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Last updated: March 06, 2021
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Hoping to buy fertilizer for your fruit trees but don’t know which one to pick? The broad variety of fruit tree fertilizers can be confusing for most people. That’s what we’re here to help you with. We’ll guide you in choosing the best fertilizer for fruit trees, whether yours are new plantings, young trees, or established trees, in a container or in the garden.
Take our Editor’s Choice, for instance, an organic granular fertilizer from Jobe’s Company. Fast acting and suitable for all tree maturity levels, it’s a safe, natural fertilizer that will revitalize and transform the health of all your fruit trees. We didn’t just pick it from the air. No. We identified it through a thorough review process, the same process we’ve used to evaluate 41 products so far. Read more about the products we’ve tried out in the Product Reviews segment.
For this review, we considered all the important features in a fruit tree fertilizer, things like the weight, NPK value, type of fertilizer, and frequency of use. All these have an effect on how and where the fertilizer can be used. We’ll expound more on the importance of each feature in the Buying Guide section of the review. If you’re wondering if you’ll be able to keep up with this seemingly huge avalanche of information, relax. We’ve segmented it into short sections that include a summary table, in-detail reviews of each product, a buying guide, tips on usage, and FAQs. You’ll be better informed about fruit tree fertilizers by the end of it.
Jobe’s Organics 09224 Fruit & Citrus Fertilizer is a fast acting, OMRI-listed, organic product that is infused with Biozome, Jobe’s patented beneficial microorganisms, which is a blend of mycorrhizal fungi, archaea, and healthy bacteria. It also contains bone meal, feather meal, and processed manure. Altogether, the ingredients work to clean the soil and restore it to a balanced, healthy state, making this the best organic fertilizer for fruit trees at its price point.
Specifically, Archaea works by breaking down minerals and hydrocarbons into nutrients and trace elements that trees can readily absorb. Mycorrhizal expands the roots’ surface-absorbing area by 100-1000 times, thereby helping trees absorb more nutrients and water. Bone meal is rich in calcium and phosphorus, which promotes root strength, blooming, and fruit development. Feather meal, a rich source of nitrogen, promotes greener foliage and overall plant health. Processed manure contains high amounts of calcium, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, and organic matter and greatly improves soil condition.
The fertilizer has an NPK ratio of 3-5-5 and should be applied every 2-3 months. You can use it during soil preparation, on seeds and new plantings, established shrubs, and mature trees. For soil preparation, use 1½ tablespoons for each 2-inch plant. For seeds and new plantings, use 1½ tablespoons per 4-inch pot. For established plants, add 1½ cup per foot of plant spread at the drip line. And for mature trees, add 3 cups per 1″ of trunk diameter at the drip line.
The slow-releasing EarthPods Premium Fruit & Citrus Plant Food is rich in plant nutrients, natural growth hormones, trace elements, and humic, fulvic and amino acids, among other beneficial soil microbes. Everything in this product is organic, from the fertilizer itself to the capsules in which it is enclosed and the packaging, including the ink used to print the container.
It’s specially formulated for dwarf fruit trees, and works by boosting overall plant health. This is also a great fertilizer for citrus trees. With an NPK formulation of 2-4-4, it stimulates root development and growth, blossoms, and improves leaf color. It also reduces transplant shock and builds resistance to pests, diseases, and other unfavorable conditions.
The product comes in a tube of 100 capsules, a number that can feed a single fruit tree for up to 4 years. If you have more trees, of course, it won’t last that long. Note that you can use it for both outdoor and indoor fruit trees.
Apply it every 2-3 weeks by pushing the recommended number of capsules into the soil near the center stem and then watering. The capsule then breaks down and slowly releases nutrients directly to the root zone. For small fruit trees, use 1-2 capsules, for medium trees, use 2-4 capsules, and for large trees, use 4-8 capsules. As mentioned, the capsule is organic, made from plant material, and will dissolve over time. So you don’t have to worry about its disposal.
Dr. Earth Natural Wonder Fruit Tree Fertilizer is a nutritionally balanced organic product that’s formulated using sustainable, naturally occurring nutrients and minerals. Specifically, it’s derived from alfalfa meal, fish bone meal, fish meal, kelp meal, kelp flour, and potassium sulfate.
This soil-enriching fertilizer has an NPK formula of 5-5-2 and improves plant health by promoting strong roots and fruit growth. It’s designed for use in both potted trees and gardens, and you can use it during transplanting and at any point during the tree’s growth phase.
A slow -releasing product, it supplies trees with nutrients for up to 2 months. The manufacturer recommends reapplying it every 3 months throughout the growth season. For new plantings, add 2½ cups (1¼ lbs.) of the product per ½ cubic foot (5 gallons) of the soil you add to the planting hole and water thoroughly after planting. For every inch of trunk diameter in established trees, add 1 cup (½ lb.) of product into the soil at the drip line. To determine each tree’s trunk diameter, measure at 4-6 inches above the soil line.
