Tomato blossom set spray

Tomato & Blossom Set Spray RTU

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Solving Fruit Tree Blooming & Bearing Problems

Have a fruit tree that won’t bloom or bear fruit? Discover common issues and how to solve them, plus basic tree requirements for fruit production.

Two commonly frustrating questions any grower might ask:

  1. “Why won’t my fruit tree bloom?”
  2. “Why doesn’t my tree have fruit?”

You’ve planted your fruit tree. It’s growing. It’s living. But it’s not blooming or bearing fruit. While this can be discouraging to the point of wanting to chop the tree down, go for the facts – not the axe. If your fruit tree doesn’t bloom or bear, it can happen for a number of reasons. In this article, we focus on the 6 basic requirements of fruit trees and address the most common issues and solutions related to fruit production.

6 Basic Needs for Fruit Production

1. Tree Development
If your fruit tree is still too young/immature, it won’t go into fruit-production mode. When you receive your tree from Stark Bro’s, it will be around 2 years old and will still need a few years before reaching its fruiting maturity. Read our article about how many years until you should expect fruit for more information about how long it takes for different trees to bear before deciding your tree has an issue.

2. Pollination
Fruit trees require pollination to be able to set fruit. If your tree is not self-pollinating, it needs a compatible pollinator tree planted nearby. Also, pollination-helping beneficials like bees, birds, and wind need to be adequately present. If your tree is missing these important elements, it may bloom, but it will not likely set fruit. Read more about the importance of fruit tree pollination.

3. Hardiness Zones
Individual tree varieties have recommended hardiness zones for planting. You can find out how to determine your USDA hardiness zone here, and learn more by reading Fruit Tree Care: Planting in the Zone. Once you know what your zone is, you will be able to select fruit trees that are recommended to grow in your area.

Things to Consider When Planting in Your Zone:

  • Trees should be hardy to your zone for a chance to survive winters and summers.
  • Trees should receive adequate chill hours to produce fruit. Chill hours are based on temperatures that stay between 32ºF and 45ºF for hours consecutively during the tree’s dormant period. If the tree is hardy to your zone but does not meet its chill-hour requirement, its fruit production will decrease. As a general rule, most peaches have a low chill-hour requirement, most apples are in the middle, and most pears have a high chill-hour requirement.
  • Weather can greatly affect fruit production. If a late frost zaps your tree’s blossoms or young fruit, then it will not be able to produce a crop for you to harvest that year. If a drought or intense heat/cold damages your trees and their buds, you simply have to care for your trees this year (as usual) and wait for more favorable weather next year.

4. Pruning
Regularly pruned trees are much more apt to producing quality fruit. Fruiting buds tend to form on limbs that have adequate air circulation and light infiltration, which is your goal when pruning. Learn about pruning tips and more in our article, Successful Tree Pruning.

You also have to make sure that you find the right balance for pruning. Heavy over-pruning can cause a tree to produce too much vegetative growth in response, and under-pruning can contribute to the development of too much fruiting wood, which is the culprit for overbearing and fruit drop.

5. Spacing
Fruit trees that are planted too close to one another will compete for nutrients and light. If planting trees close together is part of your design (espalier and high-density plantings are two prime examples), then you will need to prune accordingly to keep them open to light and ensure the trees are getting enough nutrients from the soil.

If trees are planted too close to buildings and other structures, they will have similar conflicts with the added risk of interfering with those structures. Make sure you give your trees enough room to grow and flourish. For an easy-to-follow reference for tree-spacing, learn more about the different fruit tree sizes here.

6. Soil Conditions
It is very important that your trees have the right balance of reserve food and soil elements. This is the best thing you can do to ensure your tree fruits and has energy to support its fruit. As you can see in the graphic, if this balance is off, it can have a negative impact on how your tree blooms or bears.

