Growing fruit trees is something done by hobbyists and professionals alike. You can have a lot of fun planting them recreationally with your friends and family, but it can also be an important source of income for farmers. In either case, you may be wondering what the best fertilizers for fruit trees are?
The best fertilizers for fruit trees contain nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and other essential nutrients. These can be made from various ingredients, both artificial and organic. Choose an organic fertilizer for optimal results for the plant and your health.
This article will look at which fertilizers are best for fruit trees, how different fruits need different food, and various factors that may affect which fertilizers you choose for your fruit trees.
What Fertilizers To Use?
Most fruit trees need nutrition of some kind or another. What fertilizer you need may differ depending on what numerous factors. Some fruit trees love nitrogen or boron. Others rely on getting most of their food from other sources besides these elements.
Most fertilizers that you use for fruit trees should contain macronutrients. These include things like magnesium, nitrogen, calcium, and other essential minerals and nutrients. You should choose a fertilizer that has a well-rounded blend of nutrients.
Two general choices that you should consider for your fruit tree include the following:
- NPK blend of 10-10-10
- NPK bend of 5-3-4
But its very important that you choose the fertilizer depending on the fruit tree and the conditions in which they are planted. Make sure you know what kind of food your specific tree likes and if they are already getting it from their surroundings. You might not realize it, but many fruit trees do not need fertilizer, especially after they have been in the ground for a long time.
How To Use Fertilizers for Fruit Trees?
Once you know the nutrients your fruit tree needs, you may wonder how to use them. Depending on the type of fertilizer, there could be various steps that you need to take in preparing and administering fertilizers. So how do you use fertilizers for fruit trees?
You use fertilizers for fruit trees the same way you would for most plants. Test your soil for essential nutrients and give fruit trees what they are missing before they produce their buds. Measure and administer according to the amount needed for your tree, depending on its size.
Testing Your Soil to Determine What Fertilizer You Need
If you have an existing fruit tree or are planting a new one, it is essential to understand the soil in which you will plant it. Some things that you need to consider before testing your soil are the levels of various elements. The most important ones include:
Understanding these big three nutrient levels will go a long way when trying to pick a fertilizer for your fruit tree. You should take a soil test when you are first planting your tree, and you will want to follow up every few years when you check up on your fruit tree to ensure they are getting all of the important minerals and elements they need.
Here is an excellent video from Liveable Lawns showing you how you can take a soil sample:
Purchasing a Fertilizer for Your Fruit Trees
Next, once you know what minerals and nutrients your fruit tree lacks, you need to pick out fertilizer for your tree. This can be done online or in a store. Lowes has a great buying guide and you can buy the right fertilizer right away. Keep in mind the most important thing is accuracy. You want to ensure that you get the correct nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium ratio, depending on what your soil lacks.
Adding Your Fertilizer for Your Fruit Trees
After you have purchased the product, you will want to add it to your soil. If you are adding fertilizer to a brand new tree you are planting; you might want to rethink that. Using too much nitrogen or making direct contact with the roots can cause fertilizer burn. Adding nitrogen and other nutrients later that year or the following year is best, so you do not risk killing your fruit tree.
Never add fertilizer directly to the hole when you are planting it. Instead, let your tree grow for a while and settle into its new home before applying nutrients. Once you have allowed it to accommodate its surroundings, you want to sprinkle the fertilizer into the soil nearly two feet from the tree trunk.
The Age of Your Fruit Tree and Fertilizing
Once your tree has become healthy and has been growing for several years, you need to keep an eye on how fast it is growing. If you notice that your fruit tree is not growing 6 inches or more every year, then it is time to start feeding it. Different fruit trees may grow at different rates, so depending on what kind of fruit tree you have, you may need to feed it more or less.
If you notice that your fruit tree has not produced fruit in a couple of years, this is not a sign that you need to feed it. You may be overfeeding it if that is the case. Instead of asking what fertilizer you should buy, you need to take a break from giving the tree nitrogen. Too much of this element can make a tree stop fruiting and make it go bare. So it might not be what type of fertilizer you are using, but instead how you are using it.
What Traditional Fertilizers and What Organic Fertilizers To Use?
Now that we understand the essential nutrients that fruit trees need (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium), we must get a sense of which products we should use. You may ask which traditional and which organic fertilizers are best?
Using the most balanced fertilizer possible is ideal for fruit trees, whether the blend is organic or traditional. Using a balanced organic formula ensures they are not getting too much of any single ingredient. You will also want to add boron throughout the life of the plant.
Applying a balanced blend like 10-10-10 is thought by many scientists and researchers to be one of the safest applications you can use for fertilizers, whether they are traditional or organic. Using this blend will give you some of the best results for most fruit trees in most environments. Be sure to measure the correct amount depending on how old and big the tree is.
Boron should be applied at times as well. There are natural and organic brands of boron that you can purchase, and healthy fruit trees need to provide them with it every few years. It is an essential catalyst for the growth of flowers and fruits and helps with the germination process.
When Should I Use Traditional and Organic Fertilizers?
Another factor to consider when you are fertilizing your plants is timing. The importance of when you are fertilizing is especially true for fruit trees because they have budding flowers that turn into fruit. So when should you fertilize with traditional and organic fertilizers?
