits and mold. What kind of spray do you recommed and do you supply it?


    • Brenda permalink

      Hi John! What a lovely tradition for your wife! :-) I am sorry to hear about some of your trees. :-( If it’s possible, I would really like to look at the trees & fruit. Would you be able to take a few pics & email them to I want to make sure I recommend the right product(s) for your trees. Have a wonderful weekend!

  26. Janet permalink

    We planted two apples trees from Stark Brothers a year ago fall. Last spring the Golden delicious had over 30 blossoms until the deer found it. Now this year there are only 5 blossoms on one branch. We have a fence around them now. The other ( Honey Crisp ) has never blossomed. Now the problem is the leaves are beginning to curl up and there are lots of black ants covering those leaves. What should we do?

    Thank you for the information

  27. David L. Glenn, Sr permalink

    Is it ever a good idea to mulch fruit trees or vines since mulching helps to retain groung moisture and as it rots help provide nutrients?

  28. David permalink

    I dug up a small cherry tree and transplanted it in my yard. It gets full sun, however, I believe it may have been zapped by a late frost. It seems to be living, but the buds are brown. Should I prune it, fertilize it, or just wait and see if it will live? There is not greenery or leaves as of yet. I live in the southwestern part of Virginia.

    • Brenda permalink

      Hi David! Thanks for stopping by!
      When did you transplant the cherry tree? Ideally, this should be done when the tree is dormant. Have you tried a scratch test? If not, use your thumbnail and gently scratch off a little piece of the bark about halfway up the trunk. If you see green, it’s still alive; if brown, then the tree is dead. If the tree is still alive, I would fertilize now and prune it in the fall. Try this and let us know! :-)

  29. Melissa permalink

    Hi. I have four questions.

    I bought/planted a Stark hardy kiwi fall of 2010 and even though it’s doing well for now, I realized that I picked a poor location to plant it and would like to move it. Would I be safe doing this in fall when it’s dormant? Any advice on transplanting it? I also read that once it’s fruiting it may produce better if I have both a male and female even though it said self-fertilizing. Is this true?

    I’d also like to transplant a quite large volunteer red raspberry bush. It’s doing beautifully so clearly it likes it’s location but I don’t! Any advice would be great.

    Finally, could you help me understand how to determine what 1″ of water/week means for watering my fruit trees? Can you translate this into total number of gallons or something like that?

    Thanks! Melissa

    • Brenda permalink

      Hi Melissa! You should wait until the kiwi goes dormant before transplanting. It can be quite a shock moving a tree or plant in the middle of growing season. Because the Issai we carry is self-pollinating, we don’t have male & female varieties available separately. If you plant two, you may see a larger crop of fruit.
      As far as the raspberries, try to pick a location similar to where they’re at currently if you really want to move them. Full sun & well-draining soil are two key elements. Again, please wait until they’re dormant before moving.
      1 inch of rain equals about 5 1/2 gallons per square yard.
      I hope this helps! :-)

  30. I have a mini dwarf north star, a dwarf rainer and dwarf stella cherry tree planted in my back yard. I know that the north star and stella are self pollinating, My question is: will they by chance pollinate the rainier cherry tree?

    • Hi Irving. The Rainier Sweet Cherry should be able to be pollinated by another sweet cherry that blooms at the same time in your area. If the Stella and Rainier bloom at similar times (chances are the pie cherry won’t have a similar bloom-time) then pollination should take place. If not, and you require an additional cherry tree for pollination, Lapins and Bing are good choices that are recommended for pollinating a Rainier. :)

  31. Rudy permalink

    How often should I water new fruit trees. What is the life Expectancy for dwarf fruit trees’say if life was good! Thanks Rudy

    • Hi Rudy! Your fruit trees, if they’re planted in a well-drained soil, need an inch of rainfall every 7-10 days to be happy. This translates to roughly one gallon of water per new tree every 7-10 days. If it rains in that time, you should not need to additionally water your trees.

      On average, a dwarf fruit tree should live/bear up to 25 years — but this will vary between the type of fruit tree it is, the environment it lives in, and the nature of the individual tree itself. :)

  32. Kathee permalink

    We recently purchased 2 dwarf apple trees from Stark. A gala and honeycrisp. Honecrisp is coming along good but the leaves on the Gala seems a bit wilted. What could be the problem?? Also, when will we see fruits? first or second year after planting?? (our kids are buggin’ us). I’m a little nervous about the Gala tree. Hope it survives :(

    P.S. I used bloodmeal fertilizer (for fruit trees) for these trees.

    • Hi Kathee, and congratulations on your new fruit trees! It is difficult to advise without photos of the leaves that have you concerned so if you can email us photos [] they would be greatly helpful!

