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Pollination Basics

The "Short and Sweet" from Grandpa:

• Almost all deciduous fruit requires bees for pollination.
• Pollination seems confusing, and many people have made it too complicated and confusing.
• Fairly simple rules govern most pollination requirements.
• With the exception of peaches and nectarines, which are almost 100% self-fertile, most types of other fruits require another, different variety of the same type fruit for pollination.
• Some varieties, but very few, should not be used as pollinators. Don't get too worried about them, though.
• Some of your landscape flowering trees in the pear and crab family can also serve as pollen sources.
• Besides the common honeybee, many other species of native and wild bees and bumblebees can make effective pollinators.

Grandpa's "long winded" answer: Pollination made simple: The second most asked question of Grandpa is probably about pollination. It seems that the subject of the "birds and the bees" in regards to fruit has been made too complex. While Grandpa could go into great detail about pollination, bloom times, and pollinators, he has found over time that if you have several varieties of the same type of fruit in your backyard orchard, then you probably won't have many problems with pollination. Frosts and freezes may limit your crops much more. 

Grandpa's Simple Pollination Rules and Guidelines: 

 All apple varieties will require another, different variety of apple to pollinate. If you have 4-5 different varieties planned for your orchard, then you probably have to worry less about whether they bloom early, mid-season or late because there bloom times will overlap by quite a bit. 
• If you are only going to plant two varieties, then make sure that they bloom in similar time frames. 
• Don't expect the following varieties of "tri-ploid" apples to be used as pollinators: Jonagold, Winesap, Stayman, Mutsu, Crispin, Shizuka, Summer Rambo.
• Edible and Ornamental Crabs often make excellent pollinators, so if they are in or near your landscape that is a plus! 

 In general, all pear varieties require other varieties of pears to pollinate. 
• European pears will pollinate other Asian pears as well. 
• Bartlett and Kieffer are good pollinators for almost all other pears, and are somewhat self-fertile and will often pollinate themselves. 
• Magness is essentially sterile and should not be used as a pollinator. 

Sweet Cherries:
 Grandpa always tries to recommend that you try to plant at least one "self-fertile" variety of sweet cherry as they make good pollinators for other sweet cherries. Otherwise, plant 3-4 different sweet cherry varieties to help make sure you have adequate pollination. Sweet cherries come in different pollination groups, based on their on about 6 different genes, which determine their pollination class. Only if two varieties have the exact same genes, will they not pollinate each other sufficiently. Grandpa has a chart that he will try to include on the website here, when he figures out how to make it easy for you to use. 

Tart Cherries:
 Most varieties of Tart Cherry are self-fertile and will pollinate themselves. Don't expect them to pollinate sweet cherries though. 

Peaches and Nectarines:
 Almost all the varieties Grandpa offers are self-fertile and will pollinate themselves. There are very few varieties of peach or nectarine that are not self-fertile, and require pollination from another variety. 

 Plant at least two different varieties together if possible, even though Goldcot, Chinese and Tilton are somewhat self-fertile. Because apricots are so much more frost sensitive than other fruits, because they bloom so early in the season, it is important to try to pollinate as many blooms as possible. If you are fortunate enough to set a "limb-breaking" crop, and are worried about size, then you can thin them down somewhat. Otherwise, if they may be small, dry the little ones for later use! 

Plums and Prunes:
 Now it can get confusing! Basically, when planning your orchard make sure that you have at least two different varieties of plums in the same class, even though some may be somewhat self-fertile. 
• Example: 2 European plums or 2 Japanese Plums.
• European and Japanese plums will not pollinate each other.
• Hybrid plums like Toka, Pipestone, and Superior should be used to pollinate each other if possible, but can be crossed with other types too. 
• Plant lots of different varieties close together for best results. Plums and prunes need lots of varied pollination! 

Pollination is dependent on bees!
 Without bees of one kind of another, there would be little food in the world. Almost all fruits, vegetables, and many other crops, except for many of the grains which are wind-pollinated, depend on honeybees, wild or native bees, bumble bees, and other insects for pollination. The honeybee is the most well recognized pollinator, but is now known to not be the most efficient! Wild, native bees and bumblebees have been found to be much more efficient since they often work harder, under harsher conditions, and may have different styles of how they pollinate a flower. They often live in the ground in fence rows and other less disturbed areas neat forests and brush, so you can actually help promote their habitats by taking care of these areas and planting "feed" crops like late blooming perennials and flowers in your garden. It is necessary to transfer pollen from the anthers in a bloom to the pistil. On varieties that require another variety for pollination, bees usually do the job when they visit the bloom for nectar or to harvest pollen for the hive. When they stick their "noses" into the bloom, pollen collects on their bodies and then rubs off onto other bees in the hive, who then carry it to other blooms. Bees don't pollinate as their "main" job, but it really is a consequence of their food collecting. The cultured honeybee in the United States is under a lot of stress from different predator insects that infest them, as well as some pesticide use, and other unknown causes. So, if you see a honeybee flying around you, please don't kill it! We need as many as we can get. Honeybees, which are "hairy" and "fuzzy" looking, are often confused in the late summer and fall with the "yellow jacket-type" hornet, which has similar coloring and marking, but is smooth skinned and shiney.

Almost all fruit requires bees to pollinate and set fruit.
Almost all fruit requires bees to pollinate and set fruit.