The best time to fertilize your fruit trees with traditional or organic fertilizers is before the buds begin to open. The best timing will usually be in the spring but can vary slightly depending on conditions.
Keep a close eye on your fruit trees for bud break between late February and April. This occurring will indicate that it is time to feed your trees. If you don’t see this happen for some reason, you may be experiencing a delay in bud break or more significant problems. If you don’t see this happen on time, you will want to consult a local expert to help diagnose the issue with your tree.
What Are Traditional and Organic Fertilizers for Fruit Trees?
Now that you know some of the ingredients needed for your plants, it is imperative to understand how you can get these to your fruit trees. Some of them are naturally found in the soil and are deposited from animals and insects in nature, but others you need to add yourself. So what are some traditional fertilizers for fruit trees?
Traditional and organic fertilizers for fruit trees are natural substances that contain vital macronutrients for plants. These can include manure, bones, worm castings, and other decomposing natural matter found in numerous plants and animals.
You can find numerous brands that use organic and traditional ingredients in their fertilizers. These are rich in the essential elements that you need for your plants, and you can use them with a good conscience as they are made from things that occur in nature.
Some of the primary sources of nutrients that you may find in organic fertilizer include (links to Amazon or Walmart):
These are all high in NPK, and you can find organic compost brands that offer a controlled amount of the essential elements and minerals that you need to provide your fruit tree with the exact amount of nutrition required. You can choose numerous brands for the best organic balanced blend of NPK for your fruit trees.
When Should I Use Synthetic Fertilizers for Fruit Trees?
Organic options are excellent sources of the essential minerals and elements that fertilize your fruit trees, but they aren’t always the most available or affordable choice. You may be left having to buy synthetic fertilizers for your plants. So when should you use synthetic fertilizers for your fruit trees?
You should only use synthetic fertilizers for your fruit trees as a last resort. While they provide more concentrated levels of nutrients than organic fertilizer to the soil, they have side effects that outweigh the increased production of your fruit trees.
It is tempting to use synthetic fertilizers because it increases the amount of fruit that your tree produces. Still, there are far-reaching negative consequences resulting from the prolonged use of synthetic fertilizers. Some of these downsides include the following:
- They destroy naturally occurring microorganisms.
- The excess elements spill over into our water sources.
- Increased levels of nitrates in plants do damage our bodies when consumed.
Should I Choose Traditional and Organic or Synthetic Fertilizers for Fruit Trees?
We know synthetic fertilizers have many of the same ingredients as traditional and organic options. Synthetic options and the ramped-up amounts of NPK into the soil and your plants are widely available. But which should I choose for my fruit trees?
You should use traditional and natural fertilizers for your fruit trees. As fruit trees age, they do not require large amounts of fertilizer, so giving them synthetic fertilizer could easily overfeed them and is also bad for the environment.
Using a synthetic fertilizer has wide-reaching effects that outweigh the increased production you may receive. In addition, the excessive amount of nitrogen in the soil may do you a disservice as your tree will become overly focused on growing rather than producing fruit. Instead, you should use one of your favorite organic blends or manure to provide the nutrients for your fruit tree.
You will thank yourself later for using an organic product, as your tree will produce better fruit over time than if you use synthetic fertilizer. Using organic fertilizer is better for the soil around the plant, which will provide it with a healthier environment that will stay healthy over time. You also avoid putting excessive nitrogen and other elements in your body when you eat the fruit, making it an obvious choice for a plant you will be consuming.
The best fertilizers you can choose for fruit trees are traditional and organic brands with a balanced formula of macronutrients. The most critical elements for your fruit trees are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, with boron being another vital ingredient.
While it may be tempting to use a cheaper artificial fertilizer to feed your plants, this should be avoided because fruit trees do not need excessive amounts of NPK, and you will harm the soil and wildlife around you by using these products. Choose your favorite balanced organic NPK blend for the best results.
- Iowa State University Extension and Outreach: Fertilizing Tree and Small Fruits in the Home Garden
- YouTube: Best Organic Fertilizer! Our 3 Part Recipe for Fruit Trees
- Better Homes and Gardens: Mango Trees: How to Grow a Mango Tree
- Oregon State University: Fertilizing Fruit Trees
- YouTube: How to Take a Soil Sample
- Almanac: N-P-K Ratio: What Do the Numbers on Fertilizer Mean?
- Iron Tree Service: Physiological Disorders of Trees: Fertilizer Burn
- University of New Hampshire: Fertilizing Fruit Trees
- University of Nebraska Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources: To Fertilize or Not to Fertilize
- Pennsylvania State University Extension: Home Orchards: Why is There No Fruit on My Tree?
- University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Fertilization
- UC Master Gardeners- Diggin’ It In SLO: Bud Break
- University of California: The California Backyard Orchard – Fertilization
- Bob Vila: The Best Fertilizers of 2022
- SFGate: The Effects of Synthetic Fertilizers
- Organic Alberta: Organic Week: Let’s Talk About Synthetic Fertilizer
- Organic Farmer: Boron for Growing Organic Crops
- University of Wisconsin Fruit Program: Managing Micronutrients in Apple Orchards – Pre Bloom Foliar Applications