Should I fertilize my fruit trees?

Question: 

Should I fertilize my fruit trees?

Answer: 

It is generally not necessary to fertilize fruit trees in Iowa.  Most Iowa soils can supply sufficient amounts of nutrients to fruit trees.  Check tree growth to determine whether fruit trees need fertilization.  Young, nonbearing fruit trees should grow approximately 15 to 30 inches per year.  Bearing trees should produce 8 to 15 inches of new growth.  (The actual amount of new growth will vary due to differences in varietal vigor.)  Fruit trees making less than desirable growth may need fertilization.  Apply a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10, in early spring before bud break.  The recommended rate is 1/10 pound of actual nitrogen per year of tree age.  (Tree age is the number of years since the tree was planted in the home garden.) 

For example, a 5-year-old tree should receive 5/10 or ½ pound of nitrogen.  Uniformly broadcast 5 pounds of the 10-10-10 fertilizer (10 percent of 5 is ½ pound of N) in a circular band beginning about 2 feet from the trunk and extending out slightly beyond the dripline of the tree.  One pound of actual nitrogen is the maximum for fruit trees 10 years of age and older. 

If the lawn in the vicinity of the fruit trees is fertilized on a regular basis, there should be no need to fertilize the trees.  The fruit tree roots will absorb nutrients from the lawn fertilizer.  Additional fertilizer will probably be excessive.  Over-fertilization may actually reduce crop yields. 
 

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