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Right time to fertilize an Apple Tree

Posted on | October 2, 2013 | No Comments

Lots of growers get confused and many don’t know exactly when to apply fertilizers to apple tree, due to which they suffer because of bad crops. Apple trees require nutrients to live, grow and produce crops. Due to a deficiency of one or more of these nutrients in the soil, the tree grow and produce expected crop, and will be more prone to disease and pest problems, as a result  will have a shorter life span than a well fertilized tree. The nutrients required by most of plants on earth, including apple trees, can be divided into two parts: macronutrients and micronutrients, which is based upon the quantity necessary for survival and growth. Macronutrients are required by plants in greater quantities than micronutrients. The macronutrients required by plants for growth include nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S). The addition of macronutrients, especially nitrogen, can result in improved growth while deficiencies can lead to slower growth and many visible symptoms. Micronutrients, which are required in very small amounts, include iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), boron (B), chlorine (Cl), and molybdenum (Mo).

Both organic and inorganic (synthetic) fertilizers can be used to supply plant nutrients (Please read Know your fertilizer on www.himachalfruits.com).

How to determine the need for fertilizers?

Trees are often under high stress conditions due to many reasons which depends on environment condition e.g. low moisture availability, soil compaction, physical damage and competition from nearby trees, shrubs and weeds. The best indicator of whether fertilization is necessary is a soil test (please read http://blog.himachalfruits.com/?p=116).

In case where soil test cannot be done, the best indicator of the need for additional fertilization of established trees is shoot growth. If new shoot growth occurring in the present year is in excess of 6 inches, then fertilization is probably unnecessary. If shoot growth is between 2 and 6 inches then fertilizer may be applied and, if shoot growth is under 2 inches, then fertilizer applications are appropriate.

Foliage color is another indicator of the need for fertilization. Yellow or “off-color” leaves may indicate the need for fertilization as these symptoms generally occur on trees which are not taking up enough of one or more required nutrient. A final indicator of the need for fertilization is the history of the farm. Trees on farms that are fertilized for turf on a regular basis rarely need to have supplemental fertilizer applied. Supplemental fertilizer should only be considered if shoot growth is less than 2 inches, or if a soil test reveals a specific nutrient deficiency.

Yellowing may be due to a variety of nutrient deficiencies. The most common reason for yellowing foliage is a lack of iron and occasionally manganese. Deficiencies of these elements are commonly due to a high pH (7.0 or higher) rather than a lack of these nutrients in the soil. Because different trees do well at different pH levels, it is strongly recommended that soils be checked for pH before planting.

Best time to fertilize Tree

Newly Planted Trees

Requires higher nitrogen until they are 3 years old but care should be taken to apply nitrogen based fertilizers on tow condition 1. Soil Test 2. If growth in new trees is not normal e.g new plant or its shoots should grow between 12 and 18 inches. Application of fertilizers can be done as broadcast, or sprinkle (in ratio with soil test) or organic fertilizers, manure,bone meal application can be done after every 90-120 days for good and stout growth. Important time for application of fertilizer in new trees are March, June & September.

Matured Apple Trees

After Bud Break – Early Spring- Is the best time to fertilize mature trees or right as the flowers appear in the apple tree.

Early summer Fertilization-Can be done either depending on the deficiency or by looking at the growth of fruit and tree. Most of  horticulturists fertilize trees throughout the spring. Fertilizing in summer inhibits the tree’s ability to stay hydrated.

Post- Harvest fertilization-Early in the new season deciduous plants rely on the nutrients stored from the previous autumn for flowering and to develop new leaves. Post-harvest fertilizer applications are often beneficial as they ensure adequate nutrient storage for the following spring. After harvest trees quickly reduce water uptake and after leaf fall tree water use drops to almost nil.
As a result, fertilizer uptake late in the season is slow and it pays to apply fertilizer as soon after harvest as possible. If it is applied too late for tree uptake, winter rainfall will leach any fertilizer residues from the soil or the tree will enter in dormancy late.

How about fall and winter fertilizing?

Fall fertilization is ineffective as the tree is entering a dormant, and not a growth period.

In winters the tree goes into dormancy, it ceases photosynthesis. The chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down, making sugars that go back into the fruit tree’s limbs, trunk and roots. And thus fertilizing in winter is ineffective.

Winters or Dormancy is the best time to apply manure than Water Soluble fertilizers

When to Apply Manure-Apply 1 to 2 inches of well rotted-manure in February while the tree is still dormant and again in June. You should wait until the year after planting to start fertilizing. If you live in a warmer region with mild winters and little danger of frost zones 9 or 10 and up you can apply manure three times a year: in Febraury, June and August.

Manure Facts- It doesn’t matter what kind of manure you use (horse, chicken, cow, rabbit or goat) but it needs to be well rotten. Well rotten manure looks like black soil and has no smell. Never use fresh manure as it contains high ammonia, which can give root burns and can damage trees. Well rotten manure is considered an organic fertilizer and adds nitrogen, potassium and other nutrients to the soils. It also adds organic matter that helps loosen the soil, increases the oxygen content attracts earthworms and increase useful bacteria in soil.

Manure Classifications

Organic Manure-What goes in the cow, comes out of the cow. Cattle who eat inorganic matter or chemicals, such as bovine growth hormone, will not produce organic manure. Further, inorganic dung cannot be used in organic farming, as it may pass on the inorganic elements to the vegetation through the soil.

Mixed Manure-Cow manure mixed with other materials, such as straw or sawdust. While this type of dung may be good for composting –because of its rich blend of nitrogen and carbon.

Manure Age-Freshly produced manure often contains ammonia that can hurt seedlings or plants. Aging manure for 60 days or more, will allow harmful chemicals to break down, as well as for its nutrients to grow. Also aging minimizes the risk of E. coli bacteria.

Important Note : Purchase Manure/compost from trust able source. (For product information please visit www.himachalfruits.com)

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