Over fertilizing vs. Under fertilizing

cfox248(3)April 29, 2014

Hola again!

Just another question, of course. Each day I check my recovering Meyer lemon to see how its doing, and I'm glad to report it's doing amazing and pushing out all kinds of new growth (even from branches I thought were dead), even though it's still inside. I do notice, however, that the veeeery tippy tips of the established leaves it grew before I repotted it are starting to turn yellow. When I say tips, I mean the VERY tips, not noticeable unless you're obsessive like I am. The singular leaf that made it through it's near demise looks healthy, dark green and shiny, no yellow to be seen.

It made me curious about whether I wasn't feeding them enough, or feeding too much. The first watering after transplanting, the tree was doing well so I gave it a half gallon of water with Foliage Pro, following the mixing instructions. I fertilized it again the next time. Since then, it's been going outside on days that are warm enough (I can't decide if the sun is the reason for the tips, but it seemed to LOVE it outside in the warmth) and been watered a few more times, though none with the fertilizer. I am realizing I have no idea how often to fertilize.

Should I have not done it a second time? How often do you fertilize container plants? I was about to give him some more today, assuming that because it's pushing out new growth it's probably in need of nutrients. It seems very healthy and vigorous right now.

What are the symptoms, on a Lemon tree, of under fertilizing vs. over fertilizing? What's everyone else's potted citrus fertilizing schedule?

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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

You know this is really the most debated topic. Everyone will give a different opinion on what to do, what to use, etc but the ultimate goal is for you to trial and error for you climate. However there are a few things that are consistent no matter where you are. In particular Meyers are heavy feeders and very sensitive to light and environmental changes. Going in and out can be stressful. Also going from in the house to straight out in the sun is a recipe for disaster so please acclimate it by going to shade first for a week or two then slowly giving it more light. Reverse this process in the fall.

My routine for fertilizing is this. During the growing season my trees get Foliage pro 1/2 strength once per week from about now to September. I have used vinegar also but this year Im trying without see if the effects are different. from October to March I give them the same only once per month. My trees go in a greenhouse so they are fairly actively growing in winter. my trees also have a slow release mixed in to supplement during the week.
Now this is what works for me and a few others fertilize "weakly" and "weekly" so that may be something for you to start trying and adjust from there.



    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 1:39PM
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I know it's debated, that is why I am asking about people's personal fertilizing schedules, as well as symptoms of under vs. over fertilization. I'm trying to get a good schedule down but I'd like to base it off of something other than my own trial and error, and be able to tell if I'm killing my tree with too much or too little!

The trees are both being acclimated. The lemon is at this point happy to be plopped out into the sun, the orange tree needs more time for sure.

I've looked about the forum with the search function and I am getting such wildly ranging answers to fertilization - different people use different kinds, at different times, etc etc. Sorry for posting such a debated topic. My MAIN question was about how to tell if you're under or over fertilizing and how the signs will differ, I threw in the fert schedule as an afterthought to gather some ideas of what others do for their potted trees. And thank you for your own input! It's appreciated.

Apologies again, bear with me :)

This post was edited by cfox248 on Wed, Apr 30, 14 at 13:51

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 1:50PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

You can tell mainly by how your foliage looks. If it's starting to look chlorotic, you may need to fertilize more often, or with full strength fertilizer. If you're over-fertilizing (pretty hard to do with container citrus in very porous potting mediums), your fruit will be thick-skinned and not as sweet as it should be. Other factors would be vigor, good canopy growth, good flower set.

I think Mike gave you some of what you were asking - different preferences - but it varies due to where people live, how much sun the plant gets, how much water, what kind of potting medium you're using, amongst other variables.

And, as much as you would prefer to avoid trial and error, you'll going to have to see what works best for you, based on the information you can gather. We ALL have come up with our own fertilizing schedules in this manner. (getting as informed as we can, then figure out what works best for each of us). You'll not escape this.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 2:58PM
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Sorry, I wasn't clear. I'm not trying to completely escape the trial and error, I know there will be some of that. Just trying to narrow down my window of trials so I have somewhat of an idea rather than starting 100% in the dark. Next week looks like it's finally supposed to be sunny again, so I can put the trees outside and give them a good drink. I think I'll add some half strength fertilizer then - Hoping I can start keeping them outside!

Good to know about over fertilization (being nearly impossible). I was pretty worried about that, but it sounds like under fertilizing is the bigger danger. Will keep that in mind!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 4:47PM
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I never fertalized my tree the first year I had it and used an off the shelf potting soil when I transplanted and this winter I got over fifty flowers. I had been dealing with scale and some of the tips of my leaves were yellowing so I bought an organic fertilizer and just followed the instructions on the bag. It was a 7-1-1 mix I believe and said to use every three months. I ended up snipping most of the flowers in an effort to have my meyer devote its resources to the plant itself and not the fruit. It recently gave me another 10 flowers that have started little limes. Been putting it out in the shade on nicer days and bringing it in at night. I will do this for another couple of weeks before she stays out for the season. Im in PA.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 5:11PM
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I use Foliage pro (follow the directions) for my two trees every time I water.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 9:19PM
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nikthegreek(9b/10a E of Athens)

To completely escape the trial and error there is only one way. Regular leaf tissue analysis for all essential nutrients and micronutrients. Are you prepared to pay for that? Otherwise 'informed' trial and error is the only way to go.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 1:32AM
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BarbJP CA 15-16/9B

Imo, the place to start is the instructions on your fertilizer. They have done all the tests to find the best method and amounts. At least if it's a reputable company they have. Foliage Pro is a great food, and give you a bit of leeway on your schedule. So if you stay within those parameters you should be fine. I know some folks go "off label" when feeding, but that's after they've done it for a long time and are trying something new. But when you're starting out, the label is your friend, lol!

I like the little bit each time I water option when feeding container plants. Enough to keep them healthy, but not strong enough to burn. Plus it's easier to remember too.

Btw, through my own trial and error, I found my container plants do not do well on organic food, especially dry granular types. In the ground it works great, but not in the pots. I know some have had success with it, but I suspect they are not using a medium that is low in microbes, like compost based. But that type of medium hold too much water for my likes.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 11:17AM
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In a perfect world you should fertilize when the growing environment is ideal for the plant you are growing.

I follow the weather report and when i see a relatively cool 7 day forecast during the dead of summer i fertilize. I also do it the fall when the growing environment is warm and sunny. It is a little dangerous in the fall but it is worth the risk imo.

For citrus in my yard the ideal environment it is between 76 and 85 degrees or so with clear skies. I find this environment in my yard in the spring, occasionally in the summer and sometimes in the fall.

I try to maximize tree growth by following the weather forecast and fertilizing when the conditions are conducive to citrus tree growth in my growing environment. Of course you should check the leaves before you fert to see if fert is required.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 11:06PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

citrusdan, cutting off flowers just encourages more flowers. Don't do that :-) Let the tree set fruit. The fruit will drop off if it cannot support the fruit load. If not, you can remove some of the fruit if it makes it to the size of a nickel and still hasn't dropped off. Depending on the size of the canopy, it can probably support some fruit. Lemons and limes tend to be very prolific bearers, and may require a bit more fertilizer. Espcially Improved Meyer lemon trees, and they just carry a ton of fruit all year 'round.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 9:43AM
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