Feeding Fruit Trees
A properly balanced plant food will help provide the nutrients necessary for good growth, flowers and fruit, bud development for next years crop, and the overall health of your trees.
Because they grow more slowly and have deeper root systems that can search out some of the nutrients they need on their own, your fruit trees don’t require as much plant food as short-lived vegetables. They also do not need to be fed as frequently.
What to feed your fruit trees
There are two plant food recipes you’ll want to consider. First, your trees will benefit from a dose of calcium based fertilizer (used as a pre-plant for vegetables) just as the buds begin to swell and the tree is just starting to leaf out.
For a simple pre-plant mix, combine the correct amounts of lime or gypsum, Epsom Salt, and 20 Mule Team Borax in a ratio of 80-4-1 (i.e. 5 pounds of lime or gypsum, 4 ounces of Epsom Salts and 1 ounce of Borax). Use lime in acidic soils and gypsum in alkaline soils.
The second is a balanced nutritional fertilizer (used as a weekly feed for vegetables) that contains all the essentials for great plant health. Though with some effort and cost you can source your own individual items of each of the necessary elements, the easiest most cost effective way to make your own would be to purchase 50 pounds of a balanced NPK (anywhere from 13-13-13 to 20-20-20 will work well) locally. Add to that 8 pounds of epsom salts for the needed ratio of magnesium sulfate and two 10 ounce packets of pre-packaged micro-nutrients (from the Food for Everyone Foundation).
Because the espom salt is a hydrate and prone to wetting / getting soggy I like to add a pound of perlite to keep everything nice and dry and fluffy. For storage, I recommend simple 5 gallon buckets and Gamma Lids to keep everything air tight.
When to feed fruit trees
The calcium based “pre-plant” should be applied just once each year at the end of the dormant season in early spring.
You’ll want to apply the balanced “weekly-feed” three or four times throughout the year, depending on the length of your growing season.
The times to apply the weekly-feed formula are:
A couple of weeks after dormant season ends, when you apply the pre-plant mix.
4-6 weeks later after fruit has formed.
In late June/July, when the tree is producing leaf and fruit buds for next year.
feeding peach treesIf your growing season extends into October and November an additional feeding would be implemented half way in between 2 & 3.
For our Utah climate here at gardening101, those times correspond to about mid March, right around Memorial Day, and right around July 4th – making it easy for us to remember year to year.
How much fertilizer to give your fruit trees
For the calcium based “pre-plant”, apply about 2 oz. per diameter inch of tree trunk.
Use half as much of the balanced weekly-feed as pre-plant – or about 1 oz. per diameter inch of tree trunk.
How to fertilize your fruit trees
Simply sprinkle the fertilizers evenly around the base of the tree – beginning at least a foot away from the trunk extending beyond the drip line – and thoroughly water the nutrients into the soil.