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Don't wait any longer to fertilize fruit trees

By Dan Rahn
University of Georgia

Don't wait any longer to fertilize your fruit trees.

"It's best to fertilize fruit trees just before or during bloom," said Gerard Krewer, a horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "But if your trees have finished blooming and you haven't already fertilized them, go ahead and do it now."

Fruit trees need fertilizer in the spring, Krewer said. It's especially important that they get nitrogen, the nutrient most crucial to growth. But the trees need phosphorus and potassium, too.

"Take a soil sample to your county Extension office to find out exactly how much fertilizer you need," Krewer said. "If you don't take a soil sample, use a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10."

Problem with guessing

If you spread just the right amount of fertilizer under your tree, you'll get tasty, well-developed fruit and enough growth in the tree itself to keep it healthy.

If you don't use enough, you won't get proper growth in the fruit or the tree. If you use too much, the tree will produce long shoots that will have to be pruned back.

A rough rule-of-thumb is to spread 1 pound of 10-10-10 for each inch of diameter of the tree trunk up to a maximum of 5 pounds per tree, Krewer said. Then add another half-pound to 1 pound per inch after harvest, up to a maximum of 5 pounds per tree. Use the lower rate if the growth is lush.

Best bet

That may not be exactly what your trees need. The soil sample might tell you to cut down or skip the phosphorus or potassium. But don't just skip the fertilizer.

"Fruit trees need fertilizer in the spring every year," Krewer said.

Fertilizing fruit trees in the spring keeps the trees healthy and assures a healthy crop of fruit this year, he said.

Fertilize again after you harvest the fruit. That will boost the nitrogen in the tree and help it get ready for next year.

(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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