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Garden detective: Pomegranate’s lack of sweetness could be weather related

My “Wonderful” pomegranate tree has produced lots of beautiful and sweet pomegranates for many years (never a bad year) until this year. Again, there is a beautiful bountiful crop of large fruit and the fruit is a very dark red as is the flesh – the pomegranates are cracking and the fruit looks gorgeous. However, the fruit is somewhat tart. This is the first time ever – in about 26 years. I am a little disappointed and am not sure why the fruit is not extremely sweet.

I did prune the tree last year as the tree was really big and I was not able to get around it or through it. It has been pruned before and it’s never been a problem. In fact, the fruit got bigger and fewer. I have at least 100 pomegranates and most are quite large. I live in Sacramento and the weather early this spring was a little weird. The fruit didn’t set as early as usual.

Was it the weather or should I be feeding something special to the tree? I am disappointed as I don’t feel the fruit is sweet enough to give to friends and neighbors. The question is why did this happen? Does it need to be fed special food? I am concerned.

John German, Sacramento

According to UC master gardener Carol Rogala, you are correct. The weird weather played a big part in the production and flavor of your pomegranates. For example in 2011, our cool late spring and repeated late rains created multiple issues in the valley for all growers.

Pomegranate blossom time commences in late spring and may continue into the summer.

With the right temperature, the fruits should ripen in five to seven months after the appearance of the blossom.

To obtain good-quality fruit that has a sweet-acid taste, high temperatures are required during the fruiting period. If the early summer weather is too cool, the fruit won’t be as sweet.

Pomegranate trees (actually large shrubs) should be given 2- to 4-ounce applications of nitrogen fertilizer the first two springs after planting.

After that, very little fertilizer is needed, although the plants respond to an annual mulch of rotted manure or other compost.

Established trees do not require much water and excess water will reduce sweetness.

That may also play a factor in a crop that seems to lack its usual sugar content.

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