Fruit trees have requirements different from other types of trees in regards to yearly maintenance and care. This includes proper application of fertilizers to both the tree and the fruit. Considerations must be taken for the climate, growth rate, tree age, soil and if the tree is fruit-bearing or non-fruit-bearing. University cooperative extension services can provide a wealth of information for a given area regarding fertilizing.
Determine the best time to fertilize for your individual climate and growing zone. March and April are good times to fertilize in colder northern climates, while the southern United States can fertilize as early as February. This is when the early spring weather begins and signals the growth cycle of fruit trees. Fertilize fruit before it enters dormancy in autumn or winter. Ask local nurseries or university extensions about the best time for your area. Matching the fertilizer to the correct time for the climate ensures fruit production at the proper time. Fertilizing during summer can encourage late fruit production and cause a freeze of fruit on the tree.
Fertilizing depends on the growth of the tree. Tree growth depends on if the tree is fruit bearing or non-bearing. According to Iowa State University non-bearing fruit trees are expected to grow between 15 and 30 inches each year. Fruit bearing trees grow less at a range between 8 and 15 inches per year. Fertilize trees that are averaging under these ranges each year.
Determine the age of the fruit tree. Age helps determine fertilizer use. Fertilizing amounts increase with the age of the tree; a five-year-old tree requires a minimum of half nitrogen rich fertilizer while a ten-year-old tree needs double that amount.
Take a sample of the soil around the trees with a pH test kit. Take the sample to the local extension office where you can determine the amount of nutrients; balanced amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the soil means that fertilizing may not be needed during the current year states Iowa State University. Yearly testing is suggested to avoid overfertilizing. Iowa State University also states that excess nitrogen can slow fruit growth.
Missed fertilizing deadlines should not be made up; wait until the following year and resume a normal schedule. Fertilizing lawns around fruit trees regularly aids in fertilizing fruit trees also; adequately fertilized lawns provide enough fertilizer for the fruit trees also.