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Saturday, March 25, 2017

How Late Can You Fertilize Nectarine Tree?

Q. Is it too late to fertilize my nectarine tree with buds starting to form, flowering and growth? Fertilizer instructions advise to apply early February before buds appear.
Arctic Star Nectarine, one of my all time favorites, in flower. Never, never, never spray ANY plants when they are flowering.
A. No, it is not too late to fertilize fruit trees now. The best time is late winter around mid-January, 2 to 3 weeks before new growth begins. The fertilizer bag is telling you the best time for an application, not the only time.
            The concept is to have the fertilizer in place so the tree can use it when needed during spring growth. If you miss this deadline, it is not a big deal if you apply the fertilizer within a couple of weeks after new growth begins.
Continue spraying when the fruit has formed and there are no more flowers. This is the time to start protecting the fruit from Western flower thrips and scarring.
            This fertilizer does not need to be a mineral fertilizer. Compost applications around the base of the tree are more gentle, release nutrients more slowly and improve the soil which mineral fertilizers do not. This is particularly important in desert soils. Use quality, 100% compost, not a soil mix.
            When fruit trees produce fruit early, having the fertilizer available in late spring and early summer when the fruit is enlarging is desirable. When fruit trees produce fruit later in the season, split a single application into two, half applications; half now and the other half later when fruit is quickly getting larger.
Fruit scarring due to Western flower thrip damage to the fruit. 
            Fruit trees do not need fertilizer applied later in the season when growth has stopped and the fruit has been picked.
            Don’t forget to apply iron fertilizers to the soil, during early spring, if plants were yellowing last growing season. If you miss this window for a soil application of iron, apply liquid iron solutions to the leaves later in the season.

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