Nut Tree Fertilizer: When And How To Fertilize Nut Trees

Nut Tree Fertilizer: When And How To Fertilize Nut Trees

By: Teo Spengler

Nut trees, like fruit trees, produce better if they are fed. Young trees that haven’t started bearing nuts actually require more fertilizer than bearing trees. Do you want to know how to fertilize nut trees and when to fertilize a nut tree? Read on for all the information you will need about nut tree fertilizer.

Why Should You Feed Nut Trees?

If you don’t fertilize your trees regularly, you may ask why you should do it at all. Should you feed nut trees? Yes! When your kids get hungry, you feed them. As a gardener, you need to do the same thing for your nut trees. That’s what fertilizing nut trees is all about.

For a nut tree to produce nuts, it needs an adequate supply of essential nutrients. The primary nutrient nut trees require on a regular basis is nitrogen. Fertilizing nut trees properly requires more nitrogen than any other element.

You’ll also want to add potassium to the soil, as well as phosphorus. Use a fertilizer mix with double the nitrogen, like 20-10-10 for best results.

How to Fertilize Nut Trees

Use granular fertilizer rather than liquid fertilizer and follow the directions below.

If you are wondering how much nut tree fertilizer to use, it will vary from tree to tree. That is because the amount of nut tree fertilizer necessary depends on the size of the tree trunk. When your nut trees are young, measure the diameter of the tree at breast height. If the trunk is no bigger than 6 inches (15 cm.) in diameter, apply 1 pound (453.5 g.) for every inch (2.5 cm.) of trunk diameter.

If you can’t figure out the trunk diameter, measure the circumference of the trunk (wrap the measuring tape around it) at breast height. Divide this number by 3 to approximate diameter. For larger nut trees, those with diameters of between 7 and 12 inches (18 to 30.5 cm.), use 2 pounds (907 g.) for every inch of diameter. Tree that are even bigger should get 3 pounds (1.5 kg.) for each inch (2.5 cm.) of diameter.

Apply the correct amount of fertilizer to the surface of the soil. Sprinkle it on the entire canopy area; that is, the area of ground under the spread of the branches. Should you feed nut trees right up to the trunk? No, you should not. In fact, keep fertilizer a full 12 inches (30.5 cm.) away from the trunk of the nut tree.

When to Fertilize Nut Trees

When to fertilize nut trees is an important issue. It may be better not to fertilize at all than to feed your tree at the wrong time. Nut trees should be fertilized at the same time each year. Generally, the ideal time to fertilize nut tree is in spring just before new growth begins.

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Fertilizing and Pruning Fruit Trees

Proper applications at this time of year will help assure that plant nutrients are in adequate supply for the entire growing season.

Pruning trees of bearing age is practiced to thin out thick growth and to facilitate spraying and harvesting.

Fertilizing Fruit Trees

Earlier this month I discussed the importance of properly fertilizing shade trees and shrubs in the home lawn. It is equally important to maintain proper fertility for the many species of fruit trees we have for home production. Now through February is the preferred time of year for fruit tree fertilization. Proper applications at this time of year will help assure that plant nutrients are in adequate supply for the entire growing season. The better start you give the tree, the better chance for optimum production this year.

All plants remove nutrients from the soil, use them to produce food, use this food for fruit production and store the rest in the tissues of their trunk or stem to initiate new growth in the spring. Keeping an adequate supply of plant nutrients in the soil is essential for continued growth and production. The major nutrients used by the plant are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These are the nutrients used in the greatest quantity. To assume that they are present in proper amounts, we add fertilizer to the soil. A late winter application of fertilizer will accomplish this when the need for nutrients is greatest for fruit trees.

Citrus trees are usually provided with one and one-half pounds of 8-8-8 fertilizer per year of age up to a maximum of 12 pounds per tree (eight years 0f age). In June, an additional one-half pound of ammonium nitrate per year of age up to a maximum of ten pounds (20 years of age) can be applied. The additional nitrogen in June helps promote leaf development and greater food production.

Fig trees in general need one pound of 8-8-8 per year of age (up to 10 pounds maximum). Blackberries need one-half pound of 8-8-8 per row foot in late winter. Apply an additional one-half pound of ammonium nitrate per row foot after berry harvest. Pecan trees receive three pounds of 8-8-8 or equivalent per inch of trunk diameter measured one foot above the soil line. Older pecan trees (25 years or older) need an additional one-half pound of ammonium nitrate per inch of trunk diameter. Apply this in May or June. Following this formula, you will find that pecan trees are quite expensive to fertilize properly. Many home gardeners have decided to treat the pecan as a shade tree and be happy for any nuts that it provides.

After planting and before growth starts in the spring, citrus trees should be pruned. This initial pruning helps bring into balance the tops of the plants and the root system. It also stimulates lateral bud development from which good scaffold branches can be selected later.

Young trees will usually have a framework already developed when purchased. They should begin branching at approximately 18-24 inches above ground level. Growth developing below this framework should be prevented. Dead wood should be removed periodically in older trees to help control melanose, a fungus disease. If crowding of branches or crossing over occurs, some thinning should also be practiced. Water sprouts arising from the center of the tree should be kept to a minimum.