      There are a few things that may cause leaves to wilt, including heat, sun, and wind so it is most likely weather related. If you have been getting rain in your area regularly you should not need to water additionally but, if you have not been getting rain every 7-10 days, you should consider watering (about a gallon every week or so, of no rain) to keep your trees from suffering. Each tree is different so even if your Honeycrisp is doing fine, it won’t determine how your Gala reacts to the weather in its new environment. ;)

      Apple trees take 2-5 years after being planted and established in your yard before they start bearing. It may seem like forever to your kids but they will be thrilled when your trees are ready and start producing apples right before their eyes! :D

  33. Erik permalink

    Hi I plan on purchasing a few of you dwarf apple trees here soon and have been digging around your blog reading as much as a can find. I intend to purchase Golden Delicious & two other types. I chose Golden Delicious for it universal pollinating properties but just read here that its bi-annual. How will this affect the pollination of my other tree? Does a Bi-annual tree produce flower during its off year?

    • This is a truly excellent question, Erik! Since Goldens do tend to overbear one year, their reproductive systems become exhausted, which may cause them to rest the next year as a result. They may still produce a small amount of flowers during this off year, but they may not be adequate enough to properly pollinate your other variety apple tree. If you have room for a third variety, you may choose to plant one to allow for extra coverage of your pollination needs. If this isn’t possible, another thing you can do is be sure to thin the fruit crop of your Golden Delicious so that it isn’t allowed to overbear. Break up any clusters and leave about 4-6 inches (or so) between the developing fruit. This will help to avoid the tree needing to take a year off to restore its energy needed for fruit production.

      We recommend thinning anyway, on most fruit trees, to encourage a better quality fruit. It would simply be even more beneficial for a variety that tends to overbear. :)

      • Erik permalink

        Awesome! That’s good to hear. I really appreciate the response. Thank you Sarah.

  34. Sherry permalink

    Hi, I purchased a pear tree from you about 5 months ago, it is growing new leaves only at the base of the tree? Should I take these little branches off so that the branches on top of the tree will grow leaves? The leaves at the bottom are above the graft and look very green and healthy but the rest of the tree is bare. What should I do?

    • Hi Sherry! It sounds like that new growth is coming from the rootstock (below the graft) so it would be recommended that you remove that growth anyway.

      Now, for the top portion of your tree, if the rest of the plantlife in your area is waking up (it’s still dormant and snowy for us here!) you might want to check that the pear tree is still alive. Pears are one of the last trees to leaf out in the spring, but you can check to see if it’s still living by taking your thumb nail (or a butter knife) and scratching a small spot on the trunk of the tree*, about halfway up. Just scratch a layer of bark away and look for signs of life: greenish, whitish, wet wood beneath the scratch means the tree is still living and most likely still dormant; dry, hard, brown wood beneath the scratch means the grafted part of the tree failed to live.

      *Don’t do this on a branch or some other limb because those won’t tell much about the rest of the tree in this case.

      If you find that your pear tree didn’t make it, please let our customer support team know [800.325.4180] so that we may look into replacing it for you this spring!

  35. Carl permalink

    I purchased 3 gala and 2 granny smith apple trees from Stark Bros almost 2 years ago, they came just before that winter and I got them into the ground promptly. They struggled a bit last spring and summer and although we had a very harsh winter this year, 2 of the 3 gala are blossoming. I am somewhat surprised since they aren’t all that large yet. Should I pinch the blossoms off? Will the stress of bearing fruit (if pollinated) be too much? They seem small and young to be bearing fruit.

    • Your instinct is solid, Carl. Apple trees may begin to bloom and try to bear fruit as soon as 2 years after you’ve planted them, but the more time the tree has to become established and balance its root growth with a lush leafy top, the better the fruit quality is. As it says in the article, “it requires 40 leaves (on average) to adequately sustain one fruit”.

      Fruit-production is a stress on a tree, and often when a young tree bears early, it may end up with fruit lacking in size and quality, or it may end up prematurely dropping the fruit all together.

      What you might consider doing is allowing the trees to finish blooming — since it provides a food source for bees and other beneficials — but then pinch off most (if not all) of the spent flowers/young fruit before it can amount to much. Then, as long as your trees look healthy and lush, next year you might let them set a fuller fruit crop. :)

  36. Jerry permalink

    I have three nectarine trees I purchased from you over a couple of years. One has died but the other two have some fruit on them. One of these living trees seems to have less leaves than the other. We have had lots of rain so that is not a problem. I pruned in February and fertilized in March. Does the trees and also grape vines need fertilize once a month until June. Thanks

    • Some fruit trees put on more leaves later in the season. Fruit production tends to slow down the development of vegetative growth like leaves and branches.

      If you find that your plants and trees need an extra boost from fertilizer, you can provide it once a month until June. Just be careful not to “overdo” it, since a lot of fertilizers are high in things like nitrogen and they can present with a “burn” to the leaves if they are receiving more than they need.

  37. Mindy Young permalink

    We planted two cherry trees last spring. Both did great last season and even put on about a foot of growth. They are both approximately 6.5 foot tall. This spring both trees buded, but only one leafed out. The buds on the tree that didn’t leaf out are crumblely, but the tree itself is still limber. could it be dead?

