Do not fertilize at planting!
Fertilizers can burn the tender roots of young trees before they become established. We recommend waiting until the tree’s roots have become established before applying fertilizer.
When planting 1-year bareroot and containerized trees, we recommend waiting one year after planting to fertilize.
2-Year or Older
For 2-year or older trees we recommend waiting at least two months after planting before fertilizing with a time-released fertilizer.
Testing soil is a key factor in figuring out the best fertilizer for your land. Your local agricultural extension service will make fertilizer recommendations along with a soil test.
How to fertilize
Once the trees are established, fertilize in early spring (March-May) when new growth begins and again with the start of summer rains (June-July). Do not fertilize in the fall, which can promote late-season tender growth that can be damaged by early frosts. The best time to fertilize fruit trees is during the growing season, starting in early spring (after bud break) and finishing by June. Strong rains can also leach away much of the Nitrogen, which is highly soluble. Nitrogen is a key element required for plant growth.
It is important to provide a balanced time release fertilizer with minor elements. Local soils can lack certain minor elements, greatly hindering plant growth and mast production. We recommend using Scotts Osmocote Plus for Outdoor/Indoor (15-9-12) for younger trees or Espoma Holly-Tone or Tree-Tone Organic Fertilizer. Follow fertilizer directions for quantity of application.
For mature trees 10 yrs and older we recommend using Scotts Osmocote Flower & Vegetable (14-14-14), Espoma Holly-Tone or Tree-Tone Organic Fertilizer. Follow directions for amount. Again, we recommend fertilizer in spring when the tree breaks dormancy, and again in early summer with the start of summer rains.
Spread the fertilizer evenly under the entire canopy of the tree. Root systems don’t typically spread further than the canopy is wide. Avoid a 5-12-inch area around the trunk to avoid nutrient burn, and to allow for sufficient penetration in the soil under the canopy. Mix in the top 1-3 ” of soil. After applying the fertilizer, water your trees for maximum absorption.
Do not expect your trees to grow rapidly from the very start. After transplanting, the trees put the majority of their energy into root production. Once root systems are established, trees will grow rapidly over the following years.
Why do we not recommend Fertilizing in the Fall?
Fertilizing too late in the season can cause trees to grow when they should be shutting down for the winter. When pushed too late, this tender new growth is more susceptible to frost damage.