Fertilizing peach tree

abykatAugust 24, 2013

I have two semi dwarf peach trees, 1 red haven and 1 hale haven. Confused about when to fertilize. Planted them 2 years ago. They were in fruit and about 6 ft tall when planted. Produced some fruit last year, more and bigger fruit this year. One is thriving and the other not as well. Have done nothing to them so far. I read to fertilize in August for next springs growth. Can anyone advise regarding this and if so, how much to feed them. Reading conflicting ideas. Thanks.

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I'd be hesitant to fertilize going into winter. I'd think more like a balanced 10-10-10 kinda thing in the Spring. I think early Spring and fairly early Summer would be the ticket, but I don't typically fertilize my fruit trees so someone with a heap lot more Peach Tree experience will weigh in soon I bet.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 2:59PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Add a 3- to 4-inch deep organic mulch and forget the fertilizer.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 3:10PM
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alan haigh

You can fertilize them once they've set their terminal buds without fear of jeapordizing hardening off for winter. However, an early spring application for peaches might prove the most affective- especially if more vigorous growth is what you seek. Late summer or early fall application tends to serve the first leaves of spring which nourishes the crop more than growth.

Not all organic mulches are stimulative enough for peaches. I had a severe N deficiency this year with first year trees mulched with shredded wood and not fertilized in my nursery- first year this has happened. Happened in two distinctly different soils- could have been heavy rains in June. Only peaches were affected.

As a general rule, bearing peaches require equal ratios of nitrogen to potassium. Whether this comes from compost, chemical fertilizer or your own urine, trees will get what they need to grow and probably what they need to bear. Figure a max of about 2 actual pounds N per 1,000 square feet.

Here in the northeast, or anywhere that it rains substantially during growing season, too much organic matter can eventually lead to overly vigorous growth of most species of fruit, including peaches, IMO.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 4:40PM
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Harvestman, I am a newbie to growing peach trees. So I ask, how do I tell if the terminal buds have been set? We just got the last peach from the tree about 2 weeks ago. I know they set buds after fruiting but don't know when or how to tell. Should I just skip the fertilizer and wait til spring? I just want healthy trees. Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 6:29PM
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alan haigh

If it is just as convenient, spring is fine- probably better for peaches- or a split application.

Terminal buds are fatter but you know they are set when tree stops vigorous growth. Here it is OK to fertilize by mid-Sept.

The idea is for N. to be pulled into the leaves and then stored in buds before dormancy. Gives a bit of a kick start akin to foliar feeding at first growth. I think this is more helpful for apples than peaches and just a minor tweak in any case. It is not even standard practice in commercial production- they are more likely to spring feed both soil and foliage, at least for apples.

If I was you, I'd just do it in spring and if you want more vigorous growth a second ap in very early summer.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 8:48AM
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A soil test will tell you exactly what you need, rather than guessing. Normally, for peaches 10-10-10 in the spring followed by calcium nitrate in August. One cup/year of age of the tree.
Don't forget to add lime in December. It will raise the soil ph, thereby allowing the tree to fully take in all of the trace elements.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 10:38AM
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Harvestman,,, I'm serious with this question.. I can pee on the ground at my peach tree for N? Any idea how many times I might have to pee at a peach tree per year?

I am very interested in the natural balance stuff, I don't really plan to do it given the location of my tree vs 3 neighboring houses, plus I sit on the ground there :)

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 12:52PM
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alan haigh

I am also very serious at putting my urine to use, but I have to admit to being fairly careless in N and P ratios and rates when using it.

I collect most of my urine in a gas container (don't want it mistaken for apple juice) and just dilute it about 10-1 water to pee and water what I want to nourish. I water it in a bit to make sure it doesn't volatize and to erase the odor. If you just want to pee on the ground around the tree you can water it in after. You can search the internet to get the ballpark of potential N. per pint. I've done that in the past.

It is almost as fast acting as urea and contains about 60% of the bodies release of N, P and K in a good ratio for most plants.

Rayrose, I believe a soil test is only a general guideline not a precise map. Even when combined with leaf analysis, results can be misleading and leaf analysis is the more accurate diagnostic tool of the two, although both should be used in concert if you are aiming for a high level of precision.

