Only one apple tree

Asked March 19, 2018, 8:13 PM EDT

My 91 and 87 year old parents have been successfully raising and harvesting 300+ Haralson apples each year. Two summers ago they lost one of their two trees and only got 5 apples last year. They know they need two trees for pollination. Is there anything they can do to get a better harvest other than planting another tree? Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Crow Wing County Minnesota

1 Response

Thank you for the question. Two different varieties of apple tree need to be grown within about 1/2 mile or less of each other in order for flying insects like bees and flies to pollinate them. If your parents had 2 Haralson trees, pollination was accomplished by another apple tree close by, even a crabapple tree they may not have aware of. If this was the case, the remaining tree may just have had an "off" year, a common occurrence after a heavy fruiting year. There are other reasons for failure to fruit: too few pollinators, frost, wet weather, and insecticides. If your parents had 2 different apple trees and there are no other apple trees nearby, the only way to ensure fruiting is to plant another apple tree that blooms mid-season at about the same time as the Haralson. Unfortunately, it will take at least 3 years for the new tree to flower if dwarf root stock is chosen, longer if semi-dwarf or standard root stock trees are chosen. Choices hardy enough for your parent's area would include Sweet Sixteen, Honeycrisp, Frostbite, and Chestnut crab.
If there are other apple trees, especially crabapple trees nearby, pollination might be improved by planting native flowering plants in the yard with the tree. This might draw in more pollinators that would increase the odds of fertilization. Here is a nice publication with lists of native plants including descriptions:
Native plants are ideally suited to attract native bees which are highly efficient at their jobs. Native plants usually bloom in their second year.
To learn more about growing apple trees and pollination, check out these publications:

Thank you for contacting Extension.