It is OMRI (Organic Material Review Institute) listed and certified by the state of California’s OIM (Organic Input Materials) and CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers), all which point to its compliance to the NOP (National Organic Program).
What we liked:
Long lasting supply
Used with both potted and backyard trees
NOP, OIM, CCOF, and OMRI certified
What could be better:
None really, except if you don't like the strong natural fertilizer smell
Down to Earth Organic Fruit Tree Fertilizer is an OMRI-listed product that is derived from feather meal, fish bone meal, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, calcium carbonate, langbeinite, and potassium sulfate. The fertilizer has an NPK formula of 6-2-4 and is enriched with humic acids to improve soil quality and help trees withstand environmental stress. It also contains added calcium for proper fruit development.
It’s made in powder form, with this particular pack weighing 5 lbs., and it’s sold at a considerably fair price. The manufacturer recommends that you reapply the fertilizer after 1 month 2 or 3 times a year depending on growth phase. The application instructions are the same for pome fruits and stone fruits, but the product quantities differ.
For non-bearing pome fruit trees (1-3 years post transplanting), add 1 cup of product per inch of trunk diameter immediately after blooming in the spring. Apply to the soil 1 foot from the trunk and work towards and up to the drip line. Repeat 2 times at 1 month intervals. For fruit-bearing trees (3+ years), use 2.5 lbs. of product and repeat once in mid-summer.
For non-bearing stone trees and all other fruit trees, use 2 cups of product per inch of trunk diameter. For fruit-bearing stone fruit trees (and all others), use 4 lbs. of product and repeat once in mid-summer.
This fertilizer is not for new plantings, so don’t add it to planting holes.
Miracle-Gro 4852012 Fruit & Citrus Plant Food Spikes has an NPK ratio of 15-5-10 and is designed to encourage the development of lush foliage and more fruit. It is derived from ammonium sulfate, feather meal, bone meal, ammonium phosphate, potassium chloride, sulfate of potash, magnetic rock, and manganese sulfate.
The product comes in a pack of 12 fruit tree fertilizer spikes. You’re supposed to use the product twice a year: once in spring and once in fall. Simply place the enclosed cap onto the spike and insert the spike into the soil. Remove the cap, ensure the spike is at least 2″ below the surface, and then water the tree. There’s a chart on the package showing how many spikes to use for what tree size. One thing to note is that in moist compacted soil, the spikes tend to crumble as you push them into the soil, which doesn’t happen in loose soil.
The manufacturer gives a 6-month money-back guarantee. If 6 months after purchase you’re not happy with the results of the product, they will refund your money in full. That makes it advisable to buy the product in the spring or right before the spring so you can use it immediately and observe any changes in your trees within the covered period.
What we liked:
Derived from natural ingredients
Lasting nutrient supply
What could be better:
Spikes often crumble when you hammer them into the soil
Not economical for large trees that need 7 or more spikes
Things to Consider
From the above descriptions and reviews, you can see just how different fruit tree fertilizers can be. In this next section, we’ll look deeper into these fertilizer variations vis-a-vis fruit tree types, and see which nutrients fruit trees need most and when you should fertilize the trees. We’ll also tell you which factors to consider before buying any fertilizer.
During the early stages of growth, fruit trees require more nitrogen and less of the other basic nutrients. They need it for root growth and foliage development. That’s why a lot of the fruit tree fertilizers for new plantings and young trees have a high amount of nitrogen and less of the other macronutrients.
During bloom formation and fruit development, trees require more phosphorus to boost these functions. And so the best fertilizers to use during this phase are those with higher phosphorus content.
In all stages of growth, fruit trees continually need additional macro nutrients in smaller amounts and trace minerals too. The tree gets some of these from water, air, and organic matter as it decomposes around the tree. Fertilizer manufacturers also include these extra nutrients and beneficial microorganisms in their products to boost supply to the tree. When choosing a fertilizer, consider whether it has additional nutrients and in what quantity. Jobe’s Organics 09224 Fruit & Citrus Fertilizer, EarthPods Premium Fruit & Citrus Plant Food, and Dr. Earth Natural Wonder Fruit Tree Fertilizer are all examples of fertilizers with a diverse variety of macro and micronutrients.
When to fertilize fruit trees?
Fruit trees respond best when fertilized during or just before the growing season, usually from early spring to mid-summer. This is when buds begin to form and eventually break into flowers.
To prepare for the budding season in earnest, you can fertilize your trees up to a month before buds begin to form.
Avoid fertilizing the trees in the fall or winter because deciduous fruit trees are slowing down their growth processes at this time and don’t really need feeding.
Fertilizer prices range from $10 to $30+. When gauging whether the price is fair or not, you must measure it against the quantity of fertilizer being offered. $30 for a tin of 100 capsules, for instance, may be considered expensive, given that you may only fertilize a maximum of 5 plants per season. On the other hand, a 15-pound tin of granular fertilizer costing the same amount will be considered fair because you can use it for longer and on more plants.
