How best to use compost on fruit trees

wardog25June 17, 2013

I am currently not using any chemical fertilizer on my trees.

Right now I rake back the mulch once a year and put down a layer of compost, then rake the mulch back over it.

From time to time I also pour some liquid Aggrand organic fertilizer on the soil.

Is this enough to nourish the trees as they get bigger? Or do I need to be putting anything down further into the soil?

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Your tree can answer that question better than anyone out here. If it's growing enough then what you are doing sounds great. If it's growing too much cut back. Fruit eating quality will be reduced by excessive fertility and excessive water.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 10:50AM
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I would cut the fertilizer and just do the compost method you are doing. That is what I do. I sometime scatter compost further out, but I doubt there is any actual gain from it. my soil is pretty good.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 12:05PM
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I don't have a whole lot experience growing trees yet, but they overall seem to be growing well.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 12:12PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I also am only using compost, except for the trees which are looking like they need some extra help, those get Epsoma Tree Tone, an organic fertilizer.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 8:11PM
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megamav(5a - NY)

Scott, I also use about 3 cups of Tree Tone on each my apples in the Spring.
How much do you use per tree, and how often?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 9:37PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I heard you should increase fertilizer with tree size, And once older, I'm not sure it is needed? Those Epsoma products look really good. The info on the package may help determine how much. I bought organics specific for each of my plant types. But I will probably switch to Epsoma in the future. I want to at least try it out a season.
I heard an interview with Tom Spellman of Dave Wilson Nurseries. You know the guy who made all those videos about the Zaiger Pluots and other fruit. He uses kelp as a foliage spray. This adds trace minerals. Other methods to do this exist. What he believes is if the tree has good nutrition , i..e in good health with a fed immune system. It tends to be able to resist opportunistic pathogens. It makes sense, and certainly works with humans.
I'm going to try it. I have not done it yet because my trees have been so wet, and all, but I started adding trace minerals to my strawberries and raspberries. And I can't say it did anything, or what did it, but in the last week they have grown a lot, and look strong and thick, not weak growth!
I use kelp, azomite, Sul-Po-Mag, and Ironite
But I really only noticed increased growth with kelp.
I don't add compost to my trees, but do to everything else.
I don't see how it could hurt? I also mulch everything, even if in pots (I use pine hay in pots). I use a number of mulches. I like to use finely shredded mulches around trees as they decompose quickly, so in a way I do add compost in the form of mulch!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 11:56PM
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I have two compost bins going full bore at all times. The compost is screened so I have finished and chunky bits of compost through out the year. I spread the finished/screened compost around the garden according to what needs some greening (grass, veggie, flower beds, etc), and unfinished chunks are used as mulch around the tree drip lines throughout the year. If I have a good amount of screened compost in the spring it goes to the trees along with some municipal mulch.

Since I don't spray chemicals, all the foliage I get from pruning is composted and returned back to the orchard/garden. It makes no sense to cart away nutrients and then replenish them with commercial inputs.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 12:50AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

"It makes no sense to cart away nutrients and then replenish them with commercial inputs. "

I disagree, it's best to throw away bramble cains. And I also do not recycle tomato foliage. I guess most of the time it would be OK, but it is possible to spread problems. I myself would rather add commercial compost, I know it is safe. Last year every tree around here had fungus on the leaves. I know composting can kill this, but I just don't have time to monitor compost temps. Commercial compost can be of very high quality, I doubt I could make anything near as good. Such as worm castings. I usually mulch leaves and grass when cutting so I have no leftovers. I really don't generate much yard waste. I do harvest pine needles, and some leaves when clean. If I can use it as a mulch, I will like coffee grounds. I don't have pines, but my in-laws do so I always bring a few yard waste bags with me when I visit. They actually have hundreds of pine trees. I could harvest a thousands bags a year, but 5 or so are good for me! I also love to use chemicals, so my waste is filled with pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. I have no patience for problems. I use organics when it makes sense, but for me it always doesn't make sense.

This post was edited by Drew51 on Tue, Jun 18, 13 at 1:39

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 1:22AM
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I compost everything. Usually in spring I put 2 inches around the roots, about 5 inches away from the trunk, toss some blood/bone in, and mulch on top. My neighbor says, and I quote "I only use s--, and only have ever used s---". A mixture of well composed manure and compost will charge the soil really well, just make sure you extend the ring about a foot away from the drip line, because in good soils tree roots can extend well past the trees drip line.

This year, we had a late spring, and my compost isnt even heated up yet, so I just had to use "triple mix" which is bagged peat/manure compost, and bags of cow manure, then mulched with wood chips.

Also, I have many types of plants around my trees that help suppliment nutrients like comfrey, alfalfa, lupine, peas and beans. I dont remove much plant matter in spring, and what I do I compost. I also mulch with about 6 inches of leaves every fall, slowly but surely layering organic matter to build my soil. This is the fourth year, and I can see the results of this.

