Question from Sonia:
I have two low-chill apple trees. One is “Anna” and the other is “Dorset Golden.” These trees usually flower in winter and again in summer but this summer they failed to bloom. Why?
Answer from Pat:
The reason your ‘Anna’ and ‘Dorset Golden’ apple trees did not bloom a second this summer is probably the result of the weather. Or it could result from not doing any summer pruning. Usually, ‘Anna’ and ‘Dorset Golden’ bloom in late winter or early spring and then they bloom again in summer, but it all depends on temperatures. Sometimes ‘Anna’ and ‘Dorset Golden’ bloom as early as December and unfortunately even though ‘Dorset Golden’ is sold as a pollinator for ‘Anna’, it often blooms a little later than ‘Anna’, but ‘Ein Shemier’ blooms at the same time as ‘Anna’ and thus is a better pollinator for it. In mid-summer, as you have pointed out, ‘Anna’ and ‘Dorset Golden’ often bloom again.
Here is a fun project you might like to try. Purchase a recording thermometer and set it up in the garden next to the trees. Then keep a diary of night and day high and low temperatures. By recording these for a few years you could find out how many degrees of difference from day and night temperatures these trees need in order to bloom in summer. (It might be just night temperatures that do the job, since that is the factor on winter chill hours, or it might possibly be the difference between high and low temps.)
August pruning also promotes flowering with these two varieties. August is the correct time to cut off the water sprouts (suckers) that spring up like buggy whips from the main scaffold branches in the center of the tree. If one takes off these water sprouts as one always should do, then this action sometimes makes the tree flower. If this job has been neglected for years, the water sprouts will grow tall and strong and become like trees within trees bearing many spurs and much of the fruit on the tree. On these neglected trees, these overgrown and bearing water sprouts should at least be shortened in August. If one shortens them in August this action will always force immediate blooms on the existing spurs left on the tree. Additionally, if one is growing these two low-chill varieties as espaliers, this is the time to shorten the spurs that grow up from the branches, since otherwise they will shoot to the sky. When one cuts off down these tall whiplike stems, the older spurs that remain further down will immediately flower. It is still not too late to do your August pruning. (See also the information on this subject in my organic book on page 290.)
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