Looking Forward in the Backyard Orchard

Posted: October 13, 2012

Many of us backyard fruit growers had either a small tree fruit crop or no crop at all in 2012...

You may be wondering what that means for next year. Before we look ahead, let’s take a moment to look back at this past growing season. We had a few dry spells, but overall we had good soil moisture throughout the growing season. We had ample sunshine and near normal temperatures. Overall it was a good growing season, and the trees were not stressed. So what did the trees do with all that energy that would have gone into growing the fruit? Some of it went into additional growth, but some of it was stored for next year.

We are set up for a good tree fruit year in 2013. Of course there are no guarantees, especially when it comes to growing tree fruit. There are many factors that go into making a good fruit crop. Some weather related occurrences that could easily take away a good fruit crop include warm spells in late winter, late frosts, extended rainy periods, drought, and hail. Assuming we have “normal” weather in 2013, we should have a good harvest. You can expect the trees to have lots of bloom and an above average amount of fruit on the trees. The tree will use that extra energy it stored up this year to make lots of new little fruit next spring. If this happens, then it is important that you take the time to thin the fruit down to a level that the tree can handle. Typically for apples, pears, and peaches, that would be one fruit every 8” of branch. If too much fruit is left on the tree and it has to put too much energy into maturing that large crop of fruit, then just the opposite situation will happen the following spring. The tree will have very little energy and will not set fruit. Once this cycle, called bi-annual bearing, starts, it is difficult to stop. Keeping the fruit crop balanced from year to year is not hard. Prune your trees every year. Keep the fruit load from becoming too heavy by thinning-use the 8” rule. Keep a moderate amount of fertility in the soil-too much nitrogen can be a problem. Lime periodically. Most importantly, enjoy the miracle of growing your own fruit.

For more information contact your local extension office. In Lackawanna County call 570-963-6842 or email

John Esslinger, Extension Educator
Penn State Extension