Mostly what I use a soil test for is to determine pH and organic matter content- which is a better indication of N supplied by soil than the N number based on the acid wash of the test. The conventional test doesn't really show what nutrients will be released biologically in the decomposition process.

I think you make a good point that such a test, even by itself, would be quite useful to someone trying to be more precise in fertilization.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 1:57PM
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The university research I worked in for many years aimed to calibrate yield responses to applied fertilizers, not what nutrients would be mineralized and available to the crops. We also leaf tissue sampled our crops to correlate tissue levels with the yield responses and fertilizer additions.

If one is interested in how much P or K to add to a soil, namely, will an addition of a specific amount lead to a desired response in a crop, one may be able to find the research or university who did the research to determine the answer. I'll use a simple example in veggies since I'm far more familiar with them in FL....should someone fertilize their bell peppers and watermelon crops in Live Oak, FL with the same fertilizers and rates and someone in Belle Glade? Answer, go to the U of FL Extension web site, an enormous amount of research calibrating yield responses to fertilizer additions has already been done and the answers to many fertility questions can be found there.

Soil extraction and analytical methodologies are and should be correlated to yield responses, they don't tell what and how much of something is going to be mineralized in the soil and available to the plant, the purpose of a soil test is not to quantify those things, IMHO.

We agree that a soil test is not a precise map, they are useful over time for tracking trends, however.

Combining leaf analysis with soil sampling can get close to your idea of predicting what will become available as the soil results can give a measure of what's in the tank, so to speak and the subsequent tissue sample is a measure of what was actually taken from the tank.

Lastly, forgive me if this is all old hat to you and you are bored to death reading it, I don't know how familiar you are with all the work the universities have to go through just to get say, a recommendation for K in mature peaches in various soils in their state.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 7:11PM
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alan haigh

No, Michael, I am only familiar with the less specialized guidance provided to commercial fruit growers by Cornell in NY. I am not an agronomist, my training is as a general horticulturist.

However, in text books on soil I've read the reliability of simple acid wash soil tests has been said to be a somewhat limited calibration. I was responding to the comment "if you want to know exactly what your fruit tree needs have your soil tested".

I see your point that if a soil falls into a specific known category then specific researched evaluations may be available on precisely what nutrients at what quantities to add for best results.

I think this may apply to field crops more than orchards as there is a lot of variability, even within a species of fruit, as to what will be removed by the tree or the fruit crop itself. I haven't heard of such specific recommendations being made based on already established knowledge of soil type in fruit production. Have you?

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 7:25PM
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HMan: the following link from CSU Extension is the most specific recs. I'm aware of. No boubt trying to come up with soil and regionally specific research based recs. for even peach or apple would be very time consuming and expensive as it takes years just to get to the the beginning of the answers vs in veggies where an experiment can be replicated every year. I'd think Cornell and the land grant school in WA state would have had the time, support and incentive to do some real, long term research on soil fertility and fertilizer management in apples. Just scanning through what CSU has in their site it appears they've put some serious work into the subject for pomes and stone fruit at the Orchard Mesa Research station over the years.

BTW, collecting P in a gas can sounds like a good way to get more sleep, get catheterized and hook up the hose to the can when I get into bed. No more trips to the John in the middle of the night :) Hope the wife doesn't trip over the can in the dark, OUCH!

Here is a link that might be useful: CSU Extension

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 7:38PM
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alan haigh

Yes, I am one of the cursed 50% of men and I'm 61.

How about a device like a condom with a tube that leads to the orchard.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 8:33PM
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One of the cursed 50% ? what does that mean? married ? or having to get up at night to P? If that last one sol palmetto if good quality helps with that and there are some other natural remedies. Supplementing testosterone may not help with that but is something that can make your life a lot more fun. Most dr's don't understand it much yet, but some who do are running radio commercials in my area. Don't ask me how I know that testo supplementation is fun, just take my word for it.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 12:15AM
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Medicine does have a condom catheter, but they often fall off when a person moves in bed. Then there is the whole '100 yard tube' that would have to go uphill to my orchard... ;)

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 12:53PM
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All right, so if I eat summer sausage cured with potassium I should use my urine to fertilize my fruit trees?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 5:21PM
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