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How to Fertilize Mature Fruit Trees

by Stark Bro's on 05/14/2014
Stark® Orchard Fertilizer

Well-established mature fruit trees that are in good health tend to thrive regardless of the season. Regular care and maintenance isn’t time consuming, but it truly makes a difference in the life and longevity of a fruit tree. Even though they’re already established, mature fruit trees may require additional nutrients than what the native soil can provide to remain healthy — especially if the trees are still in their fruit-bearing years.

This is why it’s important to know about how and when to fertilize mature fruit trees.

The act of fertilizing older fruit trees isn’t much different from fertilizing new fruit trees, but the fertilizer used — and the intent — slightly differs. Fertilizing in the later years of a fruit tree’s life helps to encourage vigor and to support regular, heavy bearing.

When fertilizing established fruit trees, you should have:

  • Older fruit trees — trees that have been in the ground for 3 or more years.
  • A fertilizer of your choice, like Stark® Orchard Fertilizer, or a soil amendment like compost, well-aged manure, etc.
    • Fertilizer intended for use on mature fruit trees would be best.

Measure Trunk DiameterDirections:

  • Read and follow the label for the product you are about to use.

    • Stark® Orchard Fertilizer recommends 1/4 lb of fertilizer for each inch of trunk diameter.
    • 4-inches of trunk diameter equates to a 1-lb application of Stark® Orchard Fertilizer.
  • Apply fertilizer evenly to the root zone of the tree; specifically the drip line.

    • The drip line is the circular area on the ground beneath the branch tips — the area where water “drips” after a good rain.
    • Feeder roots best absorb moisture and nutrients in this area.

Watch, as Elmer demonstrates how to use our Stark® Orchard Fertilizer on established fruit trees »

You should apply Stark® Orchard Fertilizer ONCE in spring, ideally starting two weeks before bud-break, but any time before July. Fertilizing too late in the season can cause trees to grow when they should be shutting down for the winter. This tender new growth, when pushed too late in the season, is also more susceptible to winter injury.

Remember: Find tips on how to fertilize your new or young fruit trees here.

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Topics → Fruit Tree Care, Tips


  1. Pam Murphy permalink

    Thanks for the info on feeding fruit trees. I always wondered how to do that. Now I can follow your example. Many thanks.

  2. Frank B. Ford permalink

    If I use the Orchard Fertilizer on the fruit trees in my yard, which is lawn, since it is all nitrogen, won’t it burn the grass, or at least cause a ring of very contrasting grass? Is there some other product that will be especially beneficial for the trees, and yet not do this to the lawn? Thank you.

    • Good point, Frank! As the article states, you can use compost, well-aged manure, and other organic matter to fertilize your trees as well. You might also want to mulch around the trees, since this keeps competition (from lawn grass and weeds) down, while also providing insulation to the root system. Organic mulch like wood chips (as opposed to inorganic mulch like rocks) breaks down over time providing additional nutrients for your trees.

  3. Scott Schulte permalink

    Hi thank you for the info on when to fertilize. The new peach tree I bought from y’all this spring is in a yard shared with some dogs. One of them will not leave mulch alone so I cant use it to cover the fertilizer. What is your opinion on the fertilizer stakes? I see Stark carries them along with most garden & home improvement centers.
    BTW that was a good healthy tree y’all sold to me. It is going strong with lots of leaves and even put on some flower buds (I picked those off since I don’t think it could support fruit the first year).

    • Glad to hear your tree is doing so well, Scott! I love those tree stakes, personally. They’re slow-release so there’s no need to worry about “too much fertilizer at once”, and they’re a general and easy way to feed your trees. As long as you can discourage the dog from taking interest in digging out the tree spikes, I think they would be a good thing for you to try! :)

  4. Weldon Masters permalink

    I am already on the e-newsletter mailing list.

    Question: I have first year bearing Peach trees, I had some fruit drop with a sticky substance from a pin hole in the fruit. What is the recommended spraying sequence and with what pesticide do I use for next season and the remainder of this year. Many thanks for the information about tips for fertilizer.

    • Hi Weldon! What you’re seeing could have been caused by a wasp sting, bird peck, wind/hail damage, etc. rather than something you need to spray for; however, if it is a pest issue, you can use a spray that is recommended to control pests on peach trees like our Fruit Tree Spray. Any spray you use will have recommendations on the label for timing, but two major times you WON’T spray your trees for pests are: 1. while they are blooming (to avoid killing beneficials like bees) and 2. while the temperatures are consistently in the 90s or hotter (to avoid issues like foliar burns).

      If you notice that the fruit happens to have a half-moon shaped mark on it (rather than a round hole) you’ll know that the pest issue is plum curculio beetles. Timing is most effective on these pests, since they attack the young fruit early on. Your first, and most effective spray, in this case, would have to happen after petal fall, just as the fruit begins to develop.

      • Weldon Masters permalink

        Many thanks for the reply, I did notice Wasp around the trees, also I can tell the birds have pecked the fruit. I hung some aluminum pie plates hoping to scare them away. First year fruit may not be much but looking forward to future years of enjoyment. The trees are doing really well.
        Many thanks again for the information.


  5. Stacy permalink

    I appreciate the informative articles. I have a question about spraying. When should I spray? I would like to get nice apples, so I thought I just had to wait until the tree was bearing fruit (which it is starting to this year, last year it was too young), but a friend told me that bugs would burrow into the tree and I needed to spray it all throughout it’s life.
    Thanks for any help.

    • You can spray at any time in a tree’s life, as long as you spray with purpose and follow the product label.

      It may be helpful to simplify it, so there are two types of spraying: Preventative and Reactive.

      Preventing pest and disease issues before they’re a problem is an all-around good way to go. You can do this by picking an ideal location for the tree, making sure it has lots of light and doesn’t have standing water issues, and plenty of soil nutrients to keep the tree in good health. You can also use preventative sprays like dormant oil and multi-purpose or copper-based fungicide if you live in an area prone to pests and/or wet springs in which fungal diseases thrive.

      Reactive sprays can be used after there is already a problem — even if the tree doesn’t yet have fruit. Pests and disease can sometimes prevent a tree from bearing fruit if the problem is serious enough. These sprays are often in combination form, like this fruit tree spray.

      Keep in mind, you should never spray pesticides (insecticides, miticides, etc.) while the trees are blooming. This will harm beneficials, like bees and butterflies, on top of harming your fruit production. You should also never spray if it is too hot out (often noted on the product label). If your temperatures are in the upper 80s and 90s (or above), it is too hot to spray — especially oil-based sprays.

      I hope this helps!

  6. Bill permalink

    How do I wax my apples for storage?

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