Danh40
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Best time to fertilize semi-dwarf fruit trees

I am trying to determine the best time to fertilize semi-dwarf, home garden fruit trees. I have two apple, a peach, nectarine and three cherry trees in the Buffalo, NY area. My trees are 3 to 4 years old.

If I search the Web, Stark Brothers says that the best time to fertilize is in the spring before June. But other sites say that the best time to fertilize is in the fall. Also, should I use the Job fruit tree spikes? That certainly would be easiest. Or should I spread fertilizer on the ground?

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Thanks,

dan

JONA
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Re: Best time to fertilize semi-dwarf fruit trees

Hi Danho
It’s not a bad idea to fertilise your fruit trees two times in the year.
First is in the spring just as growth starts. General fertiliser is all that’s needed in most cases with not too high a nitrogen level. I would prefer spread rather than sticks as you get a better take up through the whole root system.
Then another spray after harvest. This gives the fruit buds a feed before shut down and also puts nitrogen into the leaves so that they rot down more quickly helping to eliminate spore survival.
Never fertilise around the blossom period. This can induce a growth spurt and spoil blossom viability as growth will always win and it can cause excessive fruit drop.
If your tree is carrying a heavy crop it can help to give the tree a folier feed after the June drop of something like liquid seaweed. This also takes care of any trace elements that may be lacking in the tree .
John

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ElizabethB
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Re: Best time to fertilize semi-dwarf fruit trees

Hey Dawn,

Welcome to the forum.

In your region fertilize after the last freeze. Use a balanced granular fertilizer. 8-8-8 or 13-13-13. Trees the age of yours need 2 lbs. per 100 square ft. I use a 2 lb. peanut butter jar with holes punched in the lid. Walk around your trees with your left shoulder just brushing the ends of the branches. With the jar in your right hand dispensed the fertilizer as you walk around the tree. Water well after fertilizing.

You can fertilize again in June or early July at half strength - 1 lb. per 100 square ft. Never fertilize in the fall. That would push leaf growth too late in the season.

PLEASE avoid the spikes. The fertilizer is too concentrated in small areas. You run the risk of burning the roots. Hate those things.

Good luck.
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

imafan26
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Re: Best time to fertilize semi-dwarf fruit trees

The advice from JONA and Elizabeth are very good. For trees and plants of any kind, my rule of thumb is to feed it just before or with growth spurts. Usually that is in the spring and a boost after the harvest to replenish what was taken from the plants.
For some fruit trees that give more than one crop like my calamondin, Meyer lemon, and some repeat blooming ornamentals, it means fertilizing 2-3 times a year. Avocado, Persian Limes, Bartlett Pears which only fruit once a year get fed in the Spring just before their growth spurt and again after the harvest is done. I use slow N fertilizer and since my growing season is much longer than yours, I also use osmocote, nutricote, or Apex slow release fertilizers ( balanced with micros ) three times a year, if I am good for a regular slow feeding. It does not hurt to add a layer of compost under the trees as well. For shallow rooted trees they cannot be dug in. But forking the ground helps to improve water drainage and compost on top, not only mulches, but the soil organisms and worms below ground will come up and pull the compost down. Remember to fertilize trees around their natural drip line. (This would be where the canopy would be if it were never pruned). Most trees have a root system that mirrors the canopy underground. Most of the roots will be within the top 3 feet of soil where most of the nutrients and water are.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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Gary350
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Re: Best time to fertilize semi-dwarf fruit trees

I use to work in an orchard in Illinois not too far from Chicago. Do not fertilize in cold weather when plants are not growing. It is best to fertilize in spring when weather gets warm enough that the plant is just starting to bud to make new leaves. You need to fertilize according to the size of the plant, small plants get small amount of fertilizer once a week, large plants get larger amount of fertilizer once a week.

Buy a 50 lb bag of 15-15-15 fertilizer about $8 at farm supply store. Buy a 50 lb bag of Urea about $5 at farm supply. Buy a bag of pellet lime it comes in bags too I think they are about 30 or 40 lbs. You can mix it all together is a large plastic trash can if you want or mix it a little bit each week. 1 quart of 15-15-15 plus 1 quart of Urea plus Pellet lime 1 pint is enough. Mix well give a 5 ft tree about 1/4 cup once a week, give a 12 to 15 ft tree 3/4 cup once a week. Sprinkle fertilizer all the way around the radius of each tree, 3 ft radius for 5 ft tree and 10 ft radius for 15 ft tree. Use water hose to water the fertilizer you threw around each tree 5 gallons for the 15 ft tree and 2 gallons for the smaller 5 ft tree. Do this spring and summer no more fertilizer after August 30.