If a tree has plenty of reserve food but a shortage of soil elements, you may see a stunted crop of undersized, poor-quality fruit. You might even see no fruit at all. This can happen if your tree has tried to overbear, which may cause a tree to drop its fruit prematurely. It may also happen if your tree has experienced foliage-depletion, which can be caused by stress, weather, or other weakening factors (animals, pests, or disease). Identifying the stress factor and treating it will help to remedy the problem. You can have your soil tested to find nutrient deficiencies. You should implement routine control of pests and disease.

A tree can also have an excess of soil elements but not enough reserve food. The tree will appear to be healthy and lush during the growing season, but it will not bear fruit (regardless of maturity) since, in many cases, the tree doesn’t even bloom. This happens as a result of “over-feeding”. If the soil provides plenty of nutrients, like nitrogen (either naturally or by adding fertilizer), the tree develops an excess of vegetative growth that will delay the growth of fruiting buds. You can remedy this problem by holding off on fertilizing and waiting until the next growing season for results.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

There are some extreme solutions that should only be attempted if all else fails: root-pruning or scoring your trees.

Root pruning: Bring a spade or shovel out to the drip line of your trees. The drip line is where the tips of the branches are, but straight down on the ground. Take the spade or shovel and push it straight into the ground and pull it straight back out. Do not dig out any dirt. Move over a foot or two and repeat the process. You are essentially creating a dotted-line circle around your tree’s root system, which will clip the feeder roots and “shock” the tree into blooming during the next growing season.

Scoring: This has the same result as root pruning, but scoring should not be your first step to getting your tree to fruit. Consider it a last resort. When scoring your trees, bring a small knife (like a pocket-knife) out to your tree. Locate a spot low on the trunk and cut a single horizontal line into the bark, only halfway around the tree. Move up several inches and repeat this, but halfway around the other direction. Do not let these lines connect to one another or you will destroy the phloem tissue and completely disrupt the vascular system of the tree, which will lead to its demise. See the animated image as a reference for examples of properly scoring the bark halfway around a tree.

If you keep these instances in mind, then you will have a better understanding of why a fruit tree does not bear. Nip a potential problem in the bud and exercise your patience (not your lumberjack-swing). Your trees will thank you!

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Blossom End Rot A water-soaked spot at the blossom end of tomato fruits is the classic symptom of blossom-end rot. This relatively common garden problem is not a disease, but rather a physiological disorder caused by a calcium imbalance within the plant. It can occur in pepper, squash, cucumber, and melon fruits as well as tomatoes. Blossom-end rot is most common when the growing season starts out wet and then becomes dry when fruit is setting. Damage first appears when fruits are approximately half their full size. The water-soaked areas enlarge and turn dark brown and leathery. These areas will eventually begin to rot, so the fruit should be picked and discarded.

Several factors can limit a plant’s ability to absorb enough calcium for proper development. These include: fluctuations in soil moisture (too wet or too dry), an excess of nitrogen in the soil, root damage due to cultivation, soil pH that’s either too high or too low, cold soil and soil high in salts.

Prevention and Control

*Maintain consistent levels of moisture in the soil throughout the growing season. Water thoroughly to moisten the soil to a depth of at least 6″.

*Prevent calcium deficiency with Bonide Tomato Rot Stop.

*Maintain soil pH at or near 6.5.

*Use fertilizers that are low in nitrogen and high in phosphorous, such as Gardner&Bloome Tomato, Vegetable & Herb, it contains 10% calcium.

*Apply mulch, such as Kellogg Growmulch, to minimize evaporation and help maintain consistent soil moisture.


This is a condition suffered by tomatoes, peppers, snap beans, and some other fruiting vegetables where the plant blooms but fails to set fruit, the blooms die and fall off. It may be caused by the use of excess nitrogen fertilizers or dry windy conditions, but the

most common cause is temperature extremes. Tomatoes, peppers and beans are especially picky about the air temps when it comes time to set fruit. If the night temps fall below 55 or rise above 75 or if the day temps are above 90, the pollen becomes tacky and non-viable. Pollination cannot occur. If the bloom isn’t pollinated, the bloom dies and falls off.


