Experts tackle readers’ garden questions.
Q: I would like to know whether it is at all common for an apple tree to blosson and develop fruit twice in one season. I purchased an apple tree and, according to the tag on the tree, it is a dwarf Dorsett golden apple. It’s planted in a ceramic pot, 14 inches wide and 10 inches high. At the time of purchase, it had one small developing apple, which was tasty when picked later in the summer, probably July or August. I remember thinking it was early for an apple tree (to have ripe fruit).
The tree stayed in the pot next to the fence in the sun. I fertilized it with Osmocote in April. By late April, it had already started to flower and soon form apples. I had 10 to 15 apples and was eating them at the end of June or early July. Even as I picked the apples, I was surprised to see new flower buds forming. The flowering started from the bottom branches and moved upward. Those blooms became little apples, too.
Is this “second crop” just a lot of effort on the part of the tree for perhaps apples that won’t ripen, or will there actually be a second edible crop?
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Master gardener Lorraine Van Kekerix: Dorsett golden is one of a handful of apples that is truly “low chill,” requiring very little dormancy in order to thrive and set fruit. In warm and tropical climates, it can fruit up to three times a year.
The Dorsett golden apple requires a low number of winter chill hours to bloom and set fruit, and is harvested early in the season. A chill hour is an hour when the temperature is below 45 degrees. Historically, the Sacramento area has 900 to 1,200 chill hours per year.
When there are enough chill hours later in the season, the tree bears a second crop. Some trees in cool summer coastal Southern California produce two or occasionally three crops of ripe apples a year.
Your Dorsett golden may set a second crop of apples when the Sacramento area summer is cooler and there are enough chill hours later in the season for a second crop to set.
The late-growing season weather will have a large impact on whether a second crop of Dorsett golden apples ripens in the Sacramento area. If warm fall weather lasts a long time, the second crop may ripen before the tree goes dormant and winter sets in.
Because the small pot size may be severely restricting root growth, you may want to consider plating the tree in the ground or repotting in a larger pot.
Lorraine Van Kekerix is a UC Cooperative Extension master gardener in Sacramento County.
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