Why do plums fall off the tree before they are ripe? There are few things as satisfying as eating fruits that you have raised on your own trees, and plums are one of the top choices for many home growers in the United States. As hearty as plum trees are, they can suffer from fruit drops. In this article, we will explore:
- Why do plums fall off the tree before they are ripe?
- How do you stop fruit from dropping?
- Can plums be picked before they are ripe?
So Why Are My Plums Falling off the Tree Before They Are Ripe?
Fruit trees naturally thin their fruit, and plums are no exception. A tree knows how much fruit it can support and will shed any excess beyond a certain level. If you watch closely, you can observe this natural process every season.
You will see a massive amount of blossoms appear. Then after pollination, many tiny fruits will begin to grow. If your plums have pollinated well, there will be much more baby fruit than the tree can support, and your tree will shed the excess.
This thinning is the common reason plums fall from trees before maturing, but it is far from the only cause.
Other causes of plums falling from trees prematurely include:
There is a disease called brown rot common in plumes that can cause shedding or worse. Many times brown rot can be spotted and controlled early in the season.
If you see brown spots appearing on your tree’s blooms, you will need to employ a fungicide to eliminate the disease. If the fruit falling from your tree or even ripening fruit displays shriveling or grey masses on them. You will likely lose the entire crop and possibly the tree itself without the help of a professional arborist.
Plum Curculio is a member of the weevil family that commonly attacks and lays its eggs in drupes. If left unchecked, they can cause irreparable damage.
Control is possible if you take corrective measures early enough, with the most critical period being the first few warm, humid days after petal fall.
Treating your plum trees for Plum Curculio requires the use of pesticides. Unless you have been appropriately trained, it is best to seek the advice of professionals if you suspect you have a Plum Curculio infestation starting.
At certain times during the growing season, plum trees can be susceptible to stress due to poor growing conditions.
- Too much water
- Too little water
- Lack of nutrients
- Poor drainage
- Weed competition
- Excessive shade
Are all factors that can lead to your plums falling off the tree before they are ripe.
If this is the cause, you may be able to salvage part of the crop by hand thinning and correcting the underlying problem.
The last common cause of plums falling from your trees while still immature is the weather. Heavy rains not only impact growing conditions and weaken your plum tree; they can literally beat the fruits off of the tree.
If high winds accompany heavy rains, then it is double trouble. In these situations, there is little you can do. The simple truth is you can’t fight mother nature.
How Do You Stop Fruit from Dropping?
The healthier your plum trees, the less likely they are to experience fruit drop syndrome. Tree maintenance begins from the roots up, and this means taking care of your soil. You should have your soil tested annually and correct any deficiencies that are noted.
It is also advisable to place a 4-6 inch-thick layer of high-quality mixed mulch around your plum trees. Mulching brings many benefits that may not be apparent to those new to gardening.
- Mulch helps maintain moisture levels in the soil and reduces water use.
- Mulching reduces weed growth, making more nutrition available for your trees.
- Mulching helps to maintain a stable soil temperature and helps to prevent root shock to your trees.
- Mulching helps to promote biodiversity in the soil, which supports healthier root growth.
Another critical factor is to keep your trees properly pruned. Heavy pruning should be performed under the supervision of an arborist when the tree is dormant, late fall to winter.
You can perform more detailed trimming throughout the year by simply trimming away any branches that begin to extend beyond the tree’s trained head. While you are doing this detailed cutting, is it also an excellent time to start controlling the overburden that can lead to your plums falling off the tree before they are ripe.
Overburden, your trees having more fruit than they can properly support, is one of the chief causes of fruit dropping, and it is also one of the easiest to control.
Experts recommend that you maintain 6-9 inches between the plums on your tree. You should break up any clusters of plums that begin forming and remove enough fruit so that your plum tree doesn’t start shedding fruit on its own. You can trim away unwanted blossoms and fruits with sharp shears or pull them by hand.
Can Plums Be Picked Before They Are Ripe?
Yes, you can pick plums before they are ripe. Most of the plums you see in farmer’s markets, and groceries were at least slightly green when they were harvested.
Tree ripened plums will be sweeter, but plums do continue to ripen after being removed from the tree. Immature plums are entirely safe to eat and can be a treat in their own right. They are a common snack in Mediterranean countries.