Water the plants deeply once a week, mulch heavily to maintain constant soil moisture levels, establish windbreaks as needed, avoid using excessive amounts of nitrogen fertilizers, and wait for temperatures to moderate and stabilize. Earlier timed planting can help attain fruit set prior to the on-set of high temps, and the use of protection can compensate for cool nights. Some recommend attempting hand-pollination with an artist brush or a gentle shaking of the plant/cage/support prior to the hottest part of the day will also help. Fruit set will resume when temperatures moderate.

Hormone sprays, such as Bonide Blossom Set,has the biological power to promote blossom set and fruit development. Simply apply it on your plants and the natural plant hormone helps blossoms set fruit even under poor weather conditions. Works on most vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons and strawberries. But studies prove that hormone sprays do not prevent blossom drop due to HIGH temperatures.

Squash Bugs

These small, dark brown or black bugs often gather at the base of plants or under dead leaves. The leaves on affected plants will wilt, turning crisp and black as they die.


Squash Bug adults overwinter in your dead leaves, vines, under boards, and even in buildings. They fly to the plants as soon as vines start forming. They mate and lay egg masses on the undersides of the leaves.You’ll find adults beneath damaged leaves and near the plant crown. Remove plant debris and other rubbish from gardens and around the home to minimize their overwintering habitat.


Hand pick squash bugs in small numbers. We have three products that kill these bugs. Monterey Garden Insect Spray contains Spinosad (spin-OH-sid), a product first isolated from a naturally occurring soil dwelling bacterium that was collected on a Caribbean island from an abandoned rum distillery. Sevin also works, but it is not organic. I have read articles that claim Neem is supposed to sterilize adults and it will kill the nymphs. Time squash bug sprays to kill young nymphs just after hatch, because this stage is the easiest to control. What every treatment you decide, treat late in the day when the flowers are closed to reduce risk to bees.

DEAR JESSICA: I have several large white oak trees on my property that have not yet dropped their leaves. For as long as I can remember, the majority of leaves fall by Thanksgiving. However, the trees seem to be holding tightly onto their brown foliage. Should I expect them to drop as the winter progresses or will there be a surge of leaves falling come spring 2018?

— Diane Kerley,


DEAR DIANE: All leaves — even needles on evergreens — have a life span, and when they reach the end of the line, they lose chlorophyll, change color (sometimes they simply turn brown) and drop. But oaks (and beech) trees sometimes are late to the party. What you’re seeing is something called marcescence, which is the retention of dead plant matter. The trees’ leaves have died, but they’re holding on to the tree.

There isn’t one definitive reason why this happens, but it’s believed to be a protective mechanism of the tree: very young trees, as well as those growing in dry, infertile soil, are prone to hold on to dead leaves until spring, when they drop, decompose and enrich the soil just as the tree comes out of dormancy and needs the nutrients most.

It’s nothing to worry about; just a marvelous example of nature taking care of itself.

DEAR JESSICA: I read your article about indoor lemon trees last month and have a tip for you. Since the trees are in the house when they start flowering, and there are no bees in one’s home, you need mention to all who want to grow a lemon tree to buy spray pollen, as I have had years with 15-20 full-size lemons, and they taste amazing.

— Andrew Hager,


DEAR ANDREW: So-called “spray pollen” products don’t actually contain pollen, but rather a synthetic hormone called kinetin, which forces fruit production despite a lack of pollination. These blossom-setting sprays aren’t appropriate for all plants, and are more often applied to tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, melons and strawberries in the garden than to indoor citrus fruit. Fruit from treated plants tends to grow misshapen, and oftentimes without seeds, but the flavor remains the same. This is the first time I’ve heard of the product being used on indoor fruit trees, so I consulted with an expert.

