Once a sunny, well-drained location has been picked for peach trees, the next thing to do is prepare the soil. Factors such as pH and nutrient content should be taken in account before planting or adding fertilizer. Too much or too little fertilizer can be harmful to peach trees and their ability to produce healthy and plentiful fruit.
Facts about Peaches and Peach Trees
Peaches are the reddish-golden fruit of the peach tree. They are eaten fresh, canned and used in numerous recipes. Peaches are second in popularity only to the apple in the United States. The peach tree is a deciduous tree that produces either freestone or cling stone peaches. This refers to whether or not the flesh of the fruit clings to the pit or seed inside.
Prepare the Soil Before Fertilizing
Peach trees have particular needs, and soil preparation should begin one to two years before planting to insure the proper soil composition. The soil bed should be worked for 5 to 6 feet in diameter and to a depth of 12 inches. Work in any organic matter available such as dried leaves, compost or grass clippings. A soil sample taken from a depth of 6 to 8 inches will guide your next steps as it will reveal the pH and nutrient content of your soil. For initial fertilizing, follow the recommendations given by your extension office from the soil test.
Fertilizing After Planting
A general purpose fertilizer of 10-10-10 should be applied 7 to 10 days after planting. Apply 1/2 lb. about 8 to 10 inches away from trunk in a circle around the tree. This should be repeated 40 days after planting as well. With the initial soil preparations prior to planting and these two applications, no further fertilization is necessary during the first year.
Fertilization in the Early Years
Once your peach trees are planted and growing, an ongoing fertilization process should be implemented. Soil tests should be repeated every two to three years to verify soil condition. During the second and third years, the dose should be increased to 3/4 lb. and spread around the tree, maintaining the 8- to 10-inch barrier from the trunk, in March and again in May.
Fertilizing Mature Peach Trees
From the fourth year on, the dose should be increased to 1 to 2 lbs. applied in the same manner as described above, also in March and May. As long as the peach tree is growing vigorously, if fruit is not expected, then the May dose can be skipped. If the previous year's terminal growth (at the tips of the branches) exceeded 18 inches, fertilizer can be skipped in the current year.