When & How to Fertilize Your Fruit Trees

Fruit trees need good nutrition to grow and produce an abundant harvest, a bit like vegetables, flowers, and other plants. In our helpful video, Tricia explains if, when, and the way much to fertilize your fruit trees. Or keep reading here to find out the 5 Easy Steps for fertilizing your fruit trees!

Step One: Know When to Fertilize

There IS a right and wrong time to fertilize your trees.

Just before bud break is that the perfect time. this is often when your trees are beginning their annual growth cycle and “eat” the foremost food.

You can fertilize up to a month before this, or if you’ve missed the perfect moment and therefore the trees have already begun to bloom, you’ll still fertilize until June.

Do NOT fertilize in late summer or fall, though, because the new growth placed on by the tree are often damaged by frost. If you’ve waited too late within the year and still want to feed your trees, you’ll mulch them with compost and top-dress with soft rock phosphate; however, you ought to avoid all nitrogen fertilizers.

Step Two: Measure to make a decision if you would like to Fertilize

Not all fruit trees need fertilizer per annum and that they don’t need it within the same amounts. this will change from year to year counting on a spread of things, so make certain to live annually.

What will happen if the wrong amount of fertilizer is given?

Too much fertilizer will cause many leaves and shoots, and not tons of fruit. It could even make your trees weak from too-rapid growth, risking broken branches later in its life.

Too little fertilizer can cause slow growth and under-performance, so you don’t get the maximum amount of fruit as you would like at harvest. Not fertilizing fruit trees grown in poor soil can even cause nutrient deficiencies, poor health, and trees that are less ready to repel diseases and pests.

Luckily, fruit trees are pretty good at telling you what they have. All you would like maybe a tape and a couple of minutes of some time. make certain to require your measurements within the winter or early spring while it’s dormant before the tree starts growing again for the new season.

Measure Annual Growth

Steps in Measuring the Previous Year’s Growth

First–locate last year’s growth rings. the expansion ring is the point on the branch where the tree started growing within the previous season. the most recent growth that you simply are going to be measuring is usually a special color than the remainder of the branch.

Second–measure from the expansion ring all the answers to the top of the branch. Repeat these measurements at several spots around the tree.

Third–calculate the type of those measurements. this is often the previous season’s “annual growth” of the tree.

Repeat this step for every one of your trees. albeit you’ve got several trees of an equivalent variety and age, they’ll not have grown at an equivalent rate and thus have different fertilizer needs. Note–if you’ve got pruned your tree significantly quite normal, in order that you’ve removed over 20% of its canopy within the last year, don’t fertilize until the subsequent year.

Check the Chart to gauge Growth

Finally, use this chart to gauge your tree’s annual growth. If the tree’s rate of growth is at the low end of, or below, annual target growth, then you ought to fertilize the tree this year. If your tree’s rate of growth is at the high end of, or above, the annual target rate of growth, you are doing not got to fertilize this year (but measure again next year just in case that changes!).

Annual Growth Rates

Peaches and nectarines–non-bearing young trees should grow 18″-24″, mature bearing trees should grow 12″-18″.

Apples and pears–non-bearing young trees should grow 18″-30″, mature bearing pears and non-spur type apples should grow 12″-18″.

Bearing spur apples should grow 6″-10″.

Plums and sweet cherries–non-bearing young trees should grow 22″-36″, mature bearing trees should grow 8″.

Tart cherries–non-bearing young trees should grow 12″-24″, bearing mature trees should grow 8″.

Step Three: Choose the proper Fertilizer

Fruit trees prefer organic, high nitrogen fertilizer.

Blood meal, soybean flour, composted manure, cottonseed meal, and feather meal are all good, organic nitrogen sources.

There also are specially formulated angiospermous tree fertilizers.

In addition to nitrogen, your tree needs other macro and micronutrients too. Adding compost once you fertilize may be a great way to supply organic matter and trace minerals. Azomite or Cascade Remineralizing Soil Boost are good sources of trace minerals.

A soil test can tell you whether you would like to feature more phosphorus, potassium and other nutrients.

Step Four: Calculate what proportion Fertilizer to Use

More isn’t always better when it involves fertilizing your fruit trees. Now that you simply know that your tree needs fertilizer, and have picked the right fertilizer to use, you’ll get to determine the right amount to use on each tree.

For those folks who didn’t excel in math—fear not—we will walk you through the fertilizer calculations.

The amount of fertilizer you’ll use is calculated supported the age or size of the tree, and therefore the nitrogen-value on the package.

Determining what proportion Fertilizer to Use

Trees need 0.10 pounds of “actual nitrogen” per annum aged, or per inch of trunk diameter (measured 1 foot above the ground). the utmost you ought to provide a fruit tree during a year is 1 pound of actual nitrogen.

For example, if your tree features a diameter of 5 inches (or, if your tree is 5 years old), multiply 5 by 0.10 pounds of nitrogen, equals 0.5 lb. this suggests that the tree will need 0.5 lb of actual nitrogen.

But wait, you’re not done yet! “Actual nitrogen” pounds isn’t as simple as just weighing out that quantity of fertilizer, because there’s more during a fertilizer than simply nitrogen.

The NPK numbers on fertilizer show the share of nutrients per pound of fertilizer, not the particular amount. N, P, and K ask nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

For example, if the N listed on the fertilizer package is 7 (meaning 7% nitrogen), like with E.B. Stone’s angiospermous tree fertilizer, then there are 0.07 pounds of actual nitrogen for each pound of fertilizer.

To calculate what proportion fertilizer to use, divide the quantity of actual nitrogen the tree needs by the quantity of actual nitrogen per pound within the fertilizer.

So, using the previous examples, a five-year-old fruit tree needs 0.5 lb of nitrogen. The E.B. drupe Tree Fertilizer has an N-value of seven on the package, meaning it’s 0.07 lb nitrogen per pound of fertilizer. Half a pound or 0.5 lb, divided by 0.07 lb equals 7 lbs. The answer–7 pounds–is the quantity of this fertilizer to use to the tree.

Step Five: Applying the Fertilizer

To help the tree “eat” the fertilizer most efficiently, apply the fertilizer evenly starting a foot faraway from the trunk and continue all the thanks to the “drip line.” The drip line is that the perimeter of the tree’s furthest reaching branches.

The easiest thanks to doing that is just by spreading the fertilizer on the bottom and raking it in.

Digging a series of small holes is another method of applying fertilizer. it’s a touch more work, but it best ensures the fertilizer is going to the tree roots, especially when employing a fertilizer containing less-soluble nutrients like phosphorus and mycorrhizae.

Dig the holes six inches down and 12” to 18” apart, throughout an equivalent area as you’d have spread the fertilizer. to form the digging job easy you’ll use an auger attachment with a cordless drill. Sprinkle a touch little bit of fertilizer in each hole until it’s spent.

Once you’ve got finished fertilizing, spread an inch-deep layer of compost around the tree and water well.


For more information on all aspects of fruit trees—selecting and planting a bare-root, pruning, controlling pests, and even the way to preserve your harvest—browse our videos and articles in angiospermous tree Central. Some staff-favorite books on fruit trees are the house Orchard from UC Davis, along with side The Fruit Grower’s Bible and Landscaping With Fruit.

Keep on living the dream together with your organic orchard, now that you simply know when and the way to fertilize your fruit trees.

When & How to Fertilize Your Fruit Trees

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