    • Try the “Scratch Test” (instructions are here). This will tell you if the cherry tree in question is living or not.

      This past harsh winter was hard on many fruit trees, especially if it was followed by a fluctuating spring — with more than its share of cold snaps. We’re seeing the same results on many prunus (‘stone fruit’ trees) including cherries, apricots, and peaches.

      The tender buds were likely zapped, which explains why the one tree has not leafed out*. You may even notice that the tree has dead limb tips, which will be a different color (usually darker brown, dead wood). This damage can be pruned off to help stimulate new growth from the remaining buds. Other than that, try giving the tree time to bounce back. You can also help by watering and fertilizing as needed, and keeping the planting site clear of debris that might attract pests and disease while the tree is recovering from its stress. :)

      *Try not to compare one cherry tree’s performance to the other cherry tree, since they are individual trees and there are many factors that can contribute to their different response to the environment.

  38. Will Hare permalink

    This spring, I planted three apple trees in my yard (golden delicious, Calville Blanc, Honeycrisp) and since the yard gets waterlogged after a rain, I made little raised beds for them. They all seem to be doing okay as they are sprouting leaves and are beginning to branch out. My question is how should my watering/ fertilizing be different in these raised beds.

    • In raised beds, be sure to use a water-soluble substance so that it can easily move down to the root system of your trees. This can be fertilizers like granules or liquids you mix with water, or soil amendments like compost or aged manure.

      Regarding watering in general, since you said the location gets waterlogged after a rain, I would recommend watching the weather closely so that you’re not providing water in addition to the rain. You really only need to provide a nice watering once a week or so, but if it’s going to rain in that time period, you don’t need to water additionally unless you notice that the raised bed soil/medium becomes dry to the touch a couple inches below the surface.

  39. Lewis Stout permalink

    Thank you for this article. Very informative and encouraging. Leiws

  40. Kathy permalink

    I have a 6 year old Sweetheart Apricot, which I moved to my new house 4 years ago. Last year I had 20 apricots and this year have hundreds of the most delicious fruit! The pits are delicious almonds, just as described. I used Stark’s Tree Pep when putting it in, and after the move, too; this is a wonderful product for getting fruit trees off to a great start, and an early-bearing start at that.
    My son has gotten started with his own orchard and all are from Stark’s. Love your products, the packing, the shipping and arrival times.

    • Thank you for the kind words and the review of the Sweetheart Apricot, Kathy. :) I haven’t had the pleasure of trying the edible kernels of this variety yet, but now I feel very encouraged!

  41. Christine permalink

    With the California drought in full swing, I’m wondering whether I could cut back on irrigating my orchard by doing things slightly differently. We’re on a well and it’s started dropping precipitously. Currently I’m watering 60 minutes once a week. Would it be ok to water every other week, but water 90 minutes instead? That way I would save 25% of water, and it would be a deeper watering. But, of course, also only every other week. Thoughts?

    • Your math seems logical, and deep watering does benefit trees overall by causing them to seek out water and improve root establishment in the process, but causing your orchard trees to go two weeks without water during a drought will be quite stressful — especially if they are young trees.

      I’d have to suggest getting an expert opinion from a local nursery there, or at least get some input from your local county cooperative extension, since they will be better able to advise you based on similar growing locations and resulting information. Sorry I can’t be more help!

      • Christine permalink

        Thank you very much for your quick response! And thanks for the link to the extension. That makes sense to ask there.


  42. We have a dwarf North-Star-Cherry-Tree. She fruited buttgen her leaves Turned brown and Mushrooms grew under her andwe had lots of rain!She is in woodchip mulch well drained.
    Could it be just that after summer she produced in JUNE BUT WHEH July came she stopped producing fruit?Please get back to me as soon as possible thx medicine
    P.S. She is now bare and no Mushrooms are growing there.Maybe she is dorment since July or Situation.When do Cherry trees bloom and stop?

    • Typically, cherry trees only bloom once in the spring, which means they only have the opportunity to fruit once in a given year (early summer). Many things could have played into why your cherry tree fruited and then stopped – but it’s probably weather-related. If you had an unusually cool spring followed by a cool, wet summer, this is very likely the case.

      It does sound like the weather has been perfect for fungus growing around your tree, and the brown leaves could be a sign of a fungal issue with the tree itself. If you’re not interested in spraying with a fungicide like Copper Bordeaux or Fung-onil, then I would suggest that you at least keep the growing site clean of fungus whenever you see it. Rake away any debris and make sure you keep the tree pruned so it is open to light and air circulation.

      Since the season for cherries has already passed, you should consider mulching and composting now*. This will help protect the root system in the winter and also provide nourishment as it breaks down. That will improve the health of the soil which helps reduce the chance of fungal diseases thriving.

      *some mulch may have fungal contaminents, so it’s in the best interest of your tree to find a reputable source of mulch or compost – even if it costs a little more.

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