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How to Pollinate Plum Trees

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How to Pollinate Plum Trees

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Overview

Because of blooming periods that vary widely from variety to variety and don't always coincide, plum trees often do not set good crops of fruit. Only a few types are self-pollinating, so planting different plum varieties together does help. Since honeybees and some other insects pollinate plums by transferring pollen from tree to tree, orchard hives increase the chances of a good yield. Success isn't certain because bees often prefer other types of forage. Mechanically applying commercially harvested pollen requires equipment most small-scale growers don't own.

Step 1

Choose plum varieties that bloom at overlapping times. Nurseries and Extension Services provide charts of compatible plum cultivars. Since bees prefer traveling along rows, plant pollinator plums in each row of fruiting plums and not in rows of pollinators only.

Step 2

Cut back competing plants while plums bloom. Eliminate other flowering plants in the orchard by mowing during the blossoming phase to focus the foraging efforts of the local honeybees on the plum trees.

Step 3

Place beehives in the orchard during the bloom so that the bees encounter the plum blossoms first. Bees ranging beyond the trees will still work the plum tree flowers in passing.

Step 4

Set pollen applicator troughs at the entrances of bee hives. Add one teaspoon of commercially produced plum pollen to the trough each day. Bees leaving the hive take pollen with them, increasing the pollination rate in the orchard.

Step 5

Use scissors to square the end of a No. 4 artist's paint brush to 1/4 inch bristle length. Dip the brush in a small container of plum pollen and daub the center of a plum flower to hand pollinate small plantings. Fertilize one flower in every six to avoid unusually heavy fruit set.

Tips and Warnings

  • Commercial pollen is effectively applied to large orchards with special blowers. If inhaled the pollen could cause respiratory allergic reactions.

Things You'll Need

  • Lawn mower
  • Plum pollen
  • No. 4 art brush
  • Scissors
  • Ladder
  • Honeybee hive
  • Pollen dispenser

References

  • University of Missouri: Pollinating Fruit Crops
  • NSW Agriculture: Honeybees in Cherry and Plum Pollination
  • Pollen Application

Who Can Help

  • The Doomed Romance of Plums
Keywords: pollinating plums, hand pollination, honeybee plum pollination

About this Author

James Young began writing as a military journalist in Alaska and combat correspondent in Vietnam. His lifetime fascination with technical and manual arts yields decades of experience in electronics, turnery, blacksmithing, outdoor sports, woodcarving, joinery and sailing. Young's articles have been published in Tai Chi Magazine, Sonar 4 Ezine, The Marked Tree, Stars & Stripes, the SkinWalker Files and Fine Woodworking.