Watering and fertilizing apple trees


Water and nutrients are critical to the success of your apple trees, especially early on. The right approach to watering and fertilizing apple trees early on will set you up for successful tree growth. 

Watering apple trees

When it comes to watering fruit trees, there is no set rule. However, following some general guidelines will improve your chances of tree survival and overall growth.

The first year is the most important

Water is always important for tree survival. However, the tree is most susceptible in the first year, since roots are usually been cut back when the tree is removed from the nursery. As the trees grow, they develop strong and widespread root systems, becoming more tolerant to periods without water. However, in the first year or two, you should make efforts to ensure your trees are watered if there is not enough rainfall.

Trees need water every 7-10 days

Ideally, your trees should receive around 1 inch of water every 7 to 10 days. If this is provided by mother nature, you likely do not need to provide additional water. However, if you haven’t received rain in over that time, supplementing with 1-2 gallons per tree will be beneficial to growth.

Adjust to your soil conditions

Soil type can have a drastic impact on water needs. In very sandy soils, it may be impossible to overwater. In these conditions, you may be able to increase watering frequency to every 3 to 5 days. However, if your soil is heavy or clay, you should not need to water as frequently. Let the condition and moisture level in the soil be your guide.

You can over-water

Not too little water, not too much water, but just right. Like with Goldie Locks, there is a happy medium that is optimal. Consistently wet soil can increase the risk of disease for your trees. If it has been a number of days since rain or watering, but the soil is still wet, hold out on watering until it becomes drier.

Fertilizing apple trees

Like with food plots, you’ll want to consider a soil test prior to planting. You may find specific deficiencies in your soil you need to accommodate for.

Fertilizer type

We recommend a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10 or 12-12-12. These fertilizers promote vegetative growth, fruit production, and root health for your trees.

When to fertilize

The best time fertilizing apple trees is in early spring to early summer. The goal is to promote growth during normal growing seasons. We do not recommend fertilizing in late summer or fall, as your trees should be preparing to become dormant rather than growing at that time.

For first time spring plantings, we recommend fertilizing the fall prior to planting. This gets the nutrients into the soil but avoids shocking the new tree.

Where to apply

The fertilizer should be applied around the drip-line of the tree. This is the circular area beneath point where the horizontal branch tips reach. This helps avoid “burning” the trunk or roots of the tree.

How much to apply

Recommendations vary on how much to apply. We like to air on the side of caution and start with low doses of fertilizer.

According to Grow Organic, trees need 0.10 of a pound of actual nitrogen per year of age, or per inch of trunk diameter (measured 1 foot above the ground). The maximum you should give a fruit tree in a year is 1 lb. of actual nitrogen.

You can learn more and use their calculator on the GrowOrganic.com site.

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