Do Not Fertilize at Planting!
Fertilizers can burn the tender roots of young trees before they become established. When planting bare-root trees or 1 yr old potted trees we recommend waiting to fertilize them after one year of being planted. For two-year-old or older trees, we recommend waiting at least two months after planting then fertilizing with a time-released fertilizer such as Scotts Osmocote Plus Outdoor & indoor (15-9-12) or Espoma Holly Tone, or Tree Tone Organic Fertilizer. After applying the fertilizer make sure you water your trees for absorption.
Your local extension service will make recommendations along with the soil test. 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 fertilizer time release with minor elements. Minors are very important because if they are not available in certain soils, they can be a limiting factor for plant growth. We recommend using Scotts Osmocote Plus for younger trees outdoor/indoor (15-9-12) or Espoma Holly Tone or Tree Tone Organic Fertilizer recommended amount per directions.
Spread the fertilizer evenly under the entire canopy of the tree avoiding a 5-inch area around the trunk. Mix in the top 1-3 ” of soil, then water in.
For mature trees, 10 years and older, we recommend using Scotts Osmocote Flower & Vegetable (14-14-14), Espoma Holly tone or Tree Tone Organic Fertilizer recommended amount per directions.
Once the trees are established, fertilize in early spring (Mar-April) when growth begins and again in early June with the start of summer rains. 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.
Do not expect your trees to grow rapidly from the very start. After transplanting, the trees put a majority of their energy into root production and then are able to make rapid growth in 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. This tender new growth, when pushed too late in the season, is also more susceptible to winter injury.