MASTER GARDENER: Fruit tree fertilization made simple with these quick tips

lifestyle_homegardenThe calendar is specific: Spring has arrived! If you have fruit trees at your home, you may be wondering when and how to fertilize them so you will have a bumper crop this year. Fruit trees need a goodly amount of nutrients not only to grow well but also to produce quality fruit. If you have not already fertilized your fruit trees, get busy and get an application out. Best fertilization time for fruit trees is early spring, just before bud break.

General directions for fruit tree fertilization: Apple and pear trees: For the first four years or so, apply 1 pound of 13-13-13 fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter, measured just above the soil line. Apply in a circle under the canopy of the tree, beginning at least 6 inches from the trunk of the tree.

After an apple or pear tree reaches bearing age (4 to 5 years old), apply 2 pounds of 13-13-13 per inch of trunk diameter, following the directions above.

Peaches and plums: For the first four years or so, fertilize the same as for a young apple or pear tree. For a mature or bearing tree, fertilize at the rate of 1 to 1-1/2 pounds of 13-13-13 fertilizer per age of the tree until your tree is 8 to 10 years old. Then apply eight to 10 pounds each year for each tree.

These recommendations are merely a rule of thumb. Lower strengths of fertilizer, such as 10-10-10 or 8-8-8 can be substituted. A good insecticide and herbicide spray program is also recommended in our area for fruit trees.

Take good care of your fruit trees and they will reward you with years of shade as well as delicious fruit.

Sarah Bell Harris, a Master Gardener, is a trained volunteer of the Mississippi State University Extension Service. For gardening questions, call the Help Center at (662) 620-8280 in Lee County or (866) 920-4678 outside Lee County and leave a message.