Horticulturist Vinnie Drzewucki, resource educator with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Nassau County in East Meadow, tells me he believes Bonide Blossom Set spray, the only such product registered for sale in New York State, does work, but warns that its label “does not list it for use on lemons or citrus . . . so legally it can’t be used.” He went on to speculate that the reason could be simply that there’s “little to no scientifically valid research or documented evidence existing for the use of this substance on citrus or other plants for listing them on the label of a product. Funding such research to create this documentation is very costly, and a manufacturer might not find it cost effective to do it just to add another plant to the label.” Commercial citrus growers, Drzewucki points out, “don’t seem to use it, so there’s probably not enough estimated use by home gardeners to make it worthwhile for a consumer product label.”

His recommendation? “I think when it comes to growing lemons or any citrus fruit plant indoors, knowing and providing proper environmental conditions and cultural practices, with a little help from hand pollination of flowers, are what’s most important.”

DEAR JESSICA: My dad, Raymond Amendola of Shirley, is an avid reader of your column and thinks the information you share is excellent. He is having a problem with his brassicas and hopes you’ll be able to help. He describes seeing 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch shot holes in the leaves. He does not see any evidence of slugs but does see tiny whiteflies. Dad has tried using hot sauce as well as a general insecticide — to no avail. Do you have any other remedies to suggest?

— Kate Amendola,

Hell’s Kitchen

DEAR KATE: My guess is your father’s plants have been under attack by cabbage worms, which would create the holes you describe, as well as whiteflies.

The best defense against cabbage worms is a good offense, which in this case means covering new plants with floating row covers in spring. In addition, disrupting the life cycle of overwintering pupae in the soil can go a long way toward reducing or eliminating their emergence in spring, so give the soil a good tilling now.

After evidence of damage is seen, the best control is the bacteria Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). Apply according to package directions.

The whiteflies look more harmful than they are, and they usually can be controlled with a simple rinse from a hose, directing water to the undersides of leaves.

By Jessica Damiano @jessicadamiano

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener, gardening coach, author and lecturer who pens Newsday’s weekly Garden Detective column. She spends her free time weeding and struggling to save her lawn from her two dogs.

Blossom Set Spray Info: How Do Tomato Set Sprays Work

Homegrown tomatoes are one of the best aspects of creating a garden. Even those without access to large spaces for crops are able to plant and enjoy tomatoes. Whether choosing to grow a hybrid, or one of the hundreds of heirloom varieties offered, the taste and texture of homegrown tomatoes are far more superior to those of their grocery store counterparts. With such high expectations, it is easy to see why some growers may become increasingly frustrated when their tomato plants struggle or fail completely to set fruit.

Tomato fruit set occurs when the flowers of the tomato plant are pollinated. This pollination usually happens with the help of wind or insects. However, sometimes the conditions for pollination are not conducive to fruit set. Luckily, for gardeners whose tomato plants

are struggling, there are some options, like tomato hormone spray, to help encourage tomato fruiting.

What is Tomato Set Spray?

Failure to set fruit commonly occurs early in the growing season when temperatures are still cool. Humidity is another common culprit that causes poor distribution of pollen within the flower. Tomato set spray is a product that helps produce tomatoes in plants that have not naturally been pollinated.

Comprised of plant hormones, the spray tricks the plant into producing fruit. While the spray can be used in the home garden, it is especially helpful to commercial growers who wish to increase their fruit yields early in the growing season.

The concept of blossom set spray may seem too good to be true. Many gardeners may be left to ask, “Do tomato set sprays work?” These sprays do help in the production of tomato fruits; however, there may be some complications. Since the development of the fruit is due to the hormonal enlargement of the ovule (and not pollination), any seeds produced from the fruit will likely not be viable. Additionally, some fruits may be stunted or misshapen.

How to Use Tomato Set Sprays

When using any type of blossom set spray, it is best to carefully read the package instructions and use as directed per label requirements. In general, the sprays are extremely easy to use. Misting the tomato flowers as they begin to open should help to encourage the formation of tomato fruits and establish earlier harvests of tomato crops.

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