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ground applications of fertilizers?

Posted by Molly DellaRoman 
ground applications of fertilizers?
February 17, 2022 12:34AM
Curious what others do to fertilize their trees, as far as ground applications are concerned? A little bit of background so you know where we are coming from. We took over a 30 year-old orchard in 2017 - standard sized trees. Mixed apple, pear, peach and plum. Majority apple followed by peaches. We took soil samples in 2017 and then again in 2019, as there hadn't been any data for a while and needed to get our base line. pH on average is about 6.1. Organic matter is high - 10%-12%, which we attribute to the "grass" undergrowth of the orchard. Ca and Mg are also quite high, as well as Fe and Mn. P is in the medium range and Boron and K are low. (More on this on a new thread I will add soon!) The previous owners did not apply any fertilizers to established trees except fish emulsion as a foliar spray. If a tree was looking "weak" they would apply a significant amount of various "fertilizers" (bone meal, blood meal, seaweed, straw, azomite, greensand, lime) in the drip line. Other than the pulse of nitrogen from mowing the orchard and some mulching with hay mulch, no ground inputs. When we took over the orchard, we were seeing fairly insignificant terminal growth, but also the orchard was several years into drought at that point, so hard to know if it was nutrient based or drought stress. Based on soil tests results and the recommendations that came with them, we started applying a dehydrated chicken manure product (5-4-3; no more than 5lbs/tree, based on the age), azomite, ramial wood chips, rock P and seaweed. We also continued with fish/seaweed emulsion sprays and the trees are still getting the N pulse from mowing. This past summer was our first time taking leaf samples for both the apples and peaches. N came back optimum for both with a recommendation to apply no nitrogen this year. P came optimum for apples and High for peaches (which was surprising based on soil test results. My question is do folks with "grass" undergrowth and our receiving a nutrient pulse from mowing, find that they need to apply additional N, either as a ground amendment or as a foliar spray? Fire Blight entered our area for the first time last year and we had a mild outbreak. I think going forward into the future, we are really going to need to pay attention to N much more. Is the solution to test N every year through leaf analysis? I think I know the answer, but would love to hear others thoughts N and its role!

5 Star Nursery and Orchard
Zone 5, Brooklin, ME
Re: ground applications of fertilizers?
February 17, 2022 12:59AM
I should also add that we have seen good growth on the trees the last two years, but there was also some drought relief, so we are still trying to decipher if the new nutrient regiment is working or it is a water factor. We have no irrigation for established trees in the orchard.

5 Star Nursery and Orchard
Zone 5, Brooklin, ME
Re: ground applications of fertilizers?
April 26, 2022 11:15PM
My understanding is that most orchards need additional N each year, even with chopped understory helping out. We only did the latter for many years (decades?), and got decent growth...but I think this may have also been the vigor of the "semi-dwarfing" root stocks (M106) -- I use quotes as they are about 40' high at this point. Anyways, we've started adding some N fertilizer the last few years just to get the orchard back up to speed on N recommendations. We've really more noticed this on the 40 y/o blueberry bushes (i.e., the need for N), and those are heavily mulched each year with good OM. Anyways -- that's my understanding, but would love to hear from better expertise than me.

Earthworks
Zone 7a in West-Central MD
Non-commercial, ~100 fruit trees, dwarf to MM106
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