Features to consider while buying the best fertilizer for fruit trees
Let’s now look at the specific features you need to consider before buying any fertilizer for fruit trees.
Fruit tree type
Some fertilizers may be suitable for specific fruit trees and not others. Different fruit trees may also require different amounts of nutrients, in which case the manufacturer will indicate how much product to use for each fruit type. In Down to Earth Organic Fruit Tree Fertilizer, for example, the manufacturer advises you to use a lower quantity of the product for pome fruits than what you’d use for stone fruits and other types of fruits.
Additionally, the fertilizer may be suitable for trees in all their different growth phases or it may be developed for use with either new plantings or mature trees only. For instance, Down to Earth Organic Fruit Tree Fertilizer is for established fruit trees only.
The NPK value refers to how much nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium the fertilizer contains. It’s indicated in percentage and denoted by three numbers separated by dashes and is typically printed clearly on the fertilizer package. These three are the essential nutrients required by plants for healthy growth, and different products add them in varying quantities. Do a soil test to determine which nutrients your trees need most, and then buy the fertilizer that meets this need.
Fertilizer comes in different forms, from powder and granular to liquid, capsules, and spikes. Liquid and powder forms are water-soluble and should be dissolved in water before application.
Granular fertilizers are equally water-soluble, but instead of dissolving them in water, you mix them into the soil, and then water the tree.
In spikes and capsules, the fertilizer is enclosed in a shell, which you then insert into the soil. Follow through with watering as usual.
You can tell how effective the product is by how the tree responds to the fertilizer following application. Fertilizers should enhance root growth, make the tree more robust, enhance foliage by making the leaves bigger, healthier, and greener, and encourage bud-formation and blooming. A single fertilizer may not do all the above, but it should offer one or two benefits. Figure out what improvements you’d like to see in your trees, and then look for a fertilizer that offers them. Manufacturers specify the benefits on the package, so you’ll know what to expect from the product.
The best fertilizers are easy to use, meaning they do not require tedious measuring and mixing. For those that need to be mixed with water, they should be fast dissolving without forming lumps. They should also be packaged in such a way that they’re easy to pour or come in pre-measured bits, as in capsules and spikes.
Choose fruit trees to grow based on your location. If you live in a cold region, go for fruit trees with high cold-hardiness so they can withstand the cold weather better. If living in warmer climates, choose fruit trees that are heat and drought tolerant.
Understand the environmental factors in your location and how they affect different trees. Then use this insight to choose your trees more carefully or find solutions to counter the effects if possible, for example, implement disease and pest control measures.
Embrace mulching to help retain moisture, which is crucial to healthy growth, especially in young trees. Mulching also slows down the growth of trees, thereby preventing premature flowering and allowing the tree to grow stronger and healthier, which leads to better blooming and fruit formation.
Prune your trees regularly to boost air flow, which in turn enhances plant health and growth.
This depends on a number of things, notably what nutrients are missing in the soil, the age of the tree, and where the tree is planted. The manufacturer indicates how much fertilizer you should add for each situation. In nitrogen, for example, this adds up to 0.125 lbs. of actual nitrogen (not formulated fertilizer) for year-old trees, 0.25 lbs. in 2-year-old trees, and 1 lb. for mature trees (8+ years). Don’t exceed the recommended amounts as this will lead to over fertilization and may damage the tree.
It is not advisable to do so, since each fertilizer is formulated to respond a certain way when mixed into the soil or sprayed on leaves and to break down in a specific way to provide specific nutrients. Mixing fertilizers will mess up with the composition and can make some of the nutrients unavailable for absorption, or worse, damage the tree. If you want to use a different fertilizer, wait until the fertilizer you’d applied before is completely used up before introducing a new one into the soil.
Yes, largely because it is natural and contains plenty of beneficial nutrients and microbes. But these nutrients are less concentrated and may not be sufficient to meet the trees’ needs. You may use it in combination with fertilizer, which offers more than just nutrients. In addition to providing fruit trees with a higher concentration of nutrients and improving soil conditions, fertilizer also helps with insect and disease control, and improves drought conditions, all of which can negatively affect plant health.
Our top choice, Jobe’s Organics 09224 Fruit & Citrus Fertilizer, stands out for its organic nature. We like the plethora of natural ingredients and microbes and its fast-acting mechanism. We also like that you can use it on trees of all sizes and maturity levels, from seeds and new plantings to mature trees.
Our second choice, EarthPods Premium Fruit & Citrus Plant Food, is another organic contender that is rich with natural ingredients. We especially like its organic packaging, including the capsule shell which dissolves right into the soil after use. We also like how easy to apply it is.
Our third best fertilizer for fruit trees, Dr. Earth Natural Wonder Fruit Tree Fertilizer, earns this spot for its organic formulation, suitability for both potted and garden plants, long-term nutrients supply, its resealable bag, and great pricing. We also appreciate the fact that it’s certified by 3 major US organic certification bodies.