Knowing when to feed and fertilise fruit trees can be tricky! The best time to feed a fruit tree is around late winter and early spring depending on the maturity of your tree. This article will discuss when and how to feed your fruit trees.
Fruit trees, like any plant, take nutrients from the soil through their roots. This allows the fruit tree to grow and flower fruit. Throughout the year, your tree will need different nutrients at different rates to encourage fruit growth and maintain healthy foliage and strong roots.
Not to mention that the type of soil on your property and your location within Melbourne may also impact how your fruit trees grow.
Understanding your fruit trees and what they need will be essential for successfully growing fruit all year round. If a tree has the right nutrients, the growing season for fruit will become much easier. The soil moisture levels, good quality soil and pest and disease control will become easier with trees that can grow because they have enough fertiliser and feed.
Even if you’re new to growing trees or an established tree grower, this article will help you know when to fertilise and feed fruit trees in Melbourne, especially if you’re trying to grow:
- Apricot tree
- Bare root fruit trees
- Citrus trees
- Deciduous fruit trees
- Nectarine trees
- Peach tree
- Other fruit trees
How do I feed my fruit tree?
All plants need water, light and nutrients to grow. This is essential for keeping them healthy. In order to maintain your fruit trees, you need to provide nutrients from the soil. This is most commonly done through fertilisers that are formulated for the specific fruit tree you are growing.
If you want to produce fruit, you need to do the following:
- Adding organic material to your growing fruit trees
- Improving soil pH
- Incorporating more nutrients like controlled release fertilisers
- Work and turn the soil
What do I feed a fruit tree?
Fruit trees need 16 essential nutrients. However, the main three nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. You’ll see the letter ‘NPK’ on all of the fertilisers for fruit trees which represents these three main nutrients. In order to fully understand if a tree needs a specific nutrient, you’ll need to send a leaf off to a lab for analysis.
However, there are some ways you can tell at home. If a fruit tree is low on nitrogen, you’ll start to see that there is very little shoot growth. Another common sign is that the plant begins to grow yellow in colour instead of green. If it has too much nitrogen it may be too green.
If your fruit tree needs phosphorus, the leaves can become purple, while a lack of potassium will show signs of brown spots and yellow edges on the leaves. Any discolouration in your tree’s leaves will likey mean it is deficient in a nutrient.
It’s also important to remember that fruit trees need different amounts of nutrients throughout the year. Young trees and mature trees alike will need to be properly cared for in order to produce fruit or have a fruit drop.
When to feed fruit trees in Melbourne?
Fruit trees will give us crops in summer and autumn months, but you will still need to be feed the tree over winter and spring. The best time to fertilise your fruit tree is during spring, right before the bloom. Not all trees need to be fed throughout the year. Too much feed can lead to excess nitrogen levels, resulting in less fruit.
Feeding and fertilising your fruit trees throughout the year
During winter, trees become dormant and do not produce fruit. In late winter, fruit trees come out of dormancy as the temperatures rise and begin to have a metabolic reaction. The trees will begin to use energy reserves from autumn.
In winter, most fruit trees will need macronutrients which include nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium. Some trees may need their soil pH levels adjusted. During winter, fruit trees will often be magnesium deficient too.
Our last piece of advice for feeding and fertilising fruit trees in winter is that if you are going to use compost or an organic type of fertiliser, it needs to go into the soil early winter. This will allow the soil to absorb the nutrients before the heart of winter and allow the roots of the tree to feed.
When spring begins, a tree will use its initial reserves until the fruit or flowers have started to bloom. After the blooming phase, the tree will now be using the nutrients from winter and early spring.
The blooming phase of each fruit tree is different.
- Stone fruits see the tissue open up to become flowers
- Pome fruits see the shoots begin to grow and then flowers come out
In spring, a fruit tree’s growth will depend on how much nutrients it received in the previous seasons. Stone fruit trees need enough nutrient reserves from the previous year to support the initial growth of the fruit.
Pome fruits, like apples, need enough nutrients to support both the shoot growth as well as the fruit and flower afterwards. This means that pome fruits need twice as much nutrients as other fruit trees.
Finally, a common issue in spring are fruits with a bitter pit. This happens when there is a calcium deficiency. We suggest using a calcium spray shortly after bloom and then every 10 to 15 days.
Summer is a critical time for growing fruit trees. In order for the fruit to set, the tree will need a lot of nutrients. Fruit setting is done by cell division. Once the cells have divided, they begin to expand. Ideally, you want to have the tree increase the number of cells divided early on, so that after bloom, you have more cells to expand upon later; leading to larger fruit.
Fruit setting needs to have good levels of nitrogen and boron. Some farmers will use boron fertiliser in autumn or shortly after the tree begins to flower. This will ensure the tree has enough boron in the summer. In some cases, you may want to use a foliar spray of nitrogen, but in most cases you’ll have enough if you gave the tree enough in the spring.
During the summertime, different fruit trees will have different levels of annual growth. In most cases, a tree should have around 30–60 centimetres of shoot growth per year depending on what fruit tree you are harvesting.
In autumn, you’ll harvest the fruit and you might find there’s not much to do with the tree. You won’t need to feed or fertilise your fruit trees as much as the lead into summer.
However, during this season a lot of growers will add a small amount of micronutrients to the tree. This includes boron, manganese, zinc, and iron. This is done with a spray when the fruit has fallen off, but before the leaves have dropped.