Metro-East Living

Why apples are dropping fruit

Q: My apple trees are dropping fruit and I think I may not end up with any apples at all. What should I do to prevent or stop this from happening?

W.L. of Glen Carbon

A: There is nothing wrong with your apple tree. They usually have a fruit drop in June. The tree loses some of its fruit to make sure that the remaining apples will reach mature size. Actually, there was a first thinning of the fruit right after pollination when a large number of flowers dropped off. This eliminates flowers that were not pollinated or had incomplete pollination. There are five seeds that should be pollinated to form a round fruit. If this does not happen, the apples that result will not be completely round.

The fruit drop that you notice gets more attention because the fruits at this time are at least one-half to one inch in size. You just need about one fertilized flower in 20 to give you a good harvest. The fruits with the weakest seeds fall off.

Usually, apple trees need one fruit every six to eight inches. Peaches and plums need one fruit every four to five inches for good- sized fruit production. If you allow more fruit to develop, you stand the chance of having too much weight on the limbs. You will have to prop up the branches or they will split, damaging the tree, and you will end up with smaller fruits and poorer quality.

Q: We seem to have more poison ivy on our property than in other years. What could be the reason for this? What can I do about controlling this?

G. E. of Belleville

A: Yes, usually the years that we have a lot of soil moisture helps poison ivy become a bigger problem. Also, if the area has been disturbed by grading or rototilling, that seems to bring on more poison ivy plants. The larger plants spread more and seeds that the plant had produced in previous years start to germinate.

Poison ivy can fool people because sometimes it grows as a vine and other times, it grows as a smaller shrub. But most people know to avoid any vine or shrub that has three leaves because it could be poison ivy.

Every part of the plant contains the oil that causes the irritation. You can catch the irritation even in winter from just the roots (I have caught the irritation in February digging for sassafras roots for tea when I was a Boy Scout).

Poison ivy is difficult to control once it has become established. You can kill it with an herbicide labeled just for the purpose of eradication. It usually contains foam to help indicate that the plant has been sprayed. But remember this herbicide can kill your other desirable plants.

Repeated application may be necessary. Do not cut it and then burn it because the smoke contains the oil that causes the irritation. You do not want this in your lungs.

For skin irritations, there is a plant called ‘Jewel Weed’ (Impatiens capensis) that usually grows near poison ivy plants. It has orange flowers with red spots. Collect the stems and leaves and boil them to make a tea looking water. Then, freeze this liquid into ice cubes and place the cubes in a plastic zip-lock bag. Label it and keep it in the freezer. Whenever a rash begins to develop on the skin, take an ice cube and rub it on the affected area of the skin because this is a natural antidote.

Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Editor Maureen Houston, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to

Do it now:

  • Check your flowering annuals and the vegetable garden weekly as the weeds can overtake the wanted plants within a week.
  • Plant autumn crocuses (Colchicum species) for fall blooms.