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Fertilizing Fruit Trees

March 29, 2013 - GrowOrganic
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Make your organic orchard bountiful by fertilizing your fruit trees. In our latest, research-based video, Tricia explains IF, when, and how much to fertilize your fruit trees. Keep reading here to learn more, and use our online fertilizer calculator. When to fertilize fruit trees Right before bud break is the perfect time to fertilize your fruit trees. If you miss the moment and the trees have begun to bloom, you can still fertilize until June. Don’t fertilize in late summer or fall, though, because…
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Video Transcript
Hi I'm Tricia, an organic gardener. I grow organically for a healthy and safe food supply, for a clean and sustainable environment, for an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Spring is on the way and the fruit trees are ready to bloom. Just before bud break is the perfect time to fertilize. Not every tree needs fertilizer every year nor in the same amounts if you fertilize too much you'll get too many leaves and shoots and not enough fruit. Luckily the tree can tell you what it needs to find out if your fruit tree could use a fertilizer boost. Start out by locating last year's growth rings, measure from the growth ring all the way out to the end of the branch measure several spots around the tree and average them together to get your number for average growth that the tree had last year. Their are target growth rates for different species and whether the fruit tree is non bearing which means a young tree that did not set a crop last year or if it's bearing. If your trees have been heavily pruned or your last year's growth is longer than the target growth don't fertilize, if last years growth is in the middle of the target growth you can either not fertilizer or fertilize with a lower application rates, if last year's growth is on the low end of the target growth or less than the target growth fertilize at the full application rates. The amount of fertilizer to give your tree depends on the age and size of the tree. The maximum a tree needs is one-tenth of a pound of actual nitrogen per year old or per inch of trunk diameter measured a foot above the ground don't give your trees more than one pound of actual nitrogen in one year. Use an organic high nitrogen fertilizer: blood meal, soybean meal, chicken manure, cottonseed meal and feather meal are some great organic nitrogen sources or you can use a fertilizer that's specifically for fruit trees like this E.B. Stone citrus and fruit tree food, for micro nutrients use compost. The NPK numbers on fertilizer show the percentage of nutrients per pound of fertilizer N,P and K refer to actual nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, for example my five-year-old apple tree needs a half a pound of nitrogen fertilizer. The E.B. Stone fruit tree fertilizer that is seven percent nitrogen or you can think of it as point zero seven pounds of nitrogen per one pound of fertilizer, half a pound or point five divided by the percentage, point zero seven gives me seven pounds which is the amount I should apply based on the calculations my tree needs half a pound of fertilizer which is three cups. The easiest way to do it is to sprinkle the fertilizer around the tree and then rake it in and water deeply don't start fertilizing next to the trunk, start a foot from the trunk and spread the fertilizer evenly all the way out to the drip line, the drip line is the perimeter of the trees farthest reaching branches. Another very effective but a little bit more difficult way to add fertilizer to your fruit trees is to drill a series of small holes so that the fertilizer can get right to the roots, dig the holes six inches down and twelve to eighteen inches apart from a foot outward from the trunk to the drip line, sprinkle a little of the fertilizer you've measured out according to the recommended rates in each hole and then cover up with soil. There are a lot of nutrients like phosphorus and mycorrhiza that don't travel well through the soil, this insures that you get these nutrients right down to the root zone where they can do their best work. After fertilizing add a one inch layer of compost so that you get all the micro nutrients you need. Don't fertilize in the fall because that can stimulate new growth that might get damaged by frost. In addition to nutrients the trees need oxygen and if you live in an area with compacted soil, you may want to try this tree and shrub aerator which will deliver oxygen directly to the roots. Poke it into the ground about six inches down and turn on the water, continue to push it into the ground when you see a foamy combo of air and water come up to the ground, it's saturated and your done. Fertilize with care and your trees will grow big and strong. Grow organic for life!

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Categories: Composting, Organic Compost, Soil Amendments, Organic Garden Compost, Powdered Fertilizer, Organic Fertilizer, Pelleted Fertilizer, Powdered Fertilizer, Organic Nitrogen Fertilizer, Organic Plant Food, Fertilizer Tablets, Fruits & Berries


gardenspider Says:
Mar 29th, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Thanks so much for yet another concise, tremendously helpful video!

Monica Says:
Mar 30th, 2013 at 11:22 am

Interesting! I especially appreciate the advice on how to look at last year’s growth to see if it even needs fertilizer. Very helpful to know how to calculate too! Thanks. Three questions:

1. Where can I find a ‘annual growth rate target’ chart?
2. I know watering practices impact growth rates as well. Do you have recommendations for how often to water?
3. This is for deciduous trees—how do I determine if citrus even needs fertilizer?

Dave Martin Says:
Mar 30th, 2013 at 1:57 pm

How timley your video. I was just looking at my apple trees (stil in hibernation) and wondering when and how I should fertilize and you folks came through with the answer.Thanks for the information and hopefully you have put me back on track. Do you recommend any lime at all?

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