Do not trim the tree for about 5 years let it grow big so it will have a large root system. After about 5 years when weather is cold about December trim the trees. Cut the tree limbs so they are short, cut off about 1/2 the limbs length. If a 10 ft long limb has a bushel basket of apples on it the weight will break the limb off. Short limbs will be strong enough to hold the weight. Trees don't usually make fruit the same year they are trimmed but sometimes they will. If you trim it the correct way you will think you made a big mistake limbs look too short. Next year those short limbs will grow 100s of little new limbs that will be loaded with blossoms that will all turn into fruit. A 15 ft tree should make about 10 to 14 bushels of apples.

Fruit trees need full sun all day, no shade from house, barn, garage, buildings or other trees. If fruit trees get too much shade fruit will never get ripe. That is about all there is to it keep the grass cut around the trees.

We use to spray once a week with fruit tree spray. I'm not sure if this stuff is still available. Need to spray once a week to keep bugs off. Spray keeps away black spot and black fruit wasps.

I think I have typed this 20 times over the years I need to save it some way to my computer so I can copy and paste here it would save me a lot of time not to keep typing it over and over.

JONA
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Re: Best time to fertilize semi-dwarf fruit trees

In general Gary I follow your ideas...but the way Nurseries produce fruit trees nowadays has made a big difference in our approach to growth control now.
Our old type two stocks and open centre trees could be left to their own devices for quite a while after planting to form their bowl shape.
But, one thing to bare in mind is that most trees nowadays are on semi or full dwarfing stocks. The old type two stocks with their fifteen feet planting’s are rarely seen now.
Plant a 9 or 106 stock,....or similar... leave it for five years without training...and you will have a much greater job to get it into a good garden shape, and if your growing espalier, cordon, fan etc....then it’s essential that pruning and training is done from year one.
Our trees on the farm are all on either 9 or 106 stocks and we train from year one of planting.
Golden Delicious and it’s various sports and cross breedings crop on one year old wood..so can take heavy pruning. Vars like Cox, Fiesta, etc only crop on wood older than two years so their crop can be heavily reduced by hard cutting.
Also triploids like Worcester and Jonagold and it’s crosses are all tip bearers ,so again pruning has to accommodate their growing styles.
The modern method of growing with centre leader trees and dwarfing or semi dwarfing stocks as virtually standard has brought a whole new thinking to the way we control our trees.
John

Danh40
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Re: Best time to fertilize semi-dwarf fruit trees

Thanks for all the info. Sorry for not responding sooner. It is late February now in Buffalo, NY and the next week we will have temps in the 40's and 50's. Would this be a good time to prune the trees or do I have to worry about another cold snap in March??

My understanding is that I can prune semi-dwarf apple and cherry trees now but I should leave my nectarine and peach trees to be pruned after the blossoms have fallen to avoid fungus or something, is that correct?

Finally, for fertilizing, when you say 'just when growth starts' or 'spurts', is that green tip stage and I should fertilize at that time, is that correct?

Just a newbe,

dan

JONA
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Re: Best time to fertilize semi-dwarf fruit trees

Prune your apples as soon as you want Danh. The cold snap will not hurt them.

Don’t prune your cherries though until their buds have burst and they have started to grow. This is so that the cuts you make will weep. This helps keep the spores of Silver Leaf and Bacterial Canker at bay.

As regards fertiliser. Use at any time now...but avoid once the bloom has started to open. A flush of nitrogen to the tree at that point can induce a larger fruit drop in the June Drop than you may want.
( the name June Drop is a bit of a missnomer as it seems now to occur in early July in many places)
John

Danh40
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Re: Best time to fertilize semi-dwarf fruit trees

OK, so I should wait until cherry buds have burst as well as when peach and nectarine buds have burst before pruning them, correct?

Thanks,

dan

JONA
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Re: Best time to fertilize semi-dwarf fruit trees

Peach and nectarines are normally pruned in the winter months when they are dormant. Though often it’s necessary to give them a trim dureing the summer months if they grow too strongly so that light can get to the fruit. Especially if they are being highly trained against a wall or similar.
John

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