Citrus trees are very susceptible to low temperatures and are often injured during the winter. When freeze injury occurs, trees should be pruned as soon as possible after the extent of cold damage has been determined. Normally, the damage is evident after the second flush of growth following the freeze, usually in July or August.

Pruning is normally done during late January and February. When pruning, cut off only enough branches to accomplish a definite purpose. A primary purpose of pruning young non-bearing trees is to shape the tree so that scaffold branches will be well distributed. If scaffold branches are selected properly, the weak narrow crotches can be eliminated and future breakage under heavy fruit loads can be avoided. Proper selection of young scaffold branches will also reduce the large pruning cuts in future years, thus reducing the entrance of insects and decay organisms into pruning wounds.

Pruning trees of bearing age is practiced to thin out thick growth and to facilitate spraying and harvesting. Dead, weak and broken limbs and disease and insect infested wood should be removed also. Where large limbs are removed, protect cut surfaces to prevent entry by insects and diseases by using a non-toxic tree coating compound to paint these wounds. When pruning, cut all limbs off flush to the point of attachment.

Remember, pruning mature citrus trees will accelerate growth the next season. This growth is often at the expense of fruit production the following year. It is best to not remove more than one-third of the existing canopy in a single year. In other words, unless there is a definite need to prune a bearing tree, avoid it.


Establish a Need for Fertilizing

Consider the following conditions to help you decide if you should fertilize your trees and shrubs:

Soil Test: Have your soil tested through the Clemson Extension Service. A soil test determines the acidity or alkalinity (pH) of the soil, along with the levels of nutrients that are present. Depending on the results, you may need to add nutrients to make up for any deficiencies in the soil. For more information on soil testing refer to the fact sheet HGIC 1652, Soil Testing.

Growth: Look at shrubs and trees for signs of poor growth: poorly colored leaves (pale green to yellow) leaf size smaller than normal earlier than normal fall coloring and leaf drop little annual twig growth or twig or branch dieback. These symptoms of poor growth are not always related to low levels of nutrients in the soil, nor should you assume that fertilizers would cure these problems. Heavily compacted soil stresses induced by insects, diseases and weeds or adverse weather conditions can cause these symptoms. Before fertilizing, determine the cause of the problem and correct it.

Planting Age: Fertilizer applications in the early years of established, transplanted trees and shrubs can speed up top growth and help young trees fill their allotted space in the landscape. Slow-release fertilizers are well-suited for recently planted trees and shrubs.

Location: If shrubs or trees are growing in a lawn that is regularly fertilized, there is no need to fertilize them separately. The roots of trees and shrubs will absorb some of the fertilizer applied to the lawn. However, trees and shrubs growing in planting beds may need to be fertilized, especially on sandy soils with little or no organic matter.


How much fertilizer you give a tree depends on many things. What stage your tree is in, what type of tree, or what type of fertilizer. Generally, .1 to .2 pounds of nitrogen per 100 sq ft is a good measurement to go off. Your fertilizer bag should have a measurement for you to follow. This measurement will be more accurate to the fertilizer and the tree it is being used on. If you find your tree is still malnourished, space your fertilizing a few months apart. You don’t want to exceed the amount of nitrogen your lawn can handle.

Baby Trees:

Fertilizing baby trees is really not necessary for the first year. After the first year they still need very little fertilizer. Too much fertilizer, especially with nitrogen, will burn your baby tree’s roots and leaves. Consider using a slow release fertilizer on your young trees. Slow release fertilizers are often organic fertilizers. They come from plant and animal sources. Organic fertilizers are often more expensive than inorganic fertilizers.

Growing Trees:

While your tree is in peak growth, it needs a decent amount of fertilizer. Follow the amount on your fertilizer bag twice a year to keep your tree growing.

Mature Trees:

As briefly covered above, mature trees need very little fertilizer, if any. You don’t want your trees to overproduce. Mature trees will pick up fertilization from the lawn and from minerals in the soil.


How to Fertilize Lychee Trees

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Lychee trees (Litchi chinensis), growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 10 and 11, are very sensitive to root burn in their early years. These trees need not be fertilized at the time of planting, and subsequent applications on young, non-fruit bearing trees are light. Once lychee trees are of fruit-bearing age they become heavy feeders, but excessive nitrogen will cause vegetative growth and prevent fruiting.

Apply a complete fertilizer with a ratio of 1-2-1 after the first flush of growth hardens in the first year, when the new leaves turn a darker green and the tender shoots turn hard.

Fertilize after every subsequent flush of growth. Use 1 pound of fertilizer for the entire first year. Increase to 1.5 pounds in the second year and 2.5 pounds in the third year. Apply fertilizer evenly beneath the tree's drip line.

Stop fertilizing after the third year of growth, to prepare for the tree to enter a fruit-bearing stage.

Fertilize with a half-strength application of 10-5-20 fertilizer after the harvest of the first fruit. Do not fertilize again until fruit has set for the second harvest of fruit.

Fertilize during the second fruiting with a half-strength application of 10-5-20 fertilizer when fruits are the size of peas.

Continue fertilizing in following years, once after harvesting and once when fruits are pea-sized. In total each year, apply approximately 1 pound of fertilizer for each inch of trunk diameter, measured at a height of 4 feet above the ground.


Watch the video: Fertilizing Pecans