What is the best frequency at which to fertilize fruit trees?

The first method is to dump a large amount of fertilizer to feed the plant one or two times per year. This method was the preferred method listed in my gardening book. The reason not specified. I question how this method is sustainable. Wouldn't the fertilizer seep out of the reach of the roots after a few good waterings?

The second method is to either use slow release fertilizer or use small amounts of fertilizer every time you water. This second method was never discussed in my book. I realize this method is more tedious, but I do have the dedication to do it if it is beneficial to the plants. This more frequent method also seems to avoid burning the roots.

If it matters, I have various fruit trees: pomegranate, cherry, guava, lychee, wax apple, dragon fruit, goji berry, blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry. Most are young and in containers. The bigger ones are in the ground.

  • What gardening book are you referencing?
    – J. Musser
    May 20, 2014 at 2:11
  • amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1600853560/… I read that book. He never really talked about slow release fertilizer. He usually lauds organic matter.
    – JoJo
    May 20, 2014 at 23:18

2 Answers 2


Fruit trees should be fertilized in early spring before bud break. See here, here, here, here. This starts the trees off well for the new season. You can also fertilize as needed throughout the growing season, but keep in mind that no tree should be fertilized in late summer/fall, in areas with a dormant period, because the trees may try to put on new growth late in the season, and it will not harden off well before winter. Where I am, the soil is poor enough that I must use large amounts of fertilizer for good fruit set. But I know someone who lives nearby who has such high amounts of nitrates in his soil he has problems even after using a 0-nitrogen custom fertilizer. If you aren't a soil "expert", you may wan't to get your soil tested.


I have never, ever heard 'dump' lots of fertilizer to last 1 or 2 years. This will kill or severely damage your trees, plants. Extended release fertilizers preferably organic are the best way to fertilize. Inorganic fertilizer can produce immediate results but also can set your tree up for insect damage, frost damage as fast growth can make a weaker plant.

Fertilizer is not plant food. Plants make their own food. In a natural, well-established ecosystem, nutrients are tied up in plant material...not in the soil. It is dropped from the system onto the ground where it is then decomposed (keeping the decomposers healthy and thriving), the decomposed material is then available to micro and macro organisms to eat, take back down into the soil, excreted into the soil profile, nutrients are released that are immediately being taken up by plants who make more live, organic material...and give off by transpiring h20 and 02 until the plant material dies, falls on the ground and begins the cycle anew.

Because we have broken these cycles in our human habitats, we are now required to keep the cycle going in very simplistic and often awkward fits and starts. Testament to the resilience of plants. We can only try to imitate nature if we study how it works...all aspects; weather, climate, geology, soils, hydrology, chemistry, plant physiology, entomology...to list a few. Everything is interconnected and knowing enough to get a feel for the big picture really helps us to recreate successful ecosystems we call gardens.

Get to know the symptoms in plants showing deficiencies as well as the signs of excess in different nutrients, the macro and micro nutrients. Get a soil test done by your extension service, know what you have before you add anything. The more we look, the more we see.

What garden book are you talking about? I'd like to check this out, maybe I am missing something, grin.


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