You can make super compost tea by using comfrey plants. They accumulate a large number of nutrients and minerals, and are a great ground cover if you dont mind something being a bit spreading. You can cut it down 2 - 6 times a year, depending on where you are. The roots also help break up compacted soil, and the flowers attract beneficial insects, moreso then sage in my experience.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 7:52AM
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You can stack bramble canes to dry out and then compost or burn them. I would never make the assumption that commercial compost would be better than what I can make. My trees are setting deep roots that draw up trace elements and minerals that other parts of the garden can't reach. These minerals are added to the compost by way of pruned leaves and branches. My compost is teaming with life, I have never seen so many living organisms in commercial compost, it's pretty much dead by comparison.

I compost diseased plants because most foliar diseases are ubiquitous and wind born anyway. Roots with nematode damage get thrown away, and that's about it. The best defence against disease is a healthy plant, and compost makes for very healthy plants. The garden is not a sterile environment.

Commercial worm castings are generally derived from worms fed with cheap steer manure containing lots of salt, hormones, and antibiotics from animals raised on GMO feed.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 10:37AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Well your lucky mrclint, any compost I make is not going to be near premium commercial compost. Our area has a lot of natural lead, cadmium, and arsenate. Thus I tend to grow in raised beds. Speaking of GMO's, I was a med tech and genetic modification I find fascinating and will probably one day solve many serious problems. We don't have to wait for evolution anymore, fantastic! One of the greatest tools mankind has invented.
I myself would love to grow GMO food, I wish more was available. I would love to grow peaches on a tomato plant..maybe one day...

This post was edited by Drew51 on Tue, Jun 18, 13 at 16:10

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 4:02PM
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i found coffee grounds are GREAT!

they are sterile, and i add some to the compost pile, and some scratched in near the drip line.
They attract worms LIKE CRAZY.
Worms = castings = excellent fert and growth.

The compost pile also gets grass clippings from my yard and my neighbors. in New Orleans, thats a LOT of grass!!!
add 20lb of grounds a week and presto!

I go to Starbucks and ask them for their used grounds.
i get sealed 5lb bags. sometimes they just give me the bag they were using.
Once it was like 40lbs
i go at least once a week, i could go more often if needed.

after researching a bit, i found it doesnt even change the PH
its great stuff...

I add fish emulsion sometimes, my Papayas are VERY hungry in the summer. They love it.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 5:01PM
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"...We don't have to wait for evolution anymore, fantastic! One of the greatest tools mankind has invented.
I myself would love to grow GMO food, I wish more was available. I would love to grow peaches on a tomato plant..maybe one day..."

You probably have to develop and interstem first.

I'll use my mariposa plum x myrobalan plum hybrid "Chocolate Jewel" as an interstem to grow both peaches and cherries on the same rootstock.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 12:14AM
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IMO it depends on how and what is modified. Trying to make plants resistant to one companies pesticides and have that same company manufacture the seeds isnt really fair, as well as that company suing farmers for "copyright" basically because of nature spreading pollen. Now look at oregon and the fiasco going on about that GMO wheat that escaped. This is the last thing that should happen in regards to genetics, especially when the products are released without any viable long term studies.

Im not saying GMO shouldnt be studied or that it doesnt open up a large window of advancement for us. So far it has not solved any problems at all, if anything its caused more problems.

If it were used to created drought resistant plants, or help cold tolerance, yeild (not by surviving chemicals, i mean all around survival). Lets face it, being able to grow peaches in most of canada would make a huge difference on food availability, or even pushing it to the max, and using to to make cold hardy oil palms.

The problems with all GMO, is the same problems monsanto is facing; How do we stop the plants from spreading, or contaminating natural stock? How do we stop those GMO genes from entering nature? I think thats the big problem - we would have to create 100% infertile plants, or pollenless plants (which can still revert), and in that case that basically makes doing this with fruit trees pointless.

GMO foods are a long way away from saving us, or even bypassing evolution. IF anything it would be better to spend the time and money to better refining genetic techniques first, such as reviving the exting passenger pigeon, a bird that was extremely valuable to the eastern forests.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 7:48AM
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I read about a small farmer who lived near seom industrial farm, monsanto i think...
One day he realized his crop had been infiltrated by monsantos crop.
pollen travels by the wind and bugs you know...

Anyway, he could no longer guarantee his product as organic, which was his trade.

monsanto SUED HIM, for stealing their "DNA"...
They had a patent on it.
Of course Monsanto had the high price lawyers and won

go figure...

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 12:20PM
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GMOs sure are a hot-button topic these days...

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 4:20PM
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This may sound like a newbie question....

But if I put compost down and then mulch over top..... how long does it take for that compost to filter into the soil where the roots are?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 11:12AM
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