London (change)
20 messages
24/05/2012 at 17:45

My employer has an old, old Bramley which has produced tons of gorgeous apples over the years...however....this year the blossom is almost finished, what is left has gone brown and if the teeny, tiny apples left behind are touched they promptly fall off. Our ancient gardener prounounced "water starvation" despite the  fact that we've had torrential rain over the past several weeks and the ground was waterlogged.  Admittedly we live in West Sussex which is still officially in drought, but we've always had an amazing crop.

We're wondering if this could be a pollination problem.....there haven't been the usual high number of bees lately.

Do any of you apple growers out there have any suggestions?  All advice gratefully received.

24/05/2012 at 19:27

Yes, I posted on a similar thread recently that I strongly believe the cause is lack of pollination.  I've seen very few bees around over the last few weeks, apart from the odd bumble bee.  Honey bees have been staying in their hives during all the cold and wet.  I expect hardly any crop from my apples, pears and plums this year.

If you still have any blossom (and you can reach it!), try hand-pollination using a small soft brush.  That may only work if you have other apple trees though, as most require cross-pollination.  Do a few flowers on one tree, switch to the other and then go back to the first.

In parts of China where pesticides use has killed all of the bees, they have to hand-pollinate thousands of trees!  See this link:

24/05/2012 at 19:58

Just discovered the same problem today. I usually have to thin as so much blossom sets. This year I have 10% of what is normal. My neighbouring plot holder has poor set too. Maybe I'll get a few superb apples....

25/05/2012 at 07:58

Thank you both for your input.....even with my limited gardening knowledge I thought it might be a pollination problem.  Isn't it incredible to think that we human beings, with all knowledge and street smarts can be so affected by the tiny but beautiful bee!  Just shows ya, eh...

20/06/2013 at 21:01
when we moved into our cottage three years ago in july there were loads of apples. however in the past 2 years we have had hardly any. there is only the one apple tree. this year loads of blossom but don't know if we will get any. it is an eating apple must be a least 40 years old. can only hope
20/06/2013 at 21:21

My big apple tree was flowering but not fruiting. We think it was because the pollinator (in next doors old orchard) had fallen over and died.  I got some cheap small  apple trees from Morrisons, and planted them. Some blossom, but obviously enough to pollinate , beacause  it is back to huge crops. We had been contemplating cutting it down.

20/06/2013 at 21:28

Actually, just remembered. Bramley is a triploid, and will not self pollinate. It definitely needs another tree to pollinate it.

You need a mid season flowerer such as James Greive, Charles Ross, or Katy.

20/06/2013 at 22:07

Thanks fidgetbones....this might sound blase, but it is no longer my problem as my employers moved last year and so the mystery of the Bramley is for someone else to solve. I have a feeling the new owners of the property are just going to rip out the whole orchard, which will be a real shame, but hey, that's their prerogative.

In the meantime I've also had to move house as my employers couldn;t take me with them ( I was their housekeeper and my husband was the gardener), so we now have our own tiny patch with its own problems.....mainly a "lawn" that all the local cats have used as a toilet for the past 25 years! Hey ho.....

20/06/2013 at 22:55

I have a 'family apple tree' having Bramley Seedling, James Grieve and Cox's Orange Pippin on the same tree which are all pollinators for each other. (50th birthday pressie from my daughter 18 years ago!). Same thing this year though, we do have a few apples but there were very few bees about when the blossom came out. There is something called 'June Drop' when unpollinated fruit will just drop off the tree. Those that do survive and grow to maturity do need thinning out if there are a lot on 1 spur. This is because later on when the fruits grow large they will compete for space and 'windfalls' will occur - except they aren't always 'windfalls' but the weaker ones (though quite large) will be forced off the tree by their adjacent fruit and drop to the ground. The bruises that become evident aren't just from the ground contact but from the pressure of the apple left behind which can also suffer. Bramleys (I notice) are particularly subject to this because they do grow quite large.

21/06/2013 at 08:38

 Good pies

26/06/2013 at 19:55

I've had to hand polinate these last two years as there so few bees. I've got three bumble bee hives too plus a big stump full of holes for solitary bees yet still it's a good day if I see two in the same place. 

26/06/2013 at 20:27

How can I find out what type of apples our tree bears?  All I know is that they're cooking apples (the few left when we moved in last year were gorgeous).  Touch wood there are a lot of apples setting even though we had to prune it quite a bit.

26/06/2013 at 21:26

 Jim, I have two blue tit boxes, that had blue tit nests in last year, but both have  bumble bee nests in this year. Maybe the bees are going high rise, after last years soggy summer. That makes three bumble bee nests in the garden. The apples and plums are so laden I am going to have to drastically thin them otherwise the branches will break.


26/06/2013 at 21:29

Sarah 4. If you are in Devon, you could check if Rosemoor gardens are having an apple ID day in September or October.

I took some apples from the old orchard next door, to an apple day at Harlow Carr, and they identified them for me.

26/06/2013 at 21:41

I am indeed in Devon - that's a brilliant idea. Thank you.

26/06/2013 at 21:56

Rosemoor has an apple ID day on the 4th September. 2013

  See rhs website for more details.  You have to take 3  apples of each specimen you would like identified.

26/06/2013 at 22:07

I must have been looking it up at the same time as you were - let's hope I have 3 apples to take with me although it's looking promising at the moment.  Thank you so much for checking it out.

26/06/2013 at 22:25

Ihave just joined the forum am looking forward to getting some tips and sharing some of my stories

27/06/2013 at 13:49

I wonder on the number of bees and if its only certain areas of the country.  when i am in my garden there seems to be lots of bees, mainly what i think are the solo bees, same goes when round at my parents house, my dads garden is full of them and i think quite a lot of the bees live under his garden shed/workshop.

Im in lancashire btw.

27/06/2013 at 14:21

We had solitary bees early on in the season, and now we have bumbles. I havn't seen any honeybees, and there are not a lot of hoverflys about.  (nottingham)

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