How to Fertilize Fruit Trees
Having your own orchard of fruit trees can be a very satisfying and fulfilling addition to your home’s garden. These trees do, however, require some knowledge of their specific nutritional needs in order to have them develop the best possible fruit for your table.
Before you plant your new trees you will have to prepare the ground for them. It is recommended you contact your local county agricultural extension agent and have him test the pH of the ground. Measuring soil pH uses a complicated formula and he is trained in this process. Usually the ground being used for fruit trees will need to have lime spread on it to achieve a pH of 6 or 7 for best growth.
When you set your saplings in the ground the area will need its first application of fertilizer. Do not put fertilizer in the hole you are planting in as it can burn and possibly kill the tree by direct contact. Fruit trees need to have their fertilizer spread around them at about the “drip line” which is roughly equal to the circumference of the branches.
Commercial fertilizer can be used. This substance is measured by the ratio between nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which is in the form of potash. Non-fruiting trees are grown for their leaves so the ratio for these is 4-1-1. In fertilizing fruit trees you must use a 1-1-1 ratio to begin with. This provides enough nitrogen for vegetative growth but does not overload the soil and diminish blooming and fruiting.
The first year you should fertilize your new fruit trees about four times in the spring at one-month intervals from April through July. You will need to spread about one cup of fertilizer at each feeding at about one foot out from the trunk. The second year you should double the dose and the distance from the trunk of your growing tree. There will be only three feedings needed this time at two month intervals in March, May, and July. The third year should have your frut trees becoming mature and you will need to fertilize them only twice. About eight foot from the trunk you will spread a pound of 1-1-1 fertilizer in March and May.
After this time you will be using about four pounds each year, usually spread in late February. You will also have to observe your trees carefully and begin to adjust the amount of fertilizer to the way your fruit trees are growing. If they are producing too much leaf and not enough fruit, decrease the amount somewhat. If your fruit tree is not doing as well as you think it should then increase the amount of fertilizer. It is a good idea to keep records of how much fertilizer you feed your fruit trees so you can compare that to the way they perform.
Mulching the area around your fruit trees can also help them breath and reduces weeds around the trunk. Just keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk so there is no chance of fungus developing on the trunk of your fruit trees. If you have properly fertilized your fruit trees, you will soon be literally enjoying the fruits of your labors.