The Q&A Archives: Plums dropp off halfway through season

Question: My three-year-old dwarf plum set about 60 fruits, but they all dropped off halfway through the growing season. I didn't see any insect problems. What went wrong? Caroline Mary Watz Glendale, NY

Answer: If plums aren't properly pollinated, all the fruits will drop about two weeks after most of the flower petals have fallen, says Kenneth Livermore, plum specialist at the New York State Fruit Testing Cooperative Association in GenevA. Most plums need cross pollination. If you have a Japanese type plum or an older European variety, you'll need to grow a different variety of the same type of plum within 100 yards of your tree for proper pollination. But if there is a good source of pollen nearby, the problem could be related to the age of your tree and a nutrient imbalance. I've occasionally seen three year old dwarf plums drop their fruits for no apparent reason and then fruit fine in subsequent years, says Livermore. It could be the fact that your tree is young, combined with some nutrient imbalance in the soil, he says. Next spring, test the soil, and side dress with a fertilizer of moderate nitrogen levels about a 5 10 10 analysis. Then see how the tree performs, he suggests.

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