Adding fruit tree fertilizer in fall or winter will help to increase fruit harvests. Learn how to make your own organic fruit tree fertilizer to save money.
When you have fruit trees, you want to do everything to maximize harvests.
After all that’s why we have them, right?
Fruit tree fertilizer is one way to improve the soil your trees are growing in.
And it doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive or take a lot of your valuable time.
So let’s have a look at when to fertilize, a simple recipe for homemade fertilizer and how to apply it.
You can also check out the companion video for a visual walk-through of how to make and apply fruit tree fertilizer:
Why you need to apply fruit tree fertilizer
Anytime you can build soil for your plants, no matter what type of plant it is, you’ll see an improvement in overall health of the plant and better harvests for food plants.
Fruit trees are no exception. They benefit from having healthy, organically rich soil around their roots.
Trees are heavy feeders.
Think of all those blossoms, leaves and then fruit that need food to grow, as well as the trunk and branches that support the foliage.
A tree is similar to our human bodies in that nutrients that are introduced (in a tree through the soil, in our bodies through ingesting food), absorbed (tree: roots, human: digestive system) and then distributed (tree: branches, human: blood).
It all starts in the soil.
When to apply fruit tree fertilizer
Any time is a good time to build soil, especially around fruit trees.
But is there a best time?
After a heavy fruiting season in spring and summer, fruit trees feel like a marathon runner at the end of a race. They have put a lot of energy into fruit production and now just want to rest and recover.
You can help them recover by replenishing nutrients with the right fertilizer in fall and winter.
The advantage of fertilizing in fall and winter is that winter rains and snow melt in spring will help to move the nutrients in the fertilizer down into the root zone in the soil to feed the roots.
Why can’t you simply dig the fertilizer into the soil for quicker nutrient uptake?
If you damage the roots of the tree when digging, you’ll affect the tree’s health and risk killing it. You don’t want that of course.
So layering the fertilizer on top and allowing nature to break it down and move the nutrients down where they can do good is the best way to do it.
And it’s less work for you!
Should you do this every fall?
It’ll depend on overall soil health and the quality of the soil.
I would say it can’t hurt, so do it anyways even if the soil might not need it. It’s hard to determine how next season’s harvest might be. If you get a bumper crop, your tree will require all the extra nutrients to be able to bear the fruit to full size.
Best homemade organic fruit tree fertilizer recipe
What is the best fertilizer for fruit trees?
You can of course go and buy chemical and organic fertilizers especially formulated for fruit trees.
However to save money and control the ingredients, you can make your own homemade fruit tree fertilizer very easily with just a few ingredients!
Mix up the following in either in a wheelbarrow, a large bucket/trug or even just on a tarp.
- 1 shovelful compost – either your own or store-bought
- 1 bag mushroom manure – you can substitute more compost instead
- 1 cup of dolomite lime – can buy this at a nursery or garden centre
- 1 cup of rock phosphate – again at a nursery, garden centre or a feed supplier
- 1 cup organic all-purpose granular fertilizer – I buy this in a large bag at my local feed store as I also use it when growing vegetables
One “recipe” is enough for an average size tree. If you have dwarf trees or young trees it will probably be enough for at least 2 or even 3 trees.
How to apply the fruit tree fertilizer
There are just a few simple steps to apply the fertilizer.
Cleanup around the tree
It is best to have the ground underneath a fruit tree free of plants and especially weeds. All the nutrients should go towards the tree’s health rather than being used up by plants/weeds underneath.
So do some diligent weeding first. Keep in mind that you don’t want to dig too deep close to the trunk so that you don’t damage the roots close to the surface.
Also, rake up the leaves that might have already fallen. While you can put the fertilizer mix on top, the leaves are more beneficial as mulch on top of the fertilizer. Just rake them to the side for now.
Apply the fruit tree fertilizer
Now apply the fertilizer mix in a 2-inch thick layer. Use a rake to even it out as much as you can.
Keep it from the trunk at least 4-6″ to allow the trunk to breathe and avoid rot.
If you have lawn underneath the tree, you can simply rake the mix into the lawn as it will also benefit the lawn.
This is optional but will help to regulate the ground temperature, suppress weeds and add more organic matter to the soil.
You can use leaves (the ones you raked up earlier or leaves from another area of your garden), bark mulch, straw or grass clippings.
And you are done!
Repeat for your other fruit trees. Keep mixing up the fertilizer and applying it.
Fertilizing your fruit trees is a relatively simple task. Depending on how many trees you have this will take a morning or afternoon to complete. With my eight trees in my mini orchard, I can usually do this in an hour or so as I’m now used to doing this.
And then in spring they’ll have the energy to produce lots of blossoms, leaves and then fruit!
Their way of saying “thank you” for feeding them in winter.
If you enjoyed this article, have something to add or have any questions, please leave a comment below.
Wishing you all the best!
Tranquil Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC