As much as I love vegetable gardening, there’s something truly magical about having a few fruit trees in your yard. A fresh apple or peach or cherry straight from the tree is simply unbeatable. Like all plants, though, fruit trees need certain nutrients to thrive, and over time, they can deplete the soil of these nutrients. That’s why fertilizing fruit trees is a sometimes important part of taking care of your vegetation.
Why sometimes? The problem with fertilizing fruit trees is that there are so many different opinions on when and how to do it. Even then, soil in New England tends to be short on magnesium and potassium, while in western Oregon, soil may often have excess magnesium. That’s a generalization, of course.
The point here is that the only way to say with certainty what your soil needs is to get it tested. Outside of that, there are still a lot of general tips that work in keeping your fruit trees healthy.
Your beginner’s guide to fertilizing fruit trees
Despite the differing opinions on a few details, there is still a lot of agreement on many of the best methods for fertilizing fruit trees, if you’re going to fertilize.
Use good fertilizer. If you do need to supplement poor soil with fertilizer, stick to organic fertilizer mixed in with compost and mulch.
Fertilize in the spring. One thing that everyone agrees on is that the best time to fertilize trees is in spring, right before buds begin to emerge. This is when trees need energy to grow and produce fruit.
Don’t over fertilize. Too much fertilizer will harm your trees. Specifically, excess nitrogen can burn young roots and leave trees susceptible to disease. In fact, a number of experts recommend skipping fertilizer altogether when you first plant fruit trees.
Maintain soil moisture. Instead, encourage healthy root growth by maintaining soil moisture.
Several sources, including Iowa State University’s Department of Horticulture and the University of Maine, point out that fruit trees can get most of their required nutrients from the soil without additional fertilization.
That’s not to say that your fruit trees won’t ever need a little boost. There’s nothing wrong with adding a little fertilizer to your soil. Just follow the instructions on the packaging, and don’t overdo it.
As long as you are taking care that your fruit trees get plenty of water and attentive, careful pruning, you may only need to fertilize them minimally.
What has your experience been with growing fruit trees? Have you found it necessary to fertilize them? Leave your story in the comments below.