Do Your Fruit Trees Need Fertilizer?
Let’s talk about older, established trees first. It is possible for trees to be quite old and not need added fertilizer. As you are beginning to prune this month, look at the new growth on the tips of the branches. You will see a wrinkled scar before the new, smooth growth. If you have 8-15” of new growth, you do not need to fertilize. If you need to add fertilizer, go easy on the nitrogen. You do not want to overly stimulate the vegetative growth.
One way to ensure adequate nutrition each year is to thin the fruit load to one fruit every 7 inches. Do this after the fruit size is about ½ inch. The remaining fruit will be healthier and bigger and will keep the branches from breaking. This also helps the tree from bearing every other year.
We discussed creating a diverse under story beneath the tree instead of just grass or mulch. This has many benefits and one is the decomposition of those plants which will naturally feed the tree.
Young fruit trees will have a lot more growth each year as they are getting established. If your new trees are not looking vigorous on the 2nd or 3rd year, try mulching out more of the competitive grass and adding a handful of 10-10-10 at least one foot from the trunk.
Of course there are exceptions…..I will write about peaches tomorrow.