When and How to Fertilize Fruit Trees?
Fertilize fruit trees once a year in early spring before they leaf out. Start doing it 1–2 years after planting – before that, moisture is all they need. Organic fertilizer is best, as it won’t pollute the groundwater when it seeps through the soil.
Apply fertilizer to the entire root zone, not just around the trunk. Scratch it into the top few inches of soil and water thoroughly. Cover with compost and mulch to keep the fertilizer from washing away. It will feed the soil and beneficial microbes, and help keep the roots cool in summer.
It’s difficult to mulch around mature trees, so once they get too big for that, we recommend switching to fertilizer spikes. You can find them at your local nursery or garden center. They’ll release fertilizer gradually, so you don’t have to worry about over- or under-fertilizing.
Do Young Fruit Trees Need Fertilizing?
Yes, they do! Fertilizing young fruit trees with a high-nitrogen organic fertilizer will give them a boost of energy to help them grow. Apply it in early spring, following the package directions. Don’t overdo it, though – a thin layer of fertilizer for fruit trees is all they need.
How Much Fertilizer Should You Apply?
The amount of fertilizer you’ll need to use depends on the type of fertilizer, the age and size of your tree, and the soil. It’s always best to follow the package directions. If you’re using fertilizer spikes, insert them at the drip line – that’s where the roots are. For young trees, aim for a smaller dose. You can always increase it as the tree grows.
The N-P-K Ratio: Nutrients Your Trees Need
Fertilizer for fruit trees is made up of three main nutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Each one has a different function in tree growth.
Nitrogen helps leaves grow, giving them a deep green color. It’s the most important nutrient for growing fruit trees. Phosphorus helps roots grow and strengthens the tree. It’s also necessary to produce fruit. Potassium helps the tree resist disease and pests, and also aids in water uptake.
You’ll find fertilizers with different ratios of these nutrients. Keep reading to learn what the ratio should be for fruit trees.
What Is the Best Fertilizer for Fruit Trees?
It would be too easy if all fruit trees needed the same fertilizer, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. Here are the requirements for some popular species.
High-potassium fertilizer (e.g., 8-4-10):
Standard fertilizer for deciduous trees (e.g., 9-4-5):
High-nitrogen fertilizer (e.g., 22-5-8):
- citrus fruits;
- peaches and nectarines;
Some fruit trees have more specific requirements. For example, custard apples need an NPK ratio of 15-4-1. Lychees and mangoes thrive on 15-3-11 fertilizers. As you can see, some fruits need little to no potassium, while others require more of it than nitrogen.
When in doubt, ask your local nursery or garden center for fertilizer recommendations. They’ll be able to advise you on the best fertilizer for fruit trees of your particular species.
Organic Fertilizers for Fruit Trees
If you’re looking for a fully organic fertilizer for fruit trees, you can use blood meal and composted chicken manure. These are great for adding nutrients and improving the quality of your soil. However, they don’t provide a quick fertilizer fix – they usually have a low percentage of nutrients and need to be applied in large amounts to make a difference.
Another option is to purchase a slow-release fertilizer made of organic materials. These are often made from composted manure, bone and blood meal, and other natural products. They’ll provide a steady supply of nutrients to your trees without the hassle of reapplying fertilizer every few weeks.
Is 16-16-16 Fertilizer Good for Fruit Trees?
If you have a balanced fertilizer on hand – such as 16-16-16 – you can use it on fruit trees. However, it’s not the best fertilizer for them. This fertilizer is designed for flowering plants, and it will also work for newly planted trees. However, if your soil is lacking in specific nutrients but high in others, this fertilizer could disrupt the balance and do more harm than good.
So, is 16-16-16 fertilizer good for fruit trees? When in doubt, ask your local nursery or garden center for recommendations. Test your soil first to see which nutrients it’s lacking, and then purchase a fertilizer for fruit trees that will address those deficiencies.
Micronutrient Deficiencies – How to Fix Them?
Some trees struggle because of micronutrient deficiencies. The most common ones are calcium and zinc. These nutrients are essential for healthy growth, but they’re often lacking in soils. To fix this, you can purchase a liquid kelp spray or foliar fertilizer. These products are rich in micronutrients and will help the leaves get the nutrition they need.
Should You Fertilize Fruit Trees Every Year?
If you’ve already picked a fertilizer for fruit trees, you may wonder how often you should apply it. Every year is a good rule of thumb. However, some trees – such as avocados and citrus fruits – need fertilizer more often (three times per year). Some experts recommend splitting the yearly dose in half – one half in early spring and the other half about a month later.
Now you know all about fertilizers for fruit trees. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all, but hopefully, this guide has helped you choose the right product. Do you have any other fertilizer tips to share? Let us know in the comments below!
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