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Fertilizing Fruit Trees



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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

Fertilizing Fruit Trees

Right now is an excellent time to fertilize your backyard fruit trees. Spread nitrogen fertilizer at least a month before bloom time. Spreading the fertilizer just before the snow melts lets the moisture carry the fertilizer into the soil so the roots can start to absorb it as the roots start to grow.

Make the actual application according to tree growth. Carefully determine how much to apply. If you do not apply enough, the fruit will not be as large or as abundant. If you apply too much you will have many water sprouts and to much vegetative growth.

Correlate fertilizer applications with pruning. If you are renovating or pruning old trees very heavily, do not fertilize them. If you do you are likely to stimulate growth that you do not want and upset the fruit bearing cycle for many years.

Utah orchards need nitrogen to grow quality fruit trees. Observing the shoot growth is the best way to determine fertilizer needs.

Measure the length of the previous year's shoots on several branches and determine the average length. The following table suggests average length of shoot growth for healthy trees. Increase the fertilization rate if shoot growth is below average, and decrease the rate if growth is above average. Shoot growth should not be thin or weak.

Pears frequently do best with little or no fertilizer because fire blight attacks young, vigorous growth.

Apply fertilizer in a band below the outer edge of the branches. For young trees the width of the fertilizer band may be up to 2 feet near the trunk. For mature trees, the band may be two to three feet wide and eight to ten feet away from the tree trunk.

Apply fertilizer in a band below the outer edge of the branches. For young trees the width of the fertilizer band may be up to 2 feet near the trunk. For mature trees, the band may be two to three feet wide and eight to ten feet away from the tree trunk.

Fruit Tree Average Shoot Growth in Inches

Young Trees (up to 6 yrs. old) Bearing Trees (over 6 yrs. old) Apple, dwarf & semidwarf 10-20 4-8

Apple, standard & spur types 10-20 6-10 Peach, nectarine & apricot 10-24 8-15 Sour cherry & plum 10-20 8-12

Pounds of Nitrogen (per tree) for Fruit Trees Age of Trees Actual Nitrogen is first number ammonium sulfate is the second Ammonium Sulfate (21-0-0)references given in pounds

When Planted Do not apply commercial fertilizers at planting time. 1-3 years ¼-½ 3-8 years ½-1 2½-5 Mature trees 1 min. 5 min. Large apple or cherry 1